Last week I made homemade strudel with two friends. (We used a recipe passed down to one of the friends from her Aunt Shirley.) To say that our dough was not “blogworthy” is putting it mildly. We did have a great time, but there were moments when I wondered whether we were baking or making a Three Stooges movie.
After we put our strudel in the oven, I suggested that we research how to stretch the dough. We found a couple of videos online with tips that would have been helpful – if we’d watched them before making the dough instead of afterwards. I will get back to strudel-making, but only after a detailed look at how the pros do it.
The strudel adventure reminded me that cooking or baking tips can make the difference between a grand accomplishment and a “wonder-where-I-went-wrong” escapade. Given that it is Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or Hanukah), I figured that a compendium of latke-making tips might help those of you who still have a few potato pancakes left to fry. And since there are 8 days of Hanukkah no matter how you spell it, guess how many tips I have for you? Whether you use a basic latke or potato pancake recipe or one of the many recipes for latke variations, these tips will help you cook, freeze, and reheat them. All that’s left is the eating, and I bet you don’t need any help with that.
8 Tips on How to Make Great Latkes
- Oil – Use a neutral (tasteless oil) with a high smoking point, such as safflower or canola. I don’t use olive oil because it has a distinctive taste that will change the flavor of the latkes. Start out by pre-heating the oil before you put any latkes into the pan and let the oil come back to a high temperature between batches, especially when adding more oil. If the oil is at a high temperature (just below smoking) the latkes won’t absorb much of it; if the oil isn’t hot enough, the latkes will soak up the oil instead of getting crispy.
- The latke mixture – Dry out the grated potatoes before adding other ingredients, so that the mixture isn’t too wet. As you scoop out mixture into the pan, take some of the liquid along with the dry ingredients. (Don’t use a slotted spoon.) It’s important to get some egg, which binds the latkes, into each latke as you place it in the pan.
- Give them space – Like kids, latkes need their space. Don’t crowd the pan.
- Serving latkes – If you are doing more latkes than fit into your pan, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F and keep the cooked latkes in single layers on cookie sheets in the oven until you are ready to serve them. As they come out of the frying pan, let them rest on a paper towel-line cookie sheet and gently blot them with another layer of paper towels on top.
- Accompaniments – Apple sauce and sour cream, served separately, are traditional. I also like cranberry-apple sauce. If you like to experiment, how about flavored sour cream (try adding dill or other herbs) or Greek-style yogurt instead of sour cream?
- Freezing – Latkes freeze well. Let them come to room temperature on paper towels after removing them from the pan, then freeze in a single row on a cookie sheet. Once they are frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag or to a tightly sealed freezer container. If you freeze many in a single bag, you may want to separate layers with waxed paper.
- Reheating – Pre-heat the oven to 375 or 400 degrees F. Put the frozen latkes on a cookie sheet (no oil required) and bake them until they are thoroughly heated, about 15 minutes. These latkes are frozen. When reheated, the edges will bubble with oil. You can gently blot them with paper towels to remove that oil before serving.
- The meal – Latkes are quite filling. Although some like them with a meat-based main course such as pot roast or roast chicken, I prefer them with lighter fare, such as Stone Soup or roasted vegetables, and a salad.
Do you have other latke-making tips or a latke “issues” we should discuss? If so, let’s chat. If not, it’s latke time!