Sweet Potato Kugel

A sweet and earthy treat for the Shabbat table.

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  1. Yield: 12 servings
  2. Prep: 30 minutes
  3. Cook: 55 minutes
  4. Total: 1 hour, 25 minutes
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In her renowned cookbook, Jewish Cooking in America, Joan Nathan shares the memories of “Jewish homesteader,” Sophie Trupin, recalling her life as a Jew on the American frontier: “I was busy in the kitchen, carefully scooping out the eggs encased in layers of hardened coarse salt. I then began peeling pounds of potatoes, which my mother would grate on the fine side of the grater. My mother was making a huge potato kugel, made from fresh potatoes, onions, eggs, a little flour, and baked with plenty of goose fat. It wasn't Friday night, but my mother put a white linen tablecloth over the oilcloth-covered dining table.”

Sophie's austere frontier life likely resembled that of her ancestors in Europe, where her mother's kugel recipe originated. According to food historian Rabbi Gil Marks' Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Jews have been making these starchy baked puddings since the seventh century.

But it was the Jews of Rhineland who perfected the notion of cooking bread dumplings inside Shabbat stew, and eventually outside of the stew pot in round, covered dishes. Kugel got its name from the word koogel (German for “ball”), which referred to the kugel's shape.Today, inter-family debates rage over the best kind of kugel. Some people swear by a savory potato kugel, filled with sautéed onions and schmaltz. Others prefer a rich lokshen (noodle) kugel, stuffed with cheese and either sweetened with raisins and cinnamon, or made savory with sour cream. Still others scoff at any kugel except the simultaneously sweet and peppery Yerushalmi kugel, which Marks says was popularized by the Hasidim of Jerusalem in the late 18th century, who migrated to Israel from Eastern Europe.

Two things remain constant across all kugels–the first is a basic set of ingredients: an absence of water or liquid, a starchy base, and the use of eggs or fat (butter, schmaltz, etc.) as a binder. The second is that kugel is regarded as a beloved, “special” food, served on Shabbat and many Jewish holidays.

Ingredients

  1. Pinch of salt
  2. Pinch of ground cinnamon
  3. 1 1/2 cups pecan halves, chopped
  4. 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  5. 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  6. 1 1/2 cups water
  7. 1 teaspoon salt (sea salt is best)
  8. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  9. 1 cup raisins
  10. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  11. 6 small sweet potatoes, grated
  12. 3 apples, peeled, cored, and grated
  13. Pinch of ground ginger

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all kugel base ingredients together, then press into a large glass baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together topping ingredients and set aside.

Place baking dish in oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove and cover with topping mixture. Return to oven for another 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand for about 15 minutes. Cut into 12 squares and serve.

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Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, CHOW, Food Arts, Tablet, Gastronomica, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Leah writes a monthly food column for The Forward and a bimonthly column for Saveur.com called “One Ingredient, Many Ways.” She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning blog, The Jew & The Carrot, and she is a frequent contributor to MyJewishLearning.com, where her recipes are very popular, and highly praised. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen, was published by Rizzoli in 2011. The book was named one of the “Best Books of 2011? by Library Journal and The Kitchn called it “a big, beautiful book that is also down-to-earth and completely accessible.”

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