Although a bit late for Maslenitsa (Carnival period in Russia), here is a recipe of easy Russian blini we’ve been using in my family for quite a while. Russian blini are larger and thinner than American pancakes, rather like French crepes. They are baked at the end of winter to welcome spring because blin is as round and shiny as the sun. Also blini are quite a greasy job, so this is what we gorge on all through the last week before the Lent (haha, and way beyond that for those who prefer to follow their own ‘diet’). People bake blini and invite each other to drink tea and eat blini with lots of various condiments. Blini vary from house to house, some of us prefer them thick and fluffy, some thin and sour, some medium. A lot relies on the ingredients: the type of grain and flour quality, the use of milk or buttermilk, the amount of eggs and sugar which make the batter richer, as well as on the procedure, cause some of the traditional Russian recipes require yeast with a poolish or sourdough (like these sourdough blini), mind you!
I know that pancakes can be found anywhere on Earth and are claimed by lots of nations to be their invention, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy these Blini na skoruyu ruku (Quick Blini, literary Blini with a Quick Hand), from a book most of women used to have and probably still have at home in Russia – Vegeterianskaya Kuhnya (Vegetarian Cuisine, 1993). This post-Soviet book is actually a compilation of early 20th century recipes (!) collected by Zelenkova, also known as Vegeterianka, a populist of vegetarian cuisine in tsarist Russia, which were published in 1906 under the ‘Ya Nikogo ne Yem‘ title (‘I Don’t Eat Anyone‘). So this blini recipe might as well be titled Easy Russian Old-Recipe Blini!
These no-fuss blini are just what I think proper blini should be – not over thick, not over sweet, perfect for smetana (sour cream), honey or berry jams:
…but just plain butter as well:
Also my Mom (who actually uses her own recipe for thin sour blini) used the leftover blini the next day to make blini s tvorogom – blini with cottage cheese. The ‘recipe’ is simple – take a blin and add some cottage cheese in the middle (you can mix in some sugar if you want), than fold the blin as you would a letter (creating an envelope around the filling) and then reheat the ‘parcels’ on a pan. This creates a sort of a caramelized crust as the cottage cheese tends to ooze a bit (be careful not to urn your blini!) and the fillings stays soft as long as the blin is warm. Nice way to reuse the leftovers!
Did you know that leftover blini can also be used in a more elaborate dishes, like a blinnij tort - a sort of multi-layer cake from blini with really just about any filling between them (savoury as well)? Blini can be rolled into a tube with the filling or just plunged into smetana, they can be folded in a triangle…
Two years ago – a more sophisticated way to bale your blini: Sourdough Pancakes, as Promised
But before you get to know if there is ANYTHING left for tomorrow, let’s bake the batch and mount up a hole stack of warm shiny blini buttering each one:
No-Fuss Quick Russian Blini from Vegeterianskaya Kuhnya (but most likely from a 1906 Ya Nikogo ne Yem vegeterian recipe book by O. Zelenkova) – will make a large stash of multi-purpose blini that you can eat with your favourite jam / honey / sour cream / or just plain butter (caviar is too trivial, haha). ATTENTION: The recipe uses the most common measure in Russia – a stakan (glass) which contains 200 ml of water or 250 g of flour.
- 2 eggs
- 2 glasses of warm milk
- 2 glasses of warm water
- 2 glasses of all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs of oil
- some sugar and salt, to taste
- butter, to brush blini
Beat 2 eggs, add warm milk and warm water, oil, salt and sugar. Gradually mix in the flour. Mix well. Pour a thin layer on a hot greased pan and bake on each side. Brush with butter.
Remarks: I usually pre-mix hot water with milk cause I’m lazy enough to heat the milk separately. I also adjust the amount of flour so that the mixture is more like thin sour cream (I’m lazy to use the stakan measure and use the cups instead). As the batter already contains oil my teflon pancake pan works just fine without any additional greasing. Just wait till the unbaked layer on top gets bubbly, flip the blin over and wait some more. Lift the blin, brush with butter and place each blin you bake on top. Thus they will keep the heat and also will easily separate from each other because of the butter.
Result: Crispy on the edges, moderately thick and almost neutral in taste, these traditional Russian blini are easy and fast! Best eaten while hot / warm but can be easily re-heated or reused later. The recipe is very simple to remember as everything here is 2-2-2-2! I’m quite reluctant to fry things and prefer to bake things (oven seems to me much much easier than using the stove!) but blini is at least something I can ‘fry’ thanks to this recipe.
Enjoy your sunny blini!
P.S. Will see Siberia already this week!