Some dishes in the world, though they have the same name, may taste different depends on where the dish is made. Curry, for example, the one in India is distinctively different from the one in Japan although in both country the dish is similarly called, well, curry. The same thing with pancakes. There are a lot of variations of this breakfast delicacy with different ingredients and cooking methods. The one we will discuss is the Russian pancake. But what makes the pancake from this country is so special? Let us now find out.
It’s not pancake, it’s blini
Russian pancake, known as blini, has been around since the pre-Christian time. East Slavic people thought of the round yellowish cake as a symbol of the sun. Blini used to be served during the Maslenitsa or pancake week to celebrate the end of the winter and the rebirth of the new sun. This tradition is then carried on by the Orthodox Church up until the present day. However, after going through a lot of windows of time, people in Russia have blini not only during the pancake week, but every day of the week – all year long. They also consider blini as a snack because it could be thinner than the common pancake and usually filled with fruit jam and butter.
What Russian pancake, or blini, is made of
The traditional and authentic recipe calls for wheat or buckwheat flour, eggs, milk, kefir, ryazhenka (Russian traditional fermented milk), and varenets (milk with sour cream). Yeast could be added – or not – to the batter, depends on the preference of the thickness and fluffiness of the pancake. So the end result may look like crepe, too. The modern version of the recipe uses simpler ingredients like regular flour, sugar, milk, butter, and vegetable oil. If you want to really understand why the authentic Russian pancake is so special, then you should stick to the original recipe although the ingredients may be a bit difficult to find. But, you can always find the substitutes to them that will help to make the taste similar to the authentic one.
How to make Russian pancakes
Here we are going to make a thicker version of blini with the ingredients as close to the traditional one as possible.
- 150 milliliter milk
- 4 grams dried yeast
- 2 medium eggs
- 80 grams sour cream
- 70 grams white flour
- 70 grams buckwheat flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
1. Mix white flour, buckwheat flour, and salt in a bowl
2. Separate the egg yolks from the white
3. Bring the milk to a boiling point in a saucepan. Note: right after it starts to boil, quickly turn off the heat and remove the pan.
4. Whisk the hot milk with yeast and egg yolk until all get well mixed. Add in the sour cream while keeping on whisking until, again, it gets well mixed.
5. Pour the milk mixture slowly into the flour mixture while whisking until you get a nice, smooth consistency of the batter. Cover the bowl with a clingwrap to let the yeast work. Put aside in a warm place for an hour.
6. With an electric mixer, whip up the egg whites until they get soft peaks. After the batter rests for an hour and has slightly risen, fold in the egg whites a little bit at a time until all get mixed well. Cover the bowl once more and set aside for another two hours.
7. After two hours, heat some butter in a pan over medium heat. Pour a tablespoon of batter into the pan and wait until the edges get dry and bubbles start to form on top of the pancake. Turn it over and cook until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
8. Serve the Russian pancakes warm with toppings like sour cream, cream cheese, fruit jams, caviar, butter, or any other that you like.
Blini is definitely best served fresh, but if you have no time to prepare the batter but still want to have some for breakfast, you can cook the pancakes in advance to be reheated quickly in a pan or microwave when you need to serve them.
How to eat Russian pancakes
Because blini is quite flexible; it can be thin, thick, sweet, or savory, so the way it is had is also quite various. If you like it thin, crepe-like, you can eat it like a burrito. Fold the blini and fill it with jams, honey, cheese, potatoes and sour cream, or pulled beef. If you like it fluffy and thick, then you can top it with ice cream, melted chocolate, jams, honey, caviar, and more.
Russian pancake is not typically served with simple syrup or bacon and eggs, but tea and coffee are always welcome to accompany blini. You might want to keep this in mind when making order in a Russian diner.
Variations of blini
- Blinis pripyokom, looks more like an omelet because it’s made by pouring the batter over chopped meat, vegetables, and mushroom then cooked in a pan.
- Blintzes, made thin like a spring roll skin with various fillings like varenie (preserved fruit), potato, sliced fruit, cottage cheese, cooked ground meat, chopped mushroom, cabbage, and bean sprout any many more. The blintzes then lightly fried, sautéed, or baked. In fancier cocktail parties, caviar is usually the chosen filling.
Blini or the Russian pancake is actually popular too outside the country. Like in the USA, it is actually quite common among the Jewish community since they were said to be the people who first brought the recipe into the USA. Unlike common American pancake, though, blini is only had during special occasions like Hanukkah or Shavuot. Now that you know what makes Russian pancakes taste so special, go ahead and try to make some for yourself.