Blini with Buckwheat
A zakuska is a “little bite” in Russian language and a celebrated element to Russian traditional foods. Best likened to an appetizer or an hors d’oeuvre, a zakuska precedes a meal and might be accompanied by champagne or vodka. For a delicious bite-sized treat this holiday season, serve Blinis with Buckwheat, recipe courtesy of Seattle Caviar Company.
Blini (BLEE-nee), part of traditional Russian cuisine, are small, leavened buckwheat pancakes typically served with sour cream, caviar or smoked salmon. Buckwheat blini are also widespread in the Ukraine and Lithuania’s Dzūkija region, the only region in the country where buckwheat is grown.
Russian blini are made with yeasted batter which is left to rise and then diluted with cold or boiling water or milk. The blini are then baked in a traditional Russian oven. Although the process of cooking blini is still referred to as baking in Russian, these days, they are almost universally pan-fried, like pancakes.
Traditionally, blini were eaten during Shrovetide, an ancient Russian festival which originated to celebrate the beginning of spring. This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox Church and is carried on to the present day. 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 with Buckwheat
The flavors of buckwheat and caviar are a natural pairing. Seattle Caviar recommends Yellowstone River Paddlefish Caviar, along with all of the traditional accompaniments of capers, hard-boiled eggs, onion and crème fraîche.
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and sugar until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and cool until it is warm to the touch. Sprinkle in the yeast, let stand for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt and sift. In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir the milk mixture well and add it and the melted butter to the flour mixture. Mix until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.
After the batter has risen, incorporate the eggs and beat until smooth.
Pour batter into a plastic squirt bottle to control portion size (I count to two) on a preheated griddle. Cook the blinis on one side until bubbles appear on the top, then flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Repeat with the remaining batter.
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