So with Thanksgiving in a rear view mirror, many people in the traditionally Christian part of the world are starting to plan Christmas…I have quite a few exciting festive recipes planned for you, but before I delve into Christmas cooking, I figured I should make something for upcoming Hanukkah, which starts on the 18th of Decemeber this year. Yes, that’s right I made a plate of deliciously crispy on the outside and soft on the inside latkes and the best part is that they are baked, not fried. Are you sold yet?
Even though I am not Jewish, I grew up on latkes – my mum used to make them at least once every two weeks when I was a kid. They are very popular in my native Poland and I think I read somewhere that the word ‘latke’ stems from Polish word ‘łatka‘ meaning a patch. I mean look at them, it makes perfect sense. While it goes without saying that they are delighful fried, I am not massively keen on the process of frying at home and on consuming this much oil so I really wanted to come up with the best baked version so that I (and you) can enjoy their healthier versions now and again. After many many attempts and tweaks and plenty of late night latkes in my stomach (I need to get better at self-control), I am really happy with how theyt turned out and I cannot wait for you to try them.
They are prefectly crispy on the outside – they have what we call in Polish ‘koronka’ (meaning lace) all around them – and soft and substantial in the middle, which was not easy to achieve. I consumed (and composted) many that had crispy edges but were though, chewy and dry in the middle. Another piece of good news is that I use pretty staple ingredients and the process is really quite straightfoward, but please do follow the recipe as there is a reason why I did things the way I did them – I ate pretty many meh latkes so that you can enjoy these pretty perfect baked vegan latkes straight off the bat (I am married to a cricket-obsessed Aussie, you see 😉 ).
MORE ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
STARCHY POTATOES: starchy potatoes (as opposed to waxy or all purpose) are key for crispy latkes. Varieties differ across the world so be sure to find out what is the best variety where you live. In the UK, the most common type of starchy potatoes is Maris Piper (which is what I used) and in the US it’s Russet.
SHALLOT/ONION: finely sliced shallot or onion is added for flavour. You could use onion powder too, but I would add a tablespoon or so liquid back into the mixture to make sure they are not too dry in the middle.
GROUND FLAX: ground flax seeds are used to partially replace eggs, which are typically used to bind latkes together. I add ground up flax straight into the mixture, rather than activate it in liquid first, as this way flax will absorb any excess moisture while activating.
BAKING POWDER: another function of eggs is that they have a leavening effect, I added a touch of baking powder to my mixture to stop the middle from getting too dense.
POTATO STARCH: potato starch is what makes starchy potatoes crispy, it is the white sludge that gathers at the bottom of the bowl after you’ve squeezed the liquid out of your potatoes. I add some extra starch to the mixture for that reason. If you don’t have it you, could add the settlement that gathers at the bottom of the bowl with potato water after the water has been drained away, plus a bit more cornflour/cornstarch.
RICE FLOUR: I used rice flour to give these latkes more of a soft body in the middle and to keep them gluten-free. If you are not gluten-free, plain flour should work just as well.
Grate your potatoes coarsely in a food processor or by hand, then place inside a double cheesecloth or nutbag and extract all of the excess liquid out of them.
Create latkes mixture by adding in finely chopped shallot or onion and all of the dry ingredients. Using your hands massage dry ingredients into the potatoes.
After a few seconds your mixture should be clumpy, use your hands to shape it into patches. Brush with a little oil and pop into the oven. Follow the rest of instructions in the method (below).
- 600 g / 21 oz starchy potatoes*
- 1 large banana shallot or ½ medium onion, very finely diced
- 8 g / 1½ tbsp ground flax seeds (I used golden flax)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 20 g / 2 tbsp rice flour
- 20 g / 2 tbsp potato starch or cornstarch
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- ¾ tsp fine salt
- approx. 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil, to brush
SOUR CREAM ALTERNATIVE (optional)
- 100 g / ¾ cup cashews or hulled sunflower seeds
- 80 ml / 1/3 cup water
- a squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
- salt, to taste
- Scrub your potatoes well – unless they have a thick, inedible skin, there is no need to peel them. Use a pairing knife to cut off/out any blemishes.
- Put prepped potatoes through a food processor fitted with a coarse grater attachment or grate them by hand.
- Place grated potatoes inside a double cheesecloth or a nut bag and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F (20° C / 70° F less if using fan function) and grab two metal baking trays lined with baking parchment (or a silicone mat).
- Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the potatoes (I extracted just over ½ cup / 120 ml of liquid).
- Place dry potatoes in a mixing bowl, add diced shallot, ground flax, baking powder, rice flour, potato starch, pepper and salt. Using your hands massage dry ingredients into the potatoes. They should clump together in your hands after you are done.
- Brush a little bit of oil on the spots where you are going to be laying your latkes. Grab 3 tbsp worth of the mixture per latke, and using your hands shape the mixture into roundish patches without compressing the middle too much, you want it a bit thicker and bumpier. Tidy the edges so that they are not too scraggly as they will burn. Brush a little more oil on top of each latke.
- Bake for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes, use a spatula to transfer latkes to a plate and remove the paper/mat off the trays.
- Brush latke-sized spots of oil on the baking trays, place the latkes on them (flip them in relation to how they were before) and brush them with a little oil. Carry on baking for another 10 minutes.
- Finally, crank up the heat to 250º C / 480º F (20° C / 70° F less if using fan function), brush the latkes with a little more oil on both sides and bake for about 10-12 miuntes, until golden brown in the middle. Consume straight away.
SOUR CREAM ALTERNATIVE
- Soak cashews in boiling water for 20-30 minutes, drain.
- Place in a small blender or a smoothie maker (I use a Ninja), add water (or soya milk for whiter colour), a good pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
- Add a touch more water if the blender struggles – not too much as you want it as thick as possible. Taste and add more seasoning (salt & lemon juice) if needed. Refrigerate until needed.