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Wednesday 5 June 2013

Sluttishly Sweet: White Russian Blini

Plenty of visual clues in this photo, in case you're
still not sure where blini come from. Also, behold
the Russian Doll Blini Police solemnly keeping vigil.
Blini are as ubiquitously Russian as vodka, Lenin, and a flair for gymnastics. These little buckwheat pancakes are a popular breakfast treat, but can be enjoyed at any time of day or night, and - like my other favourite pancakey friend, the potato latke - they work well with a variety of toppings.

When I embarked upon this batch of blini, I wasn't sure whether they'd end up sweet or savoury. Then I had a flash of what can only be described as genius, and decided to top them with White Russian cream.

The White Russian isn't, as we all know, a Russian cocktail - it's called that simply because it's got vodka in it. But its flavours do the trick nicely here, so who cares? Not I, dear reader. Not I.

I always use Saint Delia's basic blini recipe - along with the majority of the internet and chefdom, it seems - because hers really can't be beaten. Obviously, I have made my own delicious additions, but I'm sure she won't mind. There's a fair bit of waiting around, as blini need yeast to do their thing - but once you've made your own, you'll never want to eat a shop-bought one again.

White Russian Blini (makes 20-30)
You will need:
For the blini
  • 40g buckwheat flour
  • 125g plain flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 5g easy-blend yeast
  • 150ml crème fraîche
  • 175ml full-fat milk
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • A large knob (stop it) of butter for frying
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp finely-ground coffee or wholebean instant coffee (Millicano, for example)
For the White Russian cream
  • 45ml extra-thick cream
  • 1 tbsp vodka
  • 1 tbsp Tia Maria or Kahlua
  • Chocolate-covered coffee beans to garnish (optional)
Make it!
  1. Sift both flours and the salt into your mixer bowl and add the yeast.
  2. In a saucepan, warm the crème fraîche and milk. Don't allow it to come anywhere near boiling - a very gentle warm-through is what we need. Perhaps the temperature of the milk you'd offer a poor, starving kitten who's been trapped in your shed all night and is in need of comfort. Yeah.
  3. Now add in the egg yolks, give everything a quick whisk by hand, and then add this mixture to the flour and yeast. 
  4. Whisk until you've got a thickish batter, then pop a clean tea towel or cloth over the top of the bowl. Leave it in a warm place for about an hour, for the yeast to work.
  5. After an hour, the batter will be looking spongy. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the whisk is removed, and fold them into the batter. Re-cover with your tea towel, and return the bowl to its warm hideaway for a further hour.
  6. When your blini are ready to cook, heat some butter in a heavy frying pan, and then pour into a jug to use throughout the cooking process - leave a little in the pan for the first batch.
  7. Keep the pan over a medium heat and add about a tablespoon of batter for each blin (that's the singular of blini, fact fans!). Cook for about 30 seconds on each side. Re-butter your pan with the faintest swipe of melted butter between each batch.
  8. When all the blini are ready, mix together the brown sugar and coffee, and sprinkle a little atop each blin.
  9. Now it's time to make our White Russian cream! Simply add the booze to the cream and whip it up until it's thick and dollopy. Spoon some onto each blin, adding a chocolate-covered coffee bean if you so wish.

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