These addictive soft and spongy pancakes are associated with Russian cuisine. They are often served topped with savoury items like smoked salmon, caviar, salmon roe and sour cream. More humble ingredients like chopped eggs and melted butter go on them too. I like blini that have buckwheat flour added into its batter. The batter also has to be yeast risen. I appreciate how the yeast helps to develop the mix of buckwheat and plain flours into pancakes with a flavour that is certainly not like the all-purpose flour, eggs and milk pancakes that many of us are accustomed to.

How do these blini taste? A 100% buckwheat flour pancake will have a clearly earthy and almost metallic taste. The mixture of buckwheat and all-purpose flour that I use in a rough 1:3 ratio gives the blini a pleasant slight earthiness and the blini are light and spongy. Take a look at the depth of the blini in my feature image. No amount of quick acting baking power or bicarbonate of soda can replicate the taste and texture of the work yeast does to the batter.

Whilst reading up on blini, I found it interesting that whilst most of the world outside Russia (and possibly in parts of the Balkans) refer to blini almost definitively as small raised pancakes. Children who grew up eating their grandmother’s blini will say blini are in fact similar to crepes, those wide and thin pancakes. They would say the recipe that I am providing are not actually for blini but for Oladushki/Oladyi, small thick pancakes. I am not Russian and I am certain my grandmother never even heard of the word blini, so I won’t know right from wrong here. All I know is blini are a treat to eat and highly addictive!  Serve them as starters, as a light brunch, for tea, any time is a good time!

Blini, Fluffy Buckwheat And Plain Flour Pancakes

Prep: 15 minutes 
Cook: 10 minutes
Inactive: 30 + 10 minutes for batter to rise and develop flavour.
Level: Moderately easy and not an ‘easy’ level only because of the repetitive tasks of frying up small little pancakes.
Makes: ~20 circles of 2″ (5cm) blini
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Keeps well refrigerated up to 2 days.

Ingredients

For the batter
Dry ingredients
1/8 cup (0.70oz)(20g) buckwheat flour*
1/4 +1/8 cup (1.76oz)(50g) all-purpose/plain flour
1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten**
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast***
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients
1 Tablespoon butter
1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons (100ml) milk
3 Tablespoons (50ml) light sour cream
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
Others
1 Tablespoon butter for buttering the skillet for frying
For the toppings (any of these)
Light sour cream or creme fraiche
Salmon roe
Caviar
Ikura (Shoyu)*
Ebiko (Japanese prawn roe)
Tobikko (Japanese flying fish roe)
Lump fish roe
Hard boiled eggs (chopped up)
Melted butter
*You could increase the ratio of buckwheat to plain flour to your liking. Locally, you are likely to find buckwheat flour in the Health Food aisle of better stocked supermarkets. Buckwheat flour comes in speckled grey like the one you see in my images or a light cream. The latter is cream as the outer hull has been removed. It is also a little sweeter with less of the earthy taste of the grey coloured buckwheat flour.
** Vital wheat gluten is derived from the endosperm of the wheat berry and is often added to a bread dough mix to help bake a loaf with more volume. I add it to give the blini extra lightness. Vital wheat gluten can be purchased at better stocked supermarkets. I use Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten. This does come in a 1 lb 6 oz (623g). It is a large bag so keep sealed and refrigerated. I use it often in my wholemeal loaves. Take a look at my recipe for Moroccan Inspired Wholemeal Round Loaves. It bakes beautiful, light wholemeal loaves. I add vital wheat gluten into my Braided Stollen With Three Logs Of Marzipan. It is a sweet loaf studded with fruits and threaded with marzipan. Delicious. This recipe will work without the vital wheat gluten. The blini will taste the same but you might not get the same depth and softness.
*** I use SAF-instant.
* Japanese salmon roe marinated in soy sauce & sake/mirin 

Method

All ingredients should be at room temperature

1. Mix the flours, vital wheat gluten, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. Melt the butter. Add the milk, sour cream and stir to mix. Add the egg yolk and mix well.
3. With a whisk, gradually add into the dry ingredients, making sure there are no lumps and the batter is smooth.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes or until tiny bubbles appears on the surface of the mixture and it looks slightly frothy.

5. Once it reaches that stage, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the whisk, transfer 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter and use the whisk to mix in gently.
6. Next, work in the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites by using a wide spatula or spoon to gently fold in the egg whites. Work with a light hand so that you keep as much air bubbles in the egg whites as possible.

7. Let the batter sit for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare your skillet.

8. When you are ready to fry, heat the skillet on medium heat.  Butter the skillet and dollop 1 Tablespoon (use less/more depending on the size of blini you want) into the heated skillet. Leave 1″ (2.5cm) around each blini to allow room to flip the pancakes. Once the circumference of the blini have dried up a little and tiny bubbles appear on the surface (takes about 90 seconds), flip the blini over. It should take another 1 minute for the blini to cook through.

9. Transfer to cool before embellishing with your choice of toppings.

Tips

Prepare batter ahead
The batter can be made ahead the day before. This means you will end up with blini that are slightly sour as the yeast has been given more time to develop the batter. Some people prefer this taste and will deliberately set aside time for the batter to develop to achieve this flavour. Note that you only add the whipped egg whites 10 minutes before you are ready to fry.

Batter can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, quintupled, sextupled.
At my recent New Year Eve’s party, I sextupled the recipe to cater to over 20 people and made 20 X 6 = 120 blini. Using a long double burner griddle (you can use 2 skillets), I fried the blini an hour before party time. You could fry them up to 2 days before. They cook really fast so you are actually bent over a stove for a shorter period than you expect. I topped 2 trays of blini with my choice of toppings and served them to the first guests. Thereafter, I had these guests help me replenish the blini which was great as it gave me time to prepare the rest of dinner.

Other ways to serve
If you want to make it less formal or if you are having a small group over, lay out the blini and toppings and have guests help themselves. That is how I set it up in my feature image. It might be less formal eating but it still manages to make a dramatic and indulgent presentation.

Top it with unconventional toppings
One of my favourite combinations is an easy mix of avocado and light sour cream as a base that I top with crisp bacon. Yummy.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

I am going to work on a series of Easter breads. Through the years, I have seen many delicious looking Easter breads and I have always wanted to try my hand at baking them. So this year, I am going to do just that as we move towards Easter. To start my Easter bake off, I am going to post my recipe for a lovely loaf of Hot Cross Buns. I don’t particularly care for traditionally Hot Cross Buns which I find rather bland and predictable, so look out for my next post where I show you how it can be baked to taste more interesting.

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