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Buttery Buckwheat Blini

This recipe is a failsafe composite of several excellent blini concepts: buckwheat flour gives the blini a nutty taste and lovely brown patina; using buttermilk lightens up the batter and adds a flavorful tang. With no fussy yeast proofing or hours-long risings, this recipe is ready to go when you are! It makes equally good small blinchiki as well as bigger crepe-type pancakes. The choice is yours!
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 24 Blini (size varies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 quart and 2 Tbls of whole milk or buttermilk
  • One stick of unsalted butter
  • One russet potato peeled and quartered
  • Vegetable oil for cooking

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. When the butter is melted, use a teaspoon to remove the white milk solids that have risen to the top of the pan. Decant the remaining butter into a glass container and cool to room temperature. This is clarified butter.
  • Sift together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl
  • Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together until frothy. Add 4 Tbls (60 grams) of the clarified butter to the mixture and whisk until combined.
  • Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  • Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
  • Prepare a skillet by placing it over medium heat for two minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200ºF (93ºC). Prepare an ovenproof metal or glass tray to hold the blini and a length of tin foil to cover the tray. This will prevent the blini from drying out.
  • Combine the remaining clarified butter with 2 Tbls (30 ml) of vegetable oil in a shallow dish. Impale the potato onto a fork, and then dip it into the oil/butter mixture. Use the potato to smear the heated skillet with the butter and oil mixture. The starch from the potato does something — I’m not sure exactly what—but it makes all the difference to how the blini land on the hot skillet. Repeat this before every batch.
  • Pour batter onto the skillet to form a pancake: a tablespoon will produce a nice-sized mini blini, perfect for canapé with toppings, while a ⅓ -cup (75 ml) measuring cup will yield a decent, crepe-sized pancake that is suitable for stuffing and rolling.
  • Watch carefully as tiny holes begin to form on the surface of the blini. After 1 minute, flip the blini over and cook for an additional minute.
  • Remove the finished blini to the warmed tray in the oven. You can place a tiny knob of butter between each pancake to help keep them moist and tasty.
  • Blini made ahead can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days before consuming. Reheat them in an oven…but be warned, they won’t taste nearly as nice as they do just off the skillet!

Notes

Blini Toppings and Fillings

Smoked Salmon or Herring with Lemon, Sour Cream, and Dill 

  1. Slice the salmon as thinly as possible, then cut into long strips.  Roll the strips into a rosette.  Spoon sour cream onto the blini, then place the rosette on top.  Garnish with fresh dill, a small, thin slice of lemon peel and/or black caviar.
  2. Chop Herring into a fine dice and mix with a generous bunch of chopped dill and sour cream:  use a very rough 2:1 ratio of herring to sour cream. 
  3. Both of these work particularly well with mini blini as a canapé.  They are a lovely way to get the party going, particularly when paired with a nice cold shot of vodka!

Mushrooms and Crème Fraiche

  1. Clean and dry 1 lb. (500 grams) of fresh mushrooms then cut them into the smallest possible dice.  Melt 1 Tbls (15 ml) of butter into a shallow pan over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms until they leech out their moisture, then reabsorb it again (about 20 minutes).
  2.  Pour 2 Tbls (30 ml) of sherry or Madeira into the pan and stir until the liquid is absorbed.  Spoon in 4 Tbls (60 ml) of crème fraiche.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  3.  Garnish with freshly chopped tarragon, parsley, and chives.

Spinach and Cheese

  1.  Melt 2 Tbls (30 ml) of butter in a shallow pan.  Add 4 Tbls (60 ml) of finely minced shallots and sauté until limp.  Add 4 cups (1 liter) of fresh winter spinach and sauté over medium-low heat until limp.  
  2.  Drain the contents of the pan through a fine mesh sieve and press with the back of a wooden spoon to get rid of all the excess liquid you can. 
  3.  Place the spinach mixture in a bowl and toss with 1 cup (240 ml) of shredded cheese: sharp Parmesan or cheddar will work well, as would Gruyere or Feta. Season with several grinds of fresh pepper.

Jam and Sweet Tvorog

  1.  Prepare the tvorog (cottage cheese) by combining it with a small amount of sour cream — use a 5:1 ratio of tvorog to sour cream.  Sweeten with sugar or honey to taste.  Chill for at least 2 hours.
  2. Choose the best quality jam you have access to.  In Russia, this often means tapping into your granny’s dacha stash or visiting the farmers’ markets.  Excellent flavor pairings with buckwheat blini include sour cherry, sea buckthorn, raspberry, and fig.
  3.   Smear a generous amount of the tvorog onto hot blini, top with jam, roll up and enjoy!
  4.  Sweet Blini are marvelous with hot wine or tea with honey and lemon.