Blini (BLEE-nee) are small, leavened buckwheat pancakes which are traditionally served with sour cream, caviar or smoked salmon. The singular for blini is blin.
Blini is, traditionally, eaten during Shrovetide, an ancient Russian festival, which originated to celebrate the beginning of spring and the god Volos (Veles). Volos was the god of animals, pets and especially cattle. With the introduction of Christianity, Shrovetide marked the onset of Lent and was closely watched by the Church. The pagan god, Volos, was replaced with St. Blasius, patron saint of domesticated animals. While its original roots are in the Roman Isis Feast, most of us, in the West, know the feast of Shrovetide as Mardi Gras.
Slavic tradition, blini was a ritual food served as an offering to the deceased. Today, restaurants often serve blini as an appetizer. While it is appropriate to eat blini anytime of the year, it is still seen as a holiday tradition. Russian-Americans enjoy this treat when celebrating Thanksgiving in their new country and it is a must at any Christmas celebration.
BLINI is a flour crepe, but with yeast. The batter has to rise, and the size is roughly 7 inches (17 cm) in diameter. They are just under a 1/2 inch thick (1 cm) and toppings or fillings are served on the table. These might include clarified butter, sour cream, hard boiled eggs, pickled herring, smoked salmon, green onions, red or black caviar, all are basic staples for the meal.
BLINCHIKI is also a flour crepe, but no yeast is used. They are slightly larger in diameter and thinner. These are typically eaten with cabbage fillings, meat, mushrooms, rice or cheese. You can also stack them up high, and put jam in between. Slice them up as a piece of cake.
OLADI: is like a flour crepe, but thicker (almost like a U.S. pancake) and baking soda is used. The crepes are thick, and fruit, such as apples, is often added to the batter.
Basic Blini Recipe
about 1.5 lbs. flour
4-5 cups milk
3 tblsp. butter
2 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. dry yeast
1. Dissolve yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Add half of the flour and mix until smooth. Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place for about an hour, or until the batter becomes bubbly.
2. Add salt, sugar, egg yolks, melted butter and mix thoroughly.
3. Add remaining flour, a little at a time and beat until smooth. Gradually add milk, mixing batter completely.
4. Cover batter with a cloth, set aside in warm place and allow to rise. Beat batter back down, add whipped egg whites, let rise. Pour small portions on hot griddle and fry, turning once to cook on both sides.
Another Blini Recipe:
Buckwheat Blini with Caviar and Smoked Salmon
Russian Life is a 29-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567