Here's another recipe we make almost every year during Cheesefare Week (see post below for explanation of Cheesefare). It's from the Russian Orthodox tradition. We like to eat blini with sour cream, melted butter, beets and beet greens, cheese, etc. Hibi can eat the veggies, but other than that, she's really on her own this week! That's okay--she's looking forward to next week, when we'll be eating nothing but vegan food. For 7 weeks! She'll love it.
My favorite memory of blini....oh, I have two memories of eating blini. The first was the first time I ever made them. It was with the help of our friend Matthew Duskas (Matthew, are you out there somewhere? Drop me a line!) who had eaten them before and had an interest in cooking but didn't have a kitchen, as he lived in the dorms at Holy Cross seminary. So he came over and we cooked together. We invited other people from our building over to eat blini, and we served it with beets, which I also had not eaten up until that time (mainly because my mother did not like beets. Isn't it crazy the inherited food dislikes we have?). We stuffed ourselves on the delicious food and the great company. I was so full! And then I waited for the fullness to subside and it didn't. Eventually I realized I had the stomach flu. I'll spare you the details. Fortunately for me, I'm not one of those people who associates food so strongly with sickness that I couldn't enjoy the food again. I still love blini!
My second memory was when my step-grandfather, whom I just called Grandpa even though he didn't marry my grandmother until I was 17, and my children called Great Grandpa, died. He was 98, and he lived a wonderful, full, long life. I was there with him when he died--the only person I've ever witnessed pass away, and it was a beautiful, tragic, very poignant experience. Lots of family came for the funeral, including family from my grandmother's second marriage (this was her third). I decided that while everyone was in town I'd like to invite them all over and have a family meal at our house. I always enjoyed cooking.....but I had two strikes against me: one, that it was on short notice, and I was busy with the funeral and all that, and two, we lived way out an hour from Fresno and shopping for food would have taken time away from the actual cooking. So, I decided to not make one unified menu, but just to take all the dinners I'd planned for that week and make them all. It was a lot of delicious, very diverse food and everyone enjoyed learning about the Russian Orthodox tradition of blini, which was one of the things I served. It was so much fun and I'd definitely do it again!
So, with no further ado, here's the recipe for Blini. Oh, one further ado: I have played around with the rising times a lot. It can take a lot. Today, I did the first two steps and then I'm going to leave it all afternoon. I think you could probably shave off some time from one rising and add it to another rising. You can even make it one day and put it in the fridge for the next day.
Buckwheat Blini (for cheesefare week)
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buckwheat flour (note: buckwheat flour, if not available from your supermarket, can be obtained at most natural foods stores)
2 cups lukewarm milk
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sour cream
3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup heavy cream
Melted butter for cooking
Choice of garnishes (i.e. melted butter, caviar, sour cream, chopped hard boiled eggs, sautéed mushrooms, onions and scallions, etc. I like them with butter and sugar.)
Mix the yeast, sugar, salt, and buckwheat flour together in a large bowl. Stir in the milk. Cover and leave to rise until bubbly, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Stir in the all-purpose flour, the sour cream, egg yolks, and butter, mixing well. Cover again and leave to rise for 2 hours.
Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold the egg whites and cream into the batter. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
Heat one or more crepe pans or small skillets. Brush with melted butter. Take about 2 tablespoons of batter and pour in onto a hot pan, swirling with the back of the spoon to make a pancake that’s about 5 inches in diameter. Cook over medium heat until bubbles appear on the surface and the underside is brown, approximately 1 minute. Turn and cook briefly on the other side (the second side should not be as brown). Repeat this procedure for each pancake, greasing the skillet beforehand.
Serve immediately. Right off the griddle is the best way to eat them!