Polish buckwheat pancakes

Polish buckwheat pancakes


Borsch, Vodka and Tears
Bonnie Savage

These little yeasted buckwheat and flour pancakes have a deliciously light texture. They can be found throughout Eastern Europe in various forms. The best thing about blini is what they are accompanied by. They are a traditional foil for caviar and salmon roe — these days, as sturgeon roe is all but unavailable and not terribly ethical, I have been using lumpfish caviar and find it a pleasant enough substitute. Typically, these are served with crème fraîche (or sour cream), finely diced onion or shallots, hard-boiled eggs (these are delicious if you separate the whites from the yolks and push each separately through a fine wire strainer to make egg mimosa), and finely chopped dill or parsley. They also go very well with smoked or cured salmon or trout. If you are intrepid and don’t mind preparing things at the last minute, they make a spectacular canapé, but make small ones using only 1 teaspoon of batter.


Quantity Ingredient
185ml milk
1 teaspoon dried yeast
75g plain flour
50g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, separated
25g melted butter
a squeeze lemon juice, (optional)
clarified butter or oil, for frying


  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it has reached 37°C or blood temperature. Make sure it doesn’t get hotter than this as it can kill the yeast. Remove from the heat and stir in the yeast, then set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Sift the plain and buckwheat flours with the salt into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the egg yolk in a large non-reactive bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisking constantly, add the butter, a little at a time, so that each addition is thoroughly incorporated (don’t worry too much if it splits, this recipe is forgiving).
  4. Whisk the milk mixture into the egg mixture. Add the flours and use a spatula or a wooden spoon to fold it through, using as few strokes as possible, to make a batter. If you do overwork the batter, the starches will start to stretch out like bread dough and the finished blini will not be as light. It also makes it harder to add the egg white later on. If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, make sure you add the milk and flour in two batches, this makes it easier to incorporate without overworking. Cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave it in a warm place for about 30–60 minutes, or until doubled in size — the time will depend on the temperature.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white with a tiny pinch of salt and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice (optional, but these help the eggs to maintain their peak) until they form stiff peaks. That is, when you pull the whisk vertically from the bowl, the whites will rise up and hold a pointy shape like a little mountain.
  6. Gently stir half of the beaten egg white into the batter, being careful not to overwork it. In addition to not stretching the proteins in the flour, you now also have to try not to beat all the air out of the egg white. Finally, add the remaining egg white to the batter.
  7. Put a tablespoon of clarified butter or oil into a frying pan over medium heat. When it runs like water across the pan, add 1 tablespoon of batter at a time to form pancakes about 6 mm thick. They will start to rise immediately. When bubbles have popped all the way through the top and the exposed batter is starting to look a little drier, carefully turn them over and cook for a further 30 seconds — they should rise as soon as they are turned.
  8. Working in batches, cook all the blini and serve them immediately with their delicious accompaniments!
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