I’ve lost track of how many attempts at making blinis we have tried in the kitchen this past few months. S says it might be 10 or more attempts, but even she has lost count along the way. Of course, our specifications are a bit exacting: light and fluffy, but firm enough to handle toppings and to be high enough for ease of picking off a tray of canapés. No floppy, thin, yeasty pancakes. It goes without saying that taste is also a major factor.
The first attempts followed any number of recipes in books and on the internet. Most were similar in composition – yeast, milk, a variety of flours (with a little salt) and eggs. Many added créme fraîche, but that commodity is almost non-existent here. Some others added a little butter to the batter, but most only used butter to fry the blinis on the griddle. All of these produced a thin batter that spread too thin on the griddle, producing little mini pancakes. Also, butter as a frying agent tended to produce little flecks of browned (i.e. burnt) butter fat that detracted from the look and flavour of the blini.
Eventually, we came to the conclusion that a thicker batter was required to prevent it from spreading and to allow the yeast to act. Also, in order to get a good texture and not a dense product, we made note of what things were tougheners and what were tenderisers. Egg yolks and fats are tenderisers while milk solids, flour and egg whites are tougheners. What was required was a perfect balance between the two to produce a tender blini that would hold together once topped with any number of delicious things. Also, we reasoned that a light rubbling of corn oil (or any light vegetable oil for that matter, but not olive oil) on the griddle was better than melted butter.
Back to the drawing board and more google searching for solutions…. Finally success after a few more adjustments. Thank goodness as breakfast of failed blinis was beginning to wear as thin as the blinis themselves.
The Perfect Blini
- 50ml whole fat milk
- 25g fresh yeast (or 7g dry yeast)
- 200ml double (heavy) cream
- 50g butter
- 200g strong (bread) flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- Corn (or Canola) oil
Warm the milk in a small bowl and crumble in the yeast so that it dissolves. In a large bowl, measure the flour and add the salt. In a separate bowl, cut the butter into small pieces and add the cream. Microwave the cream and butter to warm the cream and melt the butter.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour and then add the warm cream and butter. Separate the eggs, adding the egg yolks to the batter and reserving the egg whites. Mix the batter until smooth. It will be thick and sticky. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place it in a warm location for about an hour, until the mixtures doubles. The batter will still be sticky, but will have loosened up a little with numerous air pockets.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold this into the batter. You are now ready to make the blinis.
Prepare the griddle by heating to medium high heat and rubbing it with oil with wadded up kitchen paper (paper towels). For an even circular shape, put the batter into a squeeze bottle with a slightly widened nozzle – gently squeeze the bottle and form a spiral with the batter until you get the desired diameter, then spiral a little more batter on top like a snail to get the height. Or, use two spoons to drop the batter on the hot griddle for “rustic” irregular shapes.
Test your griddle with a water drop and if it immediately sizzles and evaporates, begin making the blinis. Because the consistency of the batter is slightly thick, the blinis will not spread as much, so they can be placed closer together, but make sure there is enough room to flip them with a spatula or palate knife. When bubbles start forming on top, flip the blini over and let it brown for a few minutes. The blini will rise up some more.
Remove from the griddle and let them cool. They can be used now, or frozen for future use, separating layers of blinis with greaseproof paper. Do not defrost, but place them in the oven (about 160 degrees C) for 5 to 8 minutes.
Perfect finger food.