Friday, February 22, 2013

Russian Blini

While the French have crepes, the Russians have blini.  Blini have pores in their dough, while crepes do not.  I am almost certain that both foods evolved independently, despite being very similar in taste and appearance.  Blini are normally served with savory stuffings, the most popular being ground beef and onion, and salmon caviar with sour cream.  Although the blini may be served with sugar, that is not considered standard.

Having said that, we served our blini more like crepes, with fruit, stinky cheese, and the leftover trifle.  To make this recipe, you will need a cast iron crepe pan.  Crepe pans differ from sauce pans by having incredibly low sides.  Low sides in the crepe pan allow maximal dehydration of the dough, since the moisture that leaves the batter doesn't get trapped in the sides of the pan, and you get fried blini, not boiled blini.  Since the batter is very watery to begin with (it should be like heavy cream in terms of fluidity), dehydration is extra important.

There's great variety in dough composition for blini, with almost every Russian cook having one or two go-to recipes for blini.  My mother calls these her lazy blini, since it is such an easy, tasty recipe.  My paternal grandmother has a different recipe for similar blini, and yet another for puffier, tangy blini.  My maternal grandmother has a recipe for richer, sweeter blini which she calls "6-by-6".  You get the idea. I hope to post all of these recipes on my blog sooner or later.
A proper crepe pan, which we found in a yard sale.  If you do not have a crepe pan, do look into secondhand sources for one, as many people
give them away without knowing what their purpose is.
1 3/4 cup/160g flour
3 large eggs
3 cups/710mL water
3 cups/710mL milk
1 1/2t/9g salt
1 T/20g sugar


Combine flour, salt, and sugar.
Heat the water in the microwave for one minute, so it is warm, but not hot. 
Pour the water into the dry ingredients and let it sit for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Beat in the eggs, and mix in the milk.
Stir until uniform
Heat up a cast iron crepe pan to high heat (or steel, but you will have much more difficulty cooking, as the temperature of the pan is more influenced by external surroundings)
Pour one teaspoon of oil or butter onto the pan
Using a ladle, pour a blin and let it spread into a thin layer on the pan, maybe 1/4 cup in volume
Allow the blin to sit for 60 to 90 seconds, until the sides detach easily from the pan and small holes appear in the dough.
note: 60 seconds yeilds a white blin, 90 yields a darker, "blushing" crepe
Flip the blin over, using a spatla or a long butter knife, and let it sit for 30 or so seconds
Remove from heat, place onto a plate near your griddle
note: always have two plates beside you as you cook, so you can have someone grab one plate and serve the food, while you start a new stack.
Reduce heat to medium-high, oil your pan again, and pour the dough
Cook for 60-90 seconds, flip, and so on, until you have finished the batter
♕Serve for breakfast with friends.

If your dough rips, don't despair.  If it rips early on into the cooking, just spoon up a few drops of batter and patch the hole.  If it happens a lot, look into the causes.
There are three reasons why your blini could be ripping:
1) the pan isn't hot enough- it must be hot from the moment the batter touches the pan.  Especially if your first blin is a mess, it is due to a cold pan.
2) your batter has too much milk and not enough water, milk must be at most 1/2 of the liquid
70 seconds of cooking gives this blin a few spots,
but leaves the body white.
3) you have too much flour, not enough eggs.  Eggs bind the flour, and adding too many eggs imparts an eggy flavor to the blin, but does not ruin the batter.

This recipe allows some experimentation with the dough.  To change up the flavor, you can substitute up to one half of the flour with:
Glutinous rice flour, for a chewy blin 
recommended: 3T/30g substitution
Buckwheat flour
recommended: 0T substitution.  Buckwheat and blini don't mesh well, and it makes the dough fragile.  If you must, do 3T/30g.
Cacao powder, for a fragrant, silky, chocolatey blin
recommended: 1T/10g substitution.
Whole wheat flour
recommended: up to 1/2 of the flour.


  1. I have to try this, and whole day without eating, i am hungry now. Do you have leftovers? :) just kidding.

  2. As i am reading this, i got the feeling of reading science protocol with all the notes and cautions, good job!

  3. These are so delicious! One of my favorite brunch foods.

    1. Ooh, now that you have the spare time, you can take a brunch and make them!