Potato

A Tiny Tweak for Lighter, Crispier Latkes

by:
December  7, 2017

Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature. This one comes from wcfoodies, and the recipe looks familiar—until you get to the baking powder. After testing, MrsWheelbarrow exclaimed: “What an addition! I think these latkes are better than my grandmother's. I am now waiting for lightning to strike.”


Latkes are more of a phenomenon than a dish for me: Once a year, I gorge on latkes, going way past the uncomfortably full stage, and then abstain completely for the other 364 days. I associate more happy memories with latkes than probably any other food in the world and they’d be the centerpiece of my last meal on earth, but they're a one-night-a-year treat. It’s not that having a plate of latkes in, say, June would be sacrilegious or even just wrong; but the thought of doing so would never even cross my mind. Latkes are sacred. Latkes, for me, are Hanukkah.

And, yes, when I say ‘latkes,’ I mean ‘my mom’s latkes.’ There’s no exception. No substitutes. You may swear that your zadie or bubby or great-aunt Ethel makes the world’s best latkes, and I’ll politely abstain. All latkes are not created equal.

Photo by Rocky Luten

To be perfectly honest, your great-aunt Ethel’s latkes may be just as good as my mom’s; they may even be better (not a chance). But when I bite into one of my mom’s latkes, the best moments of every Hanukkah past sweep over me: dinner with my cousins; the waffle blocks that were all I wanted in 1988; beating my dad at dreidel; the reflection of the menorah’s candles against the snow outside the window on the last night of Hanukkah. It’s not nostalgia, it’s being there, the sights, sounds, smells of holidays gone by as real and tangible as they ever were. That’s something your bubby’s latkes can’t do for me.

This recipe originated with my grandfather, Carl Mayle, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 98. I have foggy memories of watching him peel potatoes over the kitchen sink, but much stronger are memories of making these, from a very young age, with my mother. Making latkes with my mom is one of my earliest memories, in or out of the kitchen: as a toddler, it was my proud duty to sprinkle in the matzoh meal and salt; as I grew older, she let me share more of the process. Now, if I'm home for Hanukkah, we make latkes together, side by side. Perhaps frying potato cakes is a strange way to form a mother-daughter bond, but it's worked for us. The tasty results don't hurt.

6 Comments

Cole J. December 17, 2017
Baking powder *is* a big difference, and I was surprised a few years ago when I started adding it, based on a recipe I came across from Tel Aviv. The ratio seems right, here. I usually factor 1 tsp per pound of potato. (Make sure you find one that doesn't get cut with corn starch). <br /><br />What is weird about this recipe, to me, is the amount of flour. First, matzo is the standard, and I would never use regular flour :) But only a few tablespoons per 3 pounds of potato. NEVER a cup of dry. That seems really heavy to me. Also, I would cut down the salt to 1 tsp. per 3lb potato. Add a short finishing sprinkle on the finished latkes as they drain on paper towels and you will get a lot more bang for your salt buck in flavor. <br /><br />Lastly, the oil amount seems low. Rule of thumb for me is 1/2 INCH of oil in the pan I am frying from, to cover half way up each side of the latke while frying. It *is* the festival of oils, afterall. 1/2 cup total doesn't seem enough to me. <br /><br />But yes, thank you for sharing the tip on baking powder for everyone. It makes the latke experience so much better!
 
amcolcord December 15, 2017
Approximately how many latkes does this recipe yield?
 
Candy December 7, 2017
I think this article is missing something to relate it to its headline (I know it's in the recipe itself, but given that that's a separate link you have to open, the article definitely feels off).
 
Lindsay-Jean H. December 8, 2017
Hi Candy, the tweak is actually revealed in the short intro at the top, but we understand that if you don't read that section, it might seem confusing. We'll take your feedback into consideration for future posts, thank you.
 
RHo December 8, 2017
I don’t see any tweaks from the recipes I have, and I read the entire article.
 
Candy December 8, 2017
D'oh! I did miss that bit in the italics- my bad!