Probably my favourite purchase when I visited Charleston, South Carolina last month was the cookbook Crazy Good Kugel, a project of the sisterhood of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, a beautiful synagogue with a history dating back more than 250 years.
After a tour of the sanctuary, with its wooden pews, decorative columns, and stained-glass windows, my husband and I stopped in at the gift shop, hoping to find a memento to take home. I left with two of the synagogue’s cookbooks. The other, more substantial one, is called Historically Cooking, 250 Years of Good Eating.
But what really excited me was the recipe for Leftover Challah Pudding (Kugel) in the slim, coil-bound kugel cookbook, a compilation of entries in the synagogue’s kugel cook-off. Bread pudding and bourbon (one of the ingredients in the recipe) signify Southern food, but challah is a Jewish staple, seen on Shabbat and holiday tables, and at celebratory events.
“Look at this!” I said. The recipe was the reason I bought the book, and it also helped me formulate a guest column about Jewish food that ran last week in my colleague Sheldon Kirshner’s new online journal.
Once I returned home, I wanted to try the recipe. It’s richer and sweeter than my everyday cooking, but not as rich as some bread pudding recipes that call for half-and-half or cream instead of milk, and/or greater quantities of butter.
I used almond milk, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey, and a combination of white and multigrain challah. My kitchen smelled sweet and boozy when the pudding was baking, and the end result was/is very tasty. Most of it is in my freezer for safekeeping, and to save it for an upcoming meal with friends.
Paige William’s recipe, below, is reprinted with permission.
Leftover Challah Pudding (Kugel)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup bourbon (or apple juice)
8 cups cubed stale Challah (with crusts on)
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla
nutmeg to taste
3 tbsp. butter
• In a small bowl, combine the raisins and bourbon. Let stand at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
• In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes and milk.
• Preheat oven to 350.
• In a big bowl: mix sugar, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg and raisins (with soaking liquid).
• Add the egg-raisin mixture to bread mixture.
• Place butter in a 13×9 pan and put in oven until butter melts.
• Pour bread mixture on top and bake until firm (knife inserted in middle will be clean) about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
• Cool to room temperature.
Very easy recipe to adapt. May adjust sugar to taste. Other possibilities: add pecans, dried or fresh apples/pears.
Also possible to divide recipe in half and bake for approximately 35 minutes in a 9 inch gratin dish.
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