from one generation to the next
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” says Shakespeare, but does a pikelet taste better if it’s called a blini?
I’ve been researching, trying to establish if it’s just a name that sets pikelets and blini apart. I’d never made blini in the Russian style from a yeast risen buckwheat flour batter before, but I’ve been a serial offender serving smoked salmon on tiny pikelets made from refined wheat flour risen with baking powder, however I have never called them blini. Is there a marked flavour and textural difference?
Elizabeth David in her book “English Bread and Yeast Cookery” tells us that the origins of yeast risen griddle cakes was born from the ready availability of coarse grains and the lack of ovens in small households. Refined flour and baking powder have pushed these rustic style breads aside and while she sites evidence of English yeast leavened buckwheat pancakes known as “bockings” in the early 19th century, she credits the Russians with the recipe for “blini” made with yeast leavened buckwheat flour and traditionally cooked in a moulded form to give them a uniform size of less than 10cm.
Having established that there is a clear difference in the flour type and raising agent used to make pikelets and blini, I concluded they’re completely different in nature, but being unfamiliar with blini, I needed test it out and see for myself
I’m no stranger to buckwheat flour, it’s my grain of choice for breakfast pancakes. I’m in total agreement with Ms David when she recommends substituting a proportion of the buckwheat flour in blini with a lighter grain for a more pleasing texture.
Using my basic breakfast pancake recipe I made the necessary adjustments to include sour cream and yeast in the recipe. I lightened the batter by added a whisked egg white.
The finished blini were light, much less dense than a pikelet, but still stout enough to pick up in the fingers without bending. Pikelets are wonderful vehicle for cleanly and politely eating jam and cream, but I think that the beautiful tender crumb and nutty complex flavour of yeast leavened blinis make them much more suitable for a delicate savoury topping. My only caveat is they are much, much better freshly cooked, eaten within a few hours of taking them from the pan. The batter however, minus the egg white, can be kept overnight in the fridge.
We topped our blini with thin slices of gravlax which I’d prepared using my favourite cure of lemon thyme, lemon zest and citrus vodka with a minimal amount of sugar and salt. It was our intention to serve with champagne at a picnic in the park on a warm autumn Sunday afternoon, but sadly it rained. They tasted just as good indoors.
Buckwheat Blini – gluten free
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup plain flour ( I used gluten free)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg separated
Measure the dry ingredient into a mixing bowl then mix them together with a wire whisk.
Gently warn the milk and sour cream to blood temperature then whisk in the egg yolk.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry to make a smooth batter.
Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and allow to rest at room temperature until bubbles form on the surface of the batter, about 1 hour, or alternatively rest in the fridge overnight.
Whisk the egg white into soft peaks then fold it into the batter until well incorporated.
Heat a cast iron pan over a medium heat, lightly grease with butter then drop dessertspoons full of batter onto the pan allowing a little room to spread.
When bubbles appear on the surface of the blini, flip and cook for a minute on the second side.
Remove to a cooling wire and continue cooking blini until all the batter is used.
Delicious topped with horseradish spiked cream cheese and smoked salmon or gravlax.