Russian Crepes also called Blini or blinchiki are a version of thin Russian pancakes that I grew up eating, usually for breakfast on Saturday mornings. As simple as it is to make, it's still a lot of work as it takes time. Blintzes are a type of blini (blintzes, crepes, blini and blinchiki are the same thing).
Where Did Blini Originate?
Blini originated in Pagan Russia over 1000 years ago. There is an old traditional Russian festival called Maslenitsa (Масленица), which means Butter Week or Crepe Week, and dates as far back as the 2nd Century. This celebrates the end of winter, and the coming of spring. This celebration also falls on the last week before the Great Lent, some people eat them all week long. We love our blini!
There are so many variations of how to make blini. You can use yeast batter, un-yeasted, buckwheat flour, wheat flour, only kefir, buttermilk, only water, only milk, adding hot water to the milk, the list goes on.
I don't like to use too many eggs in the recipe, it's not an omelette and shouldn't taste eggy. There are so many variations when making this amazing peasant meal. You're spoilt for choice as you can serve it with sour cream, jam, honey, or even roll them stuffed with meat, tvorog cheese (quark), or or stuffed for breakfast with bacon and egg. So it can get complicated very quickly. This are the large pancake style blini.
If you're not Russian, you might see small appetizer sized blin that's served with caviar, sold in stores. While those are great with caviar, this is the traditional Russian Blini that are most popular at breakfast.
Blini Recipe Without Yeast
I like to keep thing simple. My recipe is un-yeasted, using milk, flour, eggs, water, sugar, salt and oil for frying (which is a healthier attempt instead of using butter). I've never been a fan of yeasted blini, or blini made with buckwheat flour. Traditional old style blini were made with yeast and baked in a Russian oven. This recipe is much easier and tastes better in my opinion.
How to Make Blini
This is the easy part, using an electric mixer, beat it all together until the lumps are gone. It should have the consistency of a thick cream, and it shouldn't be runny like milk. I always use 2 frying pans when making blini, but you can use specially made crepe pans as well. You want to lightly oil the pans before you add the blini batter.
If you stab a stick of butter with a fork, you can use it to butter the pan instead of oil. I use a folded paper towel to soak up any excess oil, and reuse when adding oil to the pan. Some people love using only butter to oil the frying pan. If you omit the stick of butter from this recipe, you'd almost get the Heart Foundation Tick. I said almost! You can also use non-stick spray like PAM.
Ladle the batter over the pan, spreading it evenly until the frying pan is completely covered as a thin layer. Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges start to lift up, and flip over to cook the other side. Stack them on a plate, spreading a layer of butter generously, between each stacked blinchik.
When you are flipping over the blini on your non-stick frying pan, and you find they are tearing, just add an extra egg to your batter. The batter is very forgiving, if it's too thick, add water, too thin then add a bit of flour. You could use less water and more milk, it's up to you. I'd like to say it's an exact science, but it isn't unless you weigh it all, including the eggs. That's never how it's been done.
Low Fat Blini?
If your cholesterol is fine, you can use full cream milk, full fat sour cream, fry in butter, layer tons of butter between the blini stack, and it will taste amazing. For the rest of us, this a slightly healthier version, especially if you eat it with light sour cream. I make my own sour cream, and it's delicious with Blini.
But this a version of the recipe that my mom always made. It's funny because my cousin in Russia makes it almost the exact same way. I call this my low fat blini recipe, but it's not really. I use water in the blini batter, which lowers the amount of fat that you have from regular milk. It's probably different than most blini recipes not the internet which use whole milk, but I promise you, that's not necessary.
I find it has the added benefit of not seemingly burning as quickly in the pan, when compared to when you use only milk. If you are calorie counting, then you need every bit of fat savings, but you don't want to lose out on the taste. I also think that using water also made the batter go further with less milk. My mom came from a family of 13 kids, and if you wanted milk, you didn't buy it, you milked the cow!
- Use a non-stick pan, 2 at a time so you cook them twice as fast
- Add water or flour to to adjust the thickness of the batter, should have consistency of a whipping cream
- Make it ahead of time, layer in a stack of blini by buttering between the layers so they don't stick together
- Try making stuffed breakfast crepes - Blini Stuffed with Bacon and Egg
- Make them for lunch as Blini stuffed with Mashed Potatoes and Bacon
Lower fat blini? Not sure if that's really possible as I usually cave in and drown it in all things fatty. Nothing beats a fresh blini recipe, smothered in butter sour cream and jam (usually blueberry jam for me). This is a delicious breakfast to make this Saturday morning Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Blini Recipe (Блины)
- 3 ½ cups flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups milk low fat optional
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons oil
- oil for frying
- stick of butter for blinchik stack
- Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, milk, water, oil, sugar and salt. Add the flour and continue to mix until it's completely smooth and has no lumps. It should have the consistency of a heavy cream, not runny like milk.
- Use 2 nonstick frying pans, so you can cook the crepes twice as fast. You'll get the rhythm, trust me. Grease the pans with oil and heat over medium high heat. Pans must be hot before you start.
- Using about ⅔ of a ladle, quickly pour into a tilted pan, and quickly spread it covering the surface of the frying pan. This needs to happen quickly, or you will have a thick, oddly shaped blinchik. The first few will always look wonky, it gets better as you get your rhythm going. If you have any holes in your blinchik, then fill with more batter. The goal is to make thin blini.
- Cook the blinchik for about 2 minutes until it is lighlty golden, and the edge starts to separate from the side of the frying pan. Using your fingers, (or a spatula) pick up the edge of the blinchik and flip it over and cook for about 2 minutes until golden brown.
- Place the hot blinchik on a plate, and smear the top side with the stick of butter. This is to prevent the next blinchik from sticking to each other. You will make a blini stack.
- Repeat this process, greasing pan with oil, until all the batter is gone.
- Best served warm with light sour cream and jam or honey.