Growing up mom would made Syrniki, (pronounced sYr-nee-key, usually on a Saturday morning. We would devour them, drenched in sour cream and jam. This breakfast was a treat, as mum had to make the Tvorog cheese in advance.
When I went to Latvia in 1991 on an outreach trip with an American team, the hotel made Syrniki and they tasted just like my mom's recipe. Most of the American teenagers didn't like the taste of the Tvorog cheese. As a result, I was the only person to devour them, which left me lots of Syrniki to enjoy! I love this Russian breakfast.
What Are Syrniki?
Syrniki are a fried Tvorog (Quark) pancakes that are popular across Eastern Europe. The quark cheese is is mixed with eggs, flour, sugar and a bit of salt. They are often served for breakfast, but can be made as a dessert as well. They are fried in butter or oil, and are creamy on the inside.
Syrniki are often described as pancakes, but I don't think that's really correct. They're more of a fried cheese fritter. There are different ways of making them. You will see in Russian cafes, Syrniki that are higher and perfectly smooth and round. I call these fancy syrniki. The tvorog is usually pushed through a sieve for a super smooth consistency. They are perfect, and I think some of them are baked in the oven, others fry then bake them. But that's not how we make them.
My recipe is more like babushka's recipe, a bit rustic, hand made and delicious. A regular breakfast that isn't fancy, but made with love, using regular tvorog. Many recipes use lots of flour, as it makes the Tvorog go further. As the flour increases in the recipe, the Tvorog-Syrniki flavor decreases in my opinion. Less flour = more flavor and keeps the unique tart of the tvorog in the syrniki. With less flour, the Syrnik will fall apart easier when frying, so it's a delicate balance.
Also some Tvorog or Quark you buy are drier than others. If you have a wetter Tvorog, you might need to add more flour. See? It can be tricky.
What If I Can't Find Tvorog?
Syrniki are always tastiest when made with Tvorog or Farmer's Cheese. You can make your own Farmer's Cheese at home which is very easy to make. Make sure you drain it well. Using German Quark also works well. It needs to have a tangy and slightly sourness that comes with Tvorog Cheese.
Syrniki aren't traditionally made with Ricotta, or Creamed Cottage Cheese, but people sometime try to substitute. If you cannot find Tvorog, Farmer's Cheese or Quark, then a dry Cottage Cheese can be substituted. Tvorog is a bit tart, which I highly recommend.
Sweet or Savory Syrniki
I like Syrniki to be more savory than sweet. This means I barely add sugar, and don't use vanilla or icing sugar. You can add more of those ingredients if you want more of a dessert Syrniki recipe. It's not that this is a salty or savory recipe, it's just not a sweet dessert syrnik recipe that you might find on other sites. Like I said, it's babushka's recipe, and sugar wasn't always plentiful in the old days. Always served with sour cream and jam!
- Don't use too much flour
- Be gentle with handling/making the syrniki. They are delicate and you don't need to over-knead the syrniki. Handle as little as possible.
- No need to add Vanilla Essence
- Use a dryer Tvorog, or a Dry Cottage Cheese
- Use light vegetable oil or sunflower oil. Don't use Olive oil.
- They fry fast, keep an eye on them, so they don't burn
This recipe reminds me of my mum's Syrniki, easy to make, ready to be devoured. Serve with lots of sour cream and jam. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Babushka's Syrniki (Сырники)
- 1 lb /500g Tvorog Farmer’s Cheese творог
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup flour plus ⅓ cup flour for floured surface
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- In a bowl, mix the Tvorog, eggs, sugar and salt until combined.
- Add ½ cup of flour and mix together. The mixture will be very very sticky.
- Place ⅓ cup of flour on a work surface.. Make small balls of Tvorog - about 2-3 tablespoons - rolling them like small meat balls on the floured surface. Flatten with your palm, making them into a patty.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan. The oil is hot enough when you flick a bit of flour into it and it sizzles.
- Fry the Tvorog patties until they are golden brown and flip over. The coating will be crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside.
- Remove from frying pan and place onto a paper towel. Serve immediately with sour cream and jam.