What to CookAppetizers

How to Make Perfect, Just-Fluffy-Enough Blini That Smack of the Sea

3 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!

I recently fell back in love with blini. Yes, we had been on a bit of a hiatus—I remembered them as not-always-flavorful discs, mere vessels for whatever tasty filling tops them. But true blini, made from yeast-risen batter and featuring buckwheat flour, are bursting with flavor and have a lovely texture. They make amazing appetizers and cocktail party fare, but larger-sized blini (read on!) can make fabulous brunches and even dinner entrées, especially with a crisp salad in tow. Want to get in on the blini action? Here’s what you need to know.

A little dollop goes a long way
A little dollop goes a long way Photo by Julia Gartland

Traditional = Better

Blini have a long history in Slavic cuisines. Traditionally, they are made with buckwheat flour (or a combination of buckwheat and another flour), which give them a lovely color and a slightly nutty, toasty flavor. Blini have become well known enough that recipes are easy to come by. However, a lot of recipes call for a preparation similar to pancakes or crêpes, adopting the less traditional method of using a chemical leavener, like baking power. Traditional blini are yeast-risen, and benefit from the sour flavor that fermentation provides. The difference is well worth it!

Advertisement
Mini-ones let you sample more toppings.
Mini-ones let you sample more toppings. Photo by Julia Gartland

Sizes

One of the more common ways to see blini is as two-bite discs. This is surely an excellent way to enjoy blini, but again, it differs slightly from tradition. Traditional blini recipes show several variations—saucer-sized ones are often served folded, filled, or topped with garnishes. Entrée plate–sized blini can be filled and rolled (a bit like a blintz), or simply topped with a garnish. How you choose to serve your blini is up to you—and I think each size has a time and place. The recipe below provides guidelines for making blini in all three sizes.

The yeast wants to take a rest, so it can rise later.
The yeast wants to take a rest, so it can rise later. Photo by Julia Gartland

Mixing the Batter

The batter doesn’t require much mixing; it’s a lot like mixing up a batch of pancake batter. The main difference comes with the yeast. In order for the yeast to do its job, the base liquid—in my recipe, milk, but for other recipes, it may be water or another liquid—needs to be warmed slightly to activate the yeast and start the process of fermentation, which will allow more flavor to develop in the finished blini. Whisk the batter until well combined, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1-1 1/2 hours before cooking.

Wait for that specked brown.
Wait for that specked brown.

Cooking the Blini

Cook blinis in a well-greased skillet. (I like to use nonstick spray to ensure the pan is evenly coated, reducing the risk of greasy blini.) Heat the skillet over medium heat, and try to keep the heat consistent to encourage even browning. To make bite-sized blini, scoop circles of batter (about 1 heaping tablespoon each) into the pan and cook until golden brown on each side, 1-2 minutes per side. To make saucer-sized blini, scoop circles of batter (about 1/3 heaping cup each) into the pan and cook until golden brown on each side, 2-3 minutes per side. To make entrée plate–sized blini, scoop circles of batter (about 2/3 heaping cup each) into the pan and cook until golden brown on each side, 3-5 minutes per side.

Advertisement
Lox is a good, no-fail option to keep in your fridge the night before serving.
Lox is a good, no-fail option to keep in your fridge the night before serving. Photo by Julia Gartland

Make-Ahead Options

Blini can feel like a bit of a project, especially if you’re opting for bite-size versions for a party. But know there are a few ways you can make your blini ahead of time. You can refrigerate the batter after mixing, allowing it to ferment/rise more slowly in the refrigerator (for up to 8 hours), before you cook the blini. Alternatively, the cooked blini can be frozen for up to 1 month, buying you a bit of time come party day. Here's how to freeze and reheat effectively: Arrange the blini in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store in a plastic zip-top bag in the freezer. Re-warm the frozen blini in a 300°F on a rack on a baking sheet for 7-9 minutes until lightly re-crisped.

And why not some smoked trout, too?
And why not some smoked trout, too? Photo by Julia Gartland

Topping the Blini

The fun part! Really anything can go on top of a blini, but I generally like to start with a smooth filling of some sort (crème fraîche, sour cream, or soft cheeses are all excellent ideas). Traditional toppings include smoked salmon (I also like smoked trout or other fish), caviar, or eggs. But you can also veer off that path and go for things like roasted vegetables, pickles (pickled beets, pickled celery, even pickled eggs are awesome!), or shredded meat. I also like to add plenty of fresh herbs: dill, parsley, mint, and chives are all great ones. A hit of citrus zest looks pretty and tastes great too. Anything goes, so think of flavors and pick toppings that work for your preferred blini size.

Gimme!
Gimme! Photo by Julia Gartland

Serving the Blinis

Blini can be served slightly warm or at room temperature. Once topped, they are best served immediately. Like all starch-based products, they can get soggy with time. If you’re planning on a party setup that involves lots of grazing, you may want to place the plain blini on a platter with the toppings arranged around them (a top-your-own blini party, if you will), so guests can assemble their own, and everything will stay fresh longer.

9c344b94 ca4b 4547 ba3a 7ce05ee09668  2017 0503 blini finished julia gartland 161

Buckwheat Blini

0fecd8f8 6ef1 4649 9f57 83bf4668f3d0  3572 Erin McDowell
1 Save Recipe
Makes 8-10 servings as an appetizer
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
69a3438a 40a9 47b9 8780 3a6530ccf5d4  2017 0503 blini finished beauty detail 1 julia gartland 229

Blini with Herbed Sour Cream and Caviar

0fecd8f8 6ef1 4649 9f57 83bf4668f3d0  3572 Erin McDowell
1 Save Recipe
Makes 8-10 servings as an appetizer
  • 1 recipe Buckwheat Blini (https://food52.com/recipes/71287-buckwheat-blini)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 ounces caviar of choice
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
Show More
02a983e7 f346 4684 9a44 84f7b76cc4f7  2017 0503 blini finished beauty detail 2 julia gartland 229

Blini with Horseradish, Beets, and Smoked Trout

0fecd8f8 6ef1 4649 9f57 83bf4668f3d0  3572 Erin McDowell
1 Save Recipe
Makes 8-10 servings as an appetizer
  • 1 recipe Buckwheat Blini (https://food52.com/recipes/71287-buckwheat-blini)
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
  • 2/3 cup finely diced pickled beets
  • 4 ounces smoked trout
  • 1/4 cup lemon zest
  • freshly ground black pepper
Show More
3e205b98 9e15 4100 892d 02b406535877  2017 0503 blini finished beauty detail 3 julia gartland 229

Blini with Crème Fraîche and Smoked Salmon

0fecd8f8 6ef1 4649 9f57 83bf4668f3d0  3572 Erin McDowell
1 Save Recipe
Makes 8-10 servings as an appetizer
  • 1 recipe Buckwheat Blini (https://food52.com/recipes/71287-buckwheat-blini)
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1/3 cup dill sprigs
  • freshly ground black pepper
Show More

How would you top a blini? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: slavic cooking, blinis, russian food