Russian pancakes, called “blini”, is a popular dish in Russia that is traditionally made of wheat and served with garnishes such as caviar, butter, sour cream called smetana, and tvorog which is a freshly acid-set cheese. It is usually pan-sized, thin, and leavened.
Its history dates back to pre-Christian times where the round shape of blini represents the sun. It is traditionally served at the end of winter where the new sun is considered to be reborn. Later on, it was adopted by the Eastern Orthodox Church as part of a dairy festival in order to consume all dairy products prior to their Great Lent season.
Blini’s main ingredients are wheat, eggs, and milk. They are baked in a traditional Russian oven, a masonry stove that burns firewood and is typically found in Russian households. Blini is made with leavened batter, that is, a batter with yeast, which makes it rise and thus a bit thicker. It is then mixed with milk, soured milk, and water. Making blini is referred to as baking, even though it is pan-friend, similar to the pancakes we are familiar with. It can be made with the use of any type of flour, may it be wheat, buckwheat, millet, or oatmeal. Blini made of buckwheat is part of Russia’s traditional cuisine.
There have been variations on the blini, such as the blintz, which is similar to the crepe: it is made to have folds or casing wherein cheese or fruit is placed and then fried or baked.
Blini are popular not just in Russia, but also in other countries such as in Eastern Europe and in the Jewish culture. Called blintz, this dish is an important part of and is served during Jewish holidays such as the Hanukkah and Shavuot. They usually eat this with fillings such as meat, rice, chocolate, mashed potatoes, cheese, or mushrooms.
In Ukraine, the blini or mlyntsi, this thin version of pancakes is usually served with sour cream, caviar, or a fruit preserve. Some put in fillings such as cheese, eggs, minced meat, mashed vegetables such as beans, cabbage, mushrooms, as well as raisins, and berries. Mlyntsi is popular because of its simplicity in cooking it.
There are a variety of ways in making and serving a blini. Most are composed of batter, into which potato, apple, and raisins are added. Many slather on butter, sour cream, jam or preserves, honey, and caviar over their blini. Sometimes, they can be served with various fillings such as cheese, fruits, berries, mashed or chopped vegetables, cooked meat, chicken or fish, eggs, and rolled into a tube or folded.
Blini is popular among many cultures since it is fairly easy to prepare and make. The ingredients are also readily available in the market. Given its origins, it has become a key part of cultural, traditional, and religious celebrations. Blini are also served during cocktail parties in Russia, where caviar is a well-liked filling. Aside from it being essentially cultural, practically it can already be a complete meal on its own especially when it comes with its delicious stuffing or fillings.
Visit Tzareva soon and try our authentic blini and find out for yourself why it has remained to be a popular food staple!