As a secular Jew growing up in the Miami suburbs, Hanukkah was it—the number one holiday of the year, the best part about being Jewish, the pinnacle of the religion. My mom was always the latke cooker, and she took her role very seriously. While I thought everyone liked the latkes my mom made, now that I’m getting older, I’m starting to see a division within the family. Not everyone loves the thin crispy ones. Could there ever be a latke we all look forward to?
That’s why I was so into these latkes that our night baker Zach Polani shared with me. In Israel, where Zach is from, Hanukkah is everywhere: You smell it at the markets, you hear it in the music, you see it in the offerings at bakeries. Zach’s latkes help re-create that same festive atmosphere here in the diaspora.
Soft and fluffy inside (but still crisp on the outside) and more leek than potato, they’re certainly a departure from the latkes I grew up with—and the recipe doesn’t go back generations and generations. Still, potato and leek is a combination I find homey and satisfying. Because these latkes are vegan, eschewing the egg that’s sometimes added, they’re a little bit more inclusive, which is one of our goals as a community bakery. In our kitchen we deep-fry these for all-over browning, but pan-frying is fine too. Sure, any kind of frying can be a bit messy, but the stink of oil and the plumes of onion and potato—that’s Hanukkah for me.
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