The blini (блини) is probably one of the most common foods you will find in Russian restaurants and cafes. Cheap, affordable and relatively simple to make, it is no surprise that this has become a dietary staple.
Similar to crepes, but slightly thicker and prepared with a leavening agent (like yeast), blini is more filling and versatile than their thinner counterpart. They can be eaten for dinner when filled with mushrooms, cabbage, ground meat, chicken or onions, or as a dessert or snack with sour cream, honey or caviar.
Blini symbolized the sun to pre-Christian Slavs, and were prepared to celebrate the end of winter in a celebration called Maslenitsa, colloquially called “Pancake Week”. The Russian Orthodox Church appropriated this tradition.
The traditional process of making blini involves making the batter and then, after diluting it with boiling milk or water, baking the blini. However, today they are pan-fried.
To make blini, you will need:
- 3 1/4 cup milk
- 3 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2.5 cups of all purpose flour
- 2 or 2.5 tsp dry yeast
- Oil (vegetable) for greasing the pan
- 1 stick of butter
- Filling of your choice
- Greasing tool (like a paintbrush)
- 3 quart pot with cover
- Non-stick pan (8-9’’ diameter)
- Heat-proof or microwavable dish to put blini on
- Heat 1.25 cup of milk in pot until it boils. Take out 1/4 cup of hot milk and mix with the yeast until it dissolves. Beat the eggs separately, then mix them in with the milk (the larger portion) then pour in the milk/yeast mixture, the salt and the sugar. Maintain low heat while mixing and stir constantly.
- Add flour until the batter is very thick. Once batter is thick, cover the pot and let the dough rise somewhere warm. This process can take between 2-5 hours if the yeast is poor-if the yeast is good, it will only take about an hour.
- Prepare your blini filling while the dough is rising. They taste best if you serve them hot, so it would be a mad rush to prepare them once the blinis are finished.
- Once the dough has risen (it will be 3x bigger), boil the rest of the milk. Mix it into the dough slowly, stirring very well. Make sure no more than 1/2 cup of unmixed milk is being poured into the dough at a time. When the milk has been mixed, let the dough sit for 30 minutes, covered. Do not stir.
- When your batter is ready to cook, it will look thick and foamy. Prepare the pan on high heat and coat it with oil. Pour in a ladle of batter and spread it to fill the pan (this will need to be done manually, it will not slide around by tilting the pan).
- Cooking blinis is very similar to cooking pancakes. Cook until the top bubbles and then flip. Cook until lightly browned, and then place on the dish. Gently butter the top-facing side of the blini (a light coating is perfect).
- Place filling in the center, fold like a burrito or a wrap and serve!
To preserve leftover blinis, cover them with foil and refrigerate. When trying to eat leftover blinis, they will stick together so it is best to heat them up in the oven or microwave before attempting to separate them to prevent tearing.
Have fun making your own blinis? Let us know in the comments below!