Baked Apple Pudding With Pears

(Apfel Schalet mit Birnen)

Serves 8 to 10

This dish belongs to the family of Jewish foods that are baked in the oven as either sweet or savory, known variously as kugels, Schalets or charlottes, and served with almost any type of meal. This version is almost a cross between a steamed pudding and a cake.

2 pounds ripe pears (3 large or 8 small), such as Bosc or Anjou
1-1/4 cups white wine, divided
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces stale bread rolls (4 or 5)
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound apples (2 large or 3 medium)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 ounce slivered or whole almonds, chopped
Heavy cream, creme fraiche, whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Peel the pears. Cut each pear lengthwise into quarters and trim away the core with a paring knife. Cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Put the pears into a medium-size pot and add 3/4 cup of the white wine, the water, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until the pears are partially cooked (softened, but still firm when poked with a fork), about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, soak the rolls in warm water for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened. Empty the rolls into a colander set in the sink, pressing down on them firmly with your hands to remove as much of the water as possible. Making fists and pressing down with your knuckles works very well. Wipe out the bowl. Tear the wet rolls into small pieces and add to the bowl. Pay special attention to any pieces of crust that remain hard, ripping them into tiny pieces.

4. Beat the eggs in a small bowl until they are foamy. Stir in the vanilla, salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Add to the bowl with the bread.

5. Peel the apples, cut them into quarters and trim away the cores. Chop the quarters into 1/4-inch dice. Add them to the bread mixture and stir to incorporate. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons sugar and the flour, alternating 1 tablespoon of each at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the almonds, mixing them into the dough.

6. Place the dough in the center of a large Dutch oven or a large casserole dish that has a cover. Using a large spoon, push the dough into a mound. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the pears from their cooking liquid and place them around the edge of the pot, surrounding the mound of dough. Pour the cooking liquid from the pears and the remaining 1/2 cup white wine over the dough and pears. (Don't be alarmed if the dough is submerged in liquid; it will be absorbed by the Schalet while it cooks.) Cover the pot and bake for 2 hours.

7. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, for 15 to 30 minutes. The Schalet will collapse somewhat as it cools.

8. Serve warm. If the dish will be a dessert, serve with cream, if desired.

Used with permission from "The German-Jewish Cookbook," by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman (Brandeis University Press, 2017).