Chanukah Feature: the Signature Dish of Chanukah, Potato Latkes, Hits the Big Time

Potato latkes are Chanukah’s signature dish, not because of the potato — but because of the oil. Potatoes did not exist in the Holy Land when the ancient Israelites triumphed over the Syrians.

During what may have been the region’s first oil crisis, a 24-hour supply of oil lasted eight days. For that reason, oil is the heart of Chanukah, and any food fried in oil, no matter how sweet, is a fitting tribute for the celebration.

While there is evidence that the custom of making latkes from potatoes originated in Russia, innovative Jewish cooks have extended the repertoire for centuries. Adding sugar to late-harvest produce, they’ve created sensational desserts.

The Viennese, the dessert mavens of the world, were not content to leave latkes in skillets. Elevating them to creamy crepes layered with applesauce, they concocted a torte as elegant as Vienna, a perfect finale to dairy meals.

Like carrot cakes, carrot latkes have hit the dessert circuit, too. Infused with vanilla and almonds, they are dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Don’t worry if they cool; they’re irresistible at room temperature too.

Inspired by seasonal fruit, cranberry latkes are an American contribution to Chanukah cuisine. With orange juice and raisins playing counterpoint to tart berries, they burst with piquant flavor.

Lacking razzle-dazzle, it’s time starchy potato pancakes stepped aside. Sizzled in oil, snazzy dessert latkes are both trend-setting and traditional.

VIENNESE LAYER LATKES

Ingredients:

2 16-ounce jars applesauce

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 cup brown sugar

6 eggs

2 cups small-curd cottage cheese

1/4 cup sweet butter, melted; plus 4 pats

6 Tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stick-free cooking spray

1 cup walnuts, finely ground

Confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1. Combine applesauce, spices and brown sugar in saucepan. Boil over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring often. Let cool.

2. In large bowl, place eggs, beating until foamy.

3. Add cheese, quarter-cup butter, flour, salt, sugar and vanilla, beating well.

4. Divide batter into eight bowls.

5. Coat an eight-inch, non-stick frying pan and an eight-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

6. Place frying pan on medium flame, melting half pat of butter.

7. Pour batter from first bowl into frying pan, spreading evenly.

8. Brown lightly. Turn crepe, browning on other side.

9. Move crepe to springform pan. Coat with applesauce. Sprinkle with walnuts.

10. Repeat steps 6-9, layering eight crepes.

11. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees, until heated through. Take from oven, place on plate, and remove sides. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into 10 wedges.

CARROT LATKES

Ingredients:

4 large carrots, grated

1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely grated

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 Tbsp. sugar

Corn oil

Confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1. In large bowl, mix carrots, almonds, eggs, flour, vanilla and sugar.

2. On medium flame, heat oil in 2 large skillets, adding as needed.

3. By scant tablespoons, drop batter in skillet, flattening with spoon.

4. Turn when golden, repeating until both sides brown, about 12 minutes. Don’t undercook.

5. Drain on paper towels.

6. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Yield 24.

CRANBERRY LATKES

Ingredients:

12-ounce bag cranberries

1/2 15 oz. box golden raisins

1/2 cup orange juice

2 cups sugar

1 cup flour

2 eggs

Corn oil

Whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping

Directions:

1. In large pot, simmer cranberries in three-quarters cup water, until they pop.

2. Add raisins, juice and sugar, mixing well. Boil until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

3. Add flour and eggs, mixing with large spoon.

4. In two skillets, heat oil on low flame.

5. Drop batter by tablespoons into skillets, flattening with spoon.

6. Turn when golden. As latkes can burn, turn often until both sides are light brown yet soft (about 20 minutes).

7. Drain on paper towels.

8. Serve with whipped topping. Yield 36.

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