My knowledge of Noodle Charlotte comes down from my paternal grandmother, Thea Eichenwald (1900-1994), who grew up in a German Jewish household near Düsseldorf in western Germany. Nana was an excellent cook, and on festive occasions like birthdays and Thanksgiving my parents would bundle my sister and me into the car and make the trek north from Long Island to the modest one-bedroom apartment on Radford Street in Yonkers where Nana had lived since the late 1940s, and where time stood comfortingly still. The feasts she would prepare would always include this dish, one of our family’s favorites.
I don’t know if Noodle Charlotte can be properly described as a German or a German Jewish dish — most Jewish people would probably describe it as a kugel. To me, though, it’s Noodle Charlotte. (As Sonya from the the German-Jewish Cuisine blog informs me, it’s actually called Schalet in German and there are many versions out there, from sweet to savory; you can find several online.)
The Noodle Charlotte, or Schalet, that my grandmother prepared is sweet, but not overly so, in a home-cooked, cinnamon-apple kind of way. The egg white binds together the apples, raisins and noodles, but not too tightly, and the whole affair falls apart easily at the touch of a fork. The noodles are soft but chewy, and a bit of crunch in spots isn’t a bad thing.
Nana Thea never wrote recipes down — she didn’t need to — but back in 1986, when I was living in Boston, I cajoled my sister into asking her for the recipe. So thanks to both of them, here it is for posterity. My wife (who is also an excellent cook) has whipped up batches on several occasions. As noted above, plenty of variations on the dish exist, but this is the way Nana prepared it in our family, and I’m not complaining. Noodle Charlotte is a timeless treat, and you don’t have to wait for a holiday to enjoy it.
8 oz. package of wide, flat egg noodles
1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute if you must)
Raisins (use your judgment, but err on the side of generosity; golden raisins work very well here)
Four egg yolks — beat whites to snow
Four or five Macintosh apples, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
Cinnamon to taste
A few squirts of lemon juice
Cook noodles to al dente. Mix all ingredients together; save the snowed egg whites for last, then fold in the whites. Put in a deep baking pan well greased with butter. (I remember Nana’s version being at least 4″ deep, the kind you would get from a bread loaf pan of about 4 1/2″ x 9″, but you can also choose to bake it in a Pyrex pan of about 6″ x 9″ x 2″. I’d be interested to hear about results with various pan sizes.) It’s not part of Nana’s recipe, but you may also want to add perhaps 1/4 to 1/2 a stick of butter to the mix, according to taste.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes at 375°. The top should be nicely browned, but not burnt. It’s best served warm, but not hot.