Why tinker with Hanukkah perfection? A pitfall of eating so healthfully on a regular basis is—warning, humblebrag to follow—is that the rare blast of fried food often leads to a skipped workout and a stomach ache. The goal with this Athlete Food makeover was to satisfy our collective AF food nostalgia for crisp latkes, minus the post-meal groaning and “0” in the training log.
Relief came in a few simple changes: I upped the fiber, using skin-on sweet potatoes and an apple, instead of white potatoes, and I swapped in easier to digest, high-protein spelt flour for the traditional matzo meal.
My first round of the sweet potato/spelt batter was nerve-rackingly soggy. The latkes fried up crisp, but the batter was finicky to work with. This was the big difference between this recipe and the classic one. With white potatoes I squeeze out as much liquid as possible before adding any other ingredients. But the sweet potatoes yielded just a few drops of liquid—until about three-quarters of the way through the frying when my batter was sitting in a puddle. Setting the batter in a colander over a bowl let that liquid drain out, and having extra flour on hand to stiffen up the batter, helped, too.
Once I solved the soggy issue, this batter fried up crisp and salty sweet.
I recommend using a box grater here—I like my latkes made with shreds, and didn’t mind the arm workout—but a food processor will work, too, turning out strings of potato in seconds, no muscle fatigue required.
Sweet Potato, Apple, and Spelt Flour Latkes
Time: 1 to 1 1/2hours, depending on if you use one pan or two and if you have to stop to clean out the burned bits from the oil. This is a day-off project; unless you have superhuman stores of energy do not start these after a full day or work and a 10-mile evening run.
Yield: 40 to 50 latkes
3 pounds garnet yams or sweet potatoes
1 large yellow onion
1 medium apple
3 eggs, beaten
2 1/2teaspoons fine sea salt
10 grinds finely-ground black pepper
3/4 cup spelt flour, plus an extra ¼ cup to have on hand in case the batter stops holding together toward the end
olive oil for frying
Set a colander over a large bowl. (The batter will leach water as it sits. Letting the liquid drain into the bowl keeps the batter from getting too soggy.) If you don’t have a colander large enough to mix the batter in, mix the batter in a large bowl, then transfer to a colander set over a bowl.
Scrub the potatoes, and cut off the ends. If the skins are very thick and gnarled, peel the potatoes. Otherwise, leave the skins on for the added fiber. Grate the potatoes into the colander.
Peel the onion, and use a box grater to grate it into a colander.
Grate the apple, skin on, into the colander.
Add the beaten eggs, sea salt, and pepper to the bowl. Gently combine, then stir in the 3/4 cup of spelt flour.
Line two sheet pans or trays with paper towels.
In a large frying pan (not non-stick) or two, add oil until it comes up 1/4 inch. Heat the oil until, when you drop in a small amount of batter, it sizzles immediately.
Start frying: Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons into the pan, flattening eat dollop with the back of a spatula. Cook until the pancakes are stiff enough to flip easily, 2 to 4 minutes. then flip and cook until the second side is brown and crispy. Use a slotted spatula, if you have one, to transfer the latkes to the paper towel-lined pans.
Frying isn’t always a straight shot. Do not forge ahead if you have an accumulation of burned bits. Take the time to remove them with a slotted spoon. Ditto if your oil gets low. Add more, then wait for it to heat up before resuming frying.
If the latkes aren’t holding together well, even after being allowed to crisp in the oil, squeeze out any accumulated liquid, and add the remaining 1/4 cup of spelt flour to the batter.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the latkes lightly with sea salt.