What are Blini? I don’t think we have enough time to fully answer that question here. That would be like answering the question “how do you cook an egg?” There are hundreds of answers, and, strangely, most of them are correct. Russia is a big country (the BIGGEST), and there are regional differences in Blini, not to mention preferences, interpretations, and traditions. Then, there’s the Blini that are customary in almost every other country, including the US.
Brief Blini Backgrounder
There are yeast Blini, NON-yeast Blini, Buckwheat Blini, and it goes on and on. And Blini are frequently (though not always) served with Caviar. I asked Roman, my Russian friend, how big Blini was supposed to be. He said “depends on how much caviar you have,” with the “h’s” charmingly pronounced like he was clearing his throat. While Blini styles have a lot of latitude, there’s caviar, and then, there’s “Caviar”; Osetra, Sevruga, or Beluga, the rest is bait. Well, maybe not bait, some of it is actually pretty good. But a lot of what is called caviar is not really caviar at all, so it’s kind of the opposite of Blini in that respect. Even the familiar blintz is made with Blini, and, I’ve never heard a Russian (I know a few) look at one version of a Blini and say “that’s not Blini.” No matter how I make them, they all say “Da, that is Blini.” Free at last!
Authenticism notwithstanding, we’re not going to demonstrate every version of Blini here. Instead, we will focus on the version most familiar to First Class Airline Travelers, if you will. Small, yeasty, tangy, uniform little heavenly disks, begging to be topped with one of the big three, and all the other delightful accoutrements, including throat freezing vodka.
More than a recipe, I like to call this a method. Recipes are moments in time, and must be adjusted to accommodate ever changing conditions. Cooking is not done in a laboratory–at least not MOST cooking. So, here is my method for Caviar friendly Blini
Pick a cool and breezy day. Not really, just kidding. I do not write those kinds of recipes.
Seriously, though, excessive friction can cause flour to lose its resilience. When batters and sauces break/fail, it is rarely for the reasons that many suspect. The fact is, flour is not a powder, and it does not actually “dissolve.” Flour is composed of tiny, permeable capsules, that can be made to inflate with water, creating the sensation we call “thickness.” If the inflated capsules encounter a large amount of friction, and/or heat, they weaken, and burst, destroying the emulsion like consistency. So, it is really better to have a few lumps; they will dissolve. This applies to your old fashioned pancake batter as well.
In a blender (YES, a BLENDER, even though it can almost as easily be made in a bowl), pulse/combine, just until mixed:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm tap water (110F)
Let batter sit at room temperature for fifteen minutes, it will bubble…
Separate two eggs, reserve the whites for whipping–in order for whites to be successfully whipped to peaks, there can be NO yolks in the whites, not a spec, nor a drop of water or oil. Despite the efforts of seasoned professionals, the whipping of egg whites still occasionally fails. If this occurs, there is no need to discard the batter, or the eggs–the method will still work. As it happens, even perfectly whipped whites will fall when mixed with the batter, and, the yeast will provide plenty of bubbles in your finished product. Honestly, adding whipped egg whites in this case satisfies our romantic notions more than any actual useful purpose.
Add the following ingredients to blender/bowl, and, again, pulse/mix, just until combined. :
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup cream (milk will work)
- pinch salt
- pinch sugar
- 1 Tablespoon salad oil
- pinch nutmeg
- 1/2 cup flour
Let sit in a dark, warm place for one hour. It will climb up the side of the container and appear very thin. That’s what we want.
Whip the egg whites until they have soft peaks. As I said, this is inspirational, but, not crucial. Imperfectly whipped egg whites will have minimal effect on your finished product.
Add the egg whites to the batter, and pulse again–you will see the whites collapse–this is inevitable.
Cook the Blini on a medium hot griddle, just like you would a pancake, because, well, that’s basically what they are. They are best when they are quite brown, and kind of dry. Do not stack. Spread them out on a cookie sheet, so they don’t get soggy. Serve at room temperature. They can be sealed, refrigerated and reheated the next day. Even the batter will keep overnight in the refrigerator.
Your blini are now ready to meet your Caviar. Enjoy!
(Below)–Buttered Buckwheat Blini, Scrambled Egg, Sour Cream, Black Olive Caviar/Tapenade…a recipe for another post…