Ashkenazic Cheese Pancakes

During the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years, I spent a trimester each year teaching cooking to the high schoolers in my synagogue’s religious school. I was so thrilled to be asked, and really enjoyed teaching them basic and advanced skills as we cooked our way through different dishes.

Our first year for Chanukah, we cooked sufganiyot, and last year we made five different latkes and other fried foods from various backgrounds. There are many resources, both internet and in print, for many, many traditional Chanukah dishes and some modern twists on traditional favorites. One of the latkes we made was this apple latke from Smitten Kitchen, which was definitely a favorite.

When we thing of latkes, the first thing we think of is potato latkes. However, latkes predate the introduction of potatoes into Europe. The first Chanukah latkes were made with cheese by Jews in south and central Europe, according to Gil Marks. Cheese was expensive in northern Europe, so rye and then buckwheat was usually used similar to a modern pancake.

I thought it would be fun to try these traditional cheese latkes. They latkes are easy to mix and fry up, and the taste is very reminiscent of blintz filling. Yum!

Ashkenazic Cheese Pancakes

Ashkenazic Cheese Pancakes

Recipe from Gil Marks' Encyclopedia of Jewish Food

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) farmer cheese, pot cheese, or drained ricotta cheese
  • 4 large eggs
  • About 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or butter for frying
  • In a large bowl, beat together the cheese, eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla, and salt until well combined.
  • In a large skillet or griddle, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat.
  • In batches, drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls and fry until the top is set and the bottom is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and fry until golden, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve with sour cream, yogurt, maple syrup, jam, cinnamon-sugar, or fresh fruit.
  • Yield about twenty-six 3-inch pancakes
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