Russian Blini—More Than Just Pancakes
By Awake! writer in Russia
The French have their crepes, the Scots their bannock, and the Americans their flapjacks. So it comes as no surprise that Russians have their own version of the pancake—the blin, which is a staple with a long history.
The ancient Slavs used blini for food sacrifices in their pagan rituals and saw in blini an appropriate symbol of the round, warm, golden sun. Women who had recently given birth were fed blini. These were also served at weddings and at funerals, so they figured in peoples’ lives from birth to death.
Russians today usually make blini with wheat flour, but other flours can also be used. The batter is generally prepared with milk or water or a mixture of both. But the batter can also be made with cream, buttermilk, kefir, sour cream, or any other milk product. Frying blini is considered an art because each blin should be as thin as possible—a goal not easily achieved!
Making the filling is said to be a science. The filling can be a homemade jam, such as raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, red or black currant, or cranberry. Or the filling can be anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines, sprats, mushrooms, minced meat, or cottage cheese—served separately or in combinations. But the classic Russian filling is red or black caviar. And remember, blini taste best when they are hot off the griddle!
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RECIPE FOR BUCKWHEAT BLINI
1 cup [120 g] buckwheat flour
1 cup [120 g] wheat flour
2 tablespoons [20 g] dry yeast
3 tablespoons [50 g] butter, melted
3 cups [720 ml] or so of milk
2 tablespoons [30 g] sugar
Pinch of salt
Preparation: Mix buckwheat flour with a cup [240 ml] of milk. Heat a second cup [240 ml] of milk, and add it to the batter, mixing well. When the batter has cooled, mix in the dry yeast. Let the batter rise until it doubles in size.
Whip the batter with a wooden spoon, adding salt and sugar. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Add the egg yolks, warm melted butter, and the wheat flour to the batter, mixing well. Separately whip the egg whites, and add them to the batter along with additional milk as needed. Allow the batter to rise once again.
Heat a frying pan, and brush it lightly with oil or melted butter. Pour just enough blin batter to coat the pan, as thin a layer as possible. Cook over low heat until the underside of the blin is golden. Turn the blin over, and cook it for 15 seconds more. Transfer to a plate, and keep the blin warm while repeating the steps with the remaining batter. Serve the blini stacked.