Ingredients and recipes
The first fact we think is important to tell. There are two types of blini in Russia and these types are different.
Blini of the first type are made of yeast dough, and this dish is 1000 years old. In the old times yeasts were not available. The special leaven called “zakvaska” was used for preparing the dough. The process is long and difficult; all the ingredients should be mixed, and need to wait until dough grows up. In Russia such dough is called “opara”.
Later, it should be shuffled to let the gas go out. And after, need to wait when dough grows up again. Only after all these actions you can start baking.
We described the simplest technology. Most of recipes include two or more stages of blending, adding a new portion of ingredients and waiting dough grows up. The process usually takes 5 hours if to use yeasts, and much longer if to use old Russian zakvaska.
Now you understand why this type of blini is not popular today. It is even hard to taste it in modern Russia.
The second sort is made of unleavened dough. The cooking process is fast and simple. You just need to mix the ingredients, and you can start baking. This recipe came from France, and this type of blini we usually call French.
In the first case blini are thicker and contain holes, in the second case they are thinner and solid. There is the third middle type with adding kefir instead of milk. In this case blini are closer to unleavened type, but little thicker and softer. This kefir type of thin pancakes is the Russian unique invention.
The list of ingredients is always the same – eggs, milk, sugar, butter and flour. Butter can be replaced with sunflower oil sometimes. The flour may be different. In the old times buckwheat flour was most popular, but now it is used rarely. If you try to find buckwheat blini in a restaurant or supermarket, you will probably fail. In modern Russia 99% of blini are made of wheat flour.
The dough is ready, and you can start baking. According classical tradition, blini should be baked inside the oven. But in present-day Russia this dish is fryed on a pan. You need to drop a small amount of dough on a pan, wait until toasted, upend the blin, and wait until the second side toasted. Repeat this operation until the dough will come to end. Blini are ready.
Blini are usually eaten wrapped around a stuffing. The most widespread fillings are minced meat, curd, mushrooms, berries and fruits. Depending on the filling, blini may act as dessert or main dish.
Where and how to taste blini in Russia
If you want to taste traditional Russian blini made of leavened dough, it will be very difficult. As we talked above, this type is too long and hard to cook. Only a few restaurants of Russian cuisine may offer this sort of pancakes, and we are not ready to recommend any of them to our readers. Sorry; we are not sure.
It is easy to taste blini made of fresh dough. You may visit a supermarket and purchase it. You may find fresh blini with different fillings in a delicatessen department. If you have access to a microwave oven or kitchen, you may purchase blini in frozen form and heat it. See our small gallery of photos below.
There are few fast-foods that offer blini as the main dish. “Teremok” and “Melenka” are two most famous, and there you may taste fresh blini just taken off of the pan.
We advise to choose blini with the traditional Russian fillings, that may be found only in Russia and other Eastern European countries - curd, condensed milk, sour cream and Russian mushrooms.
How to bring blini from Russia as a delicious gift
To tell the truth, we don’t see any value in this action. If to talk about traditional Russian blini made of leavened dough, it is hard to bring them, because it is hard to find. If to talk about blini made of fresh dough, this dish is not unique, and you can find a similar dish at your country in most cases.
If you desire to take "the part of Russia" with you, then you may buy any kind of blini in a supermarket while your last day in Russia. The frozen form is better, and do not worry it will defrost, nothing bad will happen. This food can be stored up to two days without fridge; it is enough even for a long flight.
Maslenitsa – Russian festival of spring and blini
Most of Russian people believe Maslenitsa is the ancient national festival, but it is not true. This tradition was introduced by the Christian church in the 16th century. There was another pagan festival called “Komoeditsa” before. Few traditions moved from Komoeditsa to Maslenitsa, but the meaning of these traditions has changed.
Maslenitsa is the one week long festival. It is the celebration of spring started and winter ended. Blini are the main food while this festival.
All week long people ate blini that is a symbol of the Sun. In the end of the week the special dummy was burned. The dummy was a symbol of winter.
Nowadays, the tradition of burning the dummy is forgotten, but blini are still popular. Blini and Maslenitsa are inseparable each from others in modern Russia .
Blini in the Russian culture
Blini were linked to the cult of ancestor worship in the ancient Russia, and some tradition of this cult can be found even in modern Russia. Blini are necessary for all funeral rituals. It is important these blini should be made from leavened dough.
Ancient Slavs believed, that the soul of the dead can stay here after death, and sometimes souls return back to our world. The first pancake in time of Maslenitsa festival is given to deads. The oldest man in the family should take this pancake and put in on a window to feed the ancestors.
The ancient Russian tradition is to donate blini to paupers and ask them to pray for ancestors. Also, there is the widespread ritual to put blini on a grave or even inside a coffin.
That is why blini were forbidden as an everyday food. According to legend, if you eat it in a common day, you will attract deads, and they will take you to their world.
It is interesting.
Now in Russia there is the popular proverb: “Perviy blin komom” translates as “First blin is a clod”. It means, if you do something in the first time, then the result will be usually bad.
But in the old times this proverb had another meaning and translation. This phrase translated as “First blin is given to a dead”.
We wish you good mood and delicious blini while you travel to Russia; read our useful articles (you may find links below and on the left from text of this article).