Blini are a staple at pretty much any excuse for a party in Russia. And it's easy to understand why. These little pancakes, topped with smoked salmon and sour cream, make elegant and delicious little bites fit for any occasion.
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I know I've often talked about my time in Spain and a few times about Germany, but not so much Russia. It's not that it didn't make an impression on me - quite the opposite - but food was less often a selling point, as I talked about when I shared my borscht recipe.
There definitely are some tasty Russian recipes, but they can be a little hard to seek out. Blini, however, are something you find all over.
I've been to Russia a number of times in a few guises, and pretty much every time we gathered in some way, we had blini. You get different toppings, with caviar being a common one, or other seafood such as smoked salmon, but sour cream ('smetana') was pretty much always there in some way.
I remember having them the first time I went to Russia and we had a mini party at the end. We'd had some food during the camp that was a bit hard to get used to, so these were a pleasant treat. The flavors are mild, but they're great to snack on, and alongside a drink. Which was just as well that time as we all needed to make a toast, individually, in traditional style.
How to make blini
Traditionally blini are made with either all buckwheat flour or part buckwheat, part regular flour as I have here. Often, these days, they are made purely with all purpose flour. While that saves hunting down a less common flour, I do think the buckwheat helps give a gently distinct flavor.
You'll find some versions going more the route of more familiar pancakes using baking powder/soda, but yeast is another part of what gives them their flavor, I think.
Buckwheat flour comes in a couple of different shades, which is why you might think theses are darker than you might expect. Technically the dark flour is better nutritionally, but it is a little coarser, so use what you can find or prefer.
You could easily use smoked salmon here, but I've actually used some gravlax, partly as I'd made some but also I love the flavor here. The slight sweetness and dill from the cure mixture works well wit the blini and sour cream.
If you are making your own gravlax, you might want to try a variation, beet cured salmon, which gives a lovely extra burst of color which looks great on little bites like these.
These blini with smoked salmon or gravlax are an easy and elegant finger food. They're at the middle of any Russian party table for a reason, as they both look the part and taste great too. Give them a try and you'll see what I mean.
Try these other elegant appetizers:
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Steak crostini with mushroom pate and truffle oil
- Scallop and chorizo stacks
- Plus see more appetizer recipes in the archives.
Blini with smoked salmon (or gravlax)
- ½ cup buckwheat flour 65g
- ½ cup all purpose flour 70g
- ¼ cup wholewheat flour 35g
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast (fast acting)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk 240ml, warm
- 1 egg divided
- 6 oz smoked salmon 170g, approx, or gravlax
- 5 tablespoon sour cream approx
- Whisk together the flours, yeast and salt. Mix in the milk and stir until smooth. Cover and set aside until it has doubled in size.
- Separate the egg. Mix in the yolk to the pancake mixture. Whisk the egg white until stiff then fold into the batter. Cover and set aside another 15 minutes or so.
- Warm a large skillet/frying pan over a medium heat and brush with a little vegetable oil or butter. Put around 4-5 spoonfuls into the skillet at a time with space between them. Once the pancakes start to bubble in a few places, flip them over and cook another couple minutes on the other side. Keep warm until ready to use (eg wrap in a dish towel then in foil or put in a low over, covered), and repeat with the rest of the batter.
- Top each blini with one or two small pieces of smoked salmon or gravlax and a small spoonful (around ½ tsp) of sour cream (or other toppings, as you prefer) then serve.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Try these other elegant appetizer ideas:
- Crab Stuffed Pastry Cups by Our Good Life
- Greek Shrimp Skewers by Jersey Girl Cooks
- Jerk Shrimp & Avocado Bites by Books n’ Cooks
- Mini Fried Chicken and Waffles by Tara’s Multicultural Table
- Tempura Chicken Nuggets by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Butternut Squash Squares by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Mushroom Chevre Crostini by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Boursin by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Stuffed Cheese Puffs by The Freshman Cook