Many of Russia’s greatest authors have attested to the artistry it takes to make good blini. They transcend food to a religious rite, a ritual, an art. The cook – no, the artist – whose skills assessed by the quality of his blini, must know how much batter to pour in the pan and how to tilt it just so, when to flip, how to infuse the blini with a deep rose gold glow, how to make them delicate, porous, intricate as lace.
- 1 cup and 2 tbsp sifted flour
- 2 eggs
- About 1 tbsp sugar (less for savory, more for sweet)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ¼ cup milk
- 1 tbsp melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil for batter
- 2 to 3 tbsp vegetable oil or a piece of lard about 2 square inches for frying
- Put the flour, eggs, sugar and salt into a bowl and mix thoroughly until smooth.
- Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Pancake batter should be smooth, without lumps, with the consistency of half-and-half.
- At the end, add the butter or vegetable oil; it will help keep the pancakes from sticking to the pan and the butter will make them more porous and golden.
- Let the batter sit for about 15 minutes.
- Heat up a frying pan (a cast iron pan is best) and lightly brush it with cooking oil. To spread the oil evenly, you can use half a potato pricked with a fork to serve as a handle. If you are using lard, prick it with a fork as well and rub it over the surface of the pan.
- Fill a ladle 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 full with batter (depending on the size of the pan) and begin to pour the batter into the pan, tilting it in every direction, until the pan is covered in a thin, even layer of batter.
- Fry the pancakes on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes until lightly golden on the bottom, but not dry on top. Flip pancakes with a flat spatula (these pancakes are very thin and delicate, so be gentle. Use the spatula to carefully get under the edge of the pancake and peel it off the pan). Err on the side of rawness and do not over-fry. If your pancakes keep tearing, add a little more flour to the batter and mix well.
- The second side will fry very quickly. When the pancake is lightly golden on both sides, you can dump it out onto a plate by flipping the pan over.
- Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the surface of the pancake, followed by ½ to 1 tablespoons of caviar. Or try a sweet filling such as honey or jam. Fold in half twice and enjoy.
The ensure that the tender and delicate blini do not tear when you fill them, use half milk and half water. This makes for a soft and elastic but strong blini.