My mind was blown this last Saturday when I discovered that the original latke is not the oily, crispy potato wafer we’ve all come to known and love.
No, dear reader – the original latkes are the cheese pancakes that Russians lovingly refer to as syrniki. As potatoes were only introduced to Europe after the discovery of the Americas, in the second half of the 16th century, it stands to reason that Jews in the 1400s couldn’t have market the holiday of lights with potato latkes. Instead, they made due with golden fritters of cheese, fried to perfection in a generous glug of oil.
Though I already have a perfectly good, gluten-free recipe for my grandmother’s syrniki up on the blog, I am not one to leave well enough alone (also, the photos in that original post suck). So today, in attempt to gild the lilly, I present to you my new favourite latke: baked lemon ricotta pancakes.
My new favourite latke came to me when I went to a Hanukkah party this last Saturday that was centred all around the idea of girl power – and cheese. Put on by the lovely ladies at the Wandering Chew and Roots and Recipes, this was a full-on celebration of sweet dairy desserts from Jewish cultures all around the world, complete with Manischewitz mulled wine and a Spice Girls soundtrack.
Despite the ensuing belly ache (being lactose-intolerant doesn’t go well with cheesy desserts), I sinned and sampled all of the wares on display… And naturally, I loved every minute of it. And then I just had to go home and make my own ricotta latke – the lemon ricotta pancake.
Light and cheesy, these baked, gluten-free lemon ricotta pancakes/latkes are punctuated with lemon zest and juice, and are best served dusted with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar and another squeeze of more lemon. I find that baking these saves you a good amount of calories and effort, without compromising any of the taste – and makes them perfect for pleasing a crowd on a Christmas or Boxing Day brunch.
These lemon ricotta pancakes (should I just call them latkes? Will that drive search engines crazy?) provided perfect fuel for our flight from Montreal to Winnipeg, where I am currently sitting wrapped in the world’s most comfortable blanket, with a cute baby cooing in the background. Ah, the holidays!
So make these gluten-free, healthy lemon ricotta pancakes yourself – and tell me what you think of the original latke. Would you abandon the potato latke for its cheesier cousin?
Whatever you decide, and whatever you’re celebrating, have some happy holidays!
Lemon ricotta pancakes (gluten-free, baked)
- 1 cup ricotta drained well
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 TBs honey or maple syrup
- 3/4-1 cup gluten-free flour I use the Irresistibles blend and like it a lot, but feel free to go with your favourite blend. I intend to try oat flour next
Drain ricotta well - depending on the wetness of your ricotta, this can take anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours.
Preheat oven to 375F/ 180C.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs vigorously (if you're feeling industrious, beat the eggs with an electric blender to a perfect fluff; this produces even nicer pancakes, but isn't necessary). In a small bowl, mix vanilla extract, honey and lemon zest and juice thoroughly, eliminating clumps, and add to egg batter. Add ricotta cheese and fold very gently, without disturbing and breaking the egg batter too much. Add flour in batches, folding only until combined.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and 2 TBs of canola oil, and distribute the oil evenly, ensuring the sheet is coated. WIth wet hands, create free-form patties of batter, and arrange them on the sheet.
Bake at a 375F/ 180C oven for 5-7 minutes on one side, and then switch to the grill setting for another 3-5 (pancakes should be yellow and golden, with gentle browning on the peak). Check on the pancakes often - you do not want them to overcook.