Traditional Cheese Blintzes

Where did blintzes come from and what made them into a Shavuos tradition? The first and obvious idea that comes to one’s mind is Russian blini, thin pancakes essential to Maslenitza, the Butter-Week, an ancient pagan worship retained and transformed with the conversion of Kievan Rus to Christianity in 10th century and still celebrated today. The oldest archaeological evidence of blini dates back to 2nd century C.E.  Heralding the end of long harsh Russian winter and welcoming spring, this week-long revelry comprised many rituals, some differing from one region to another, and most of them lost in the fog of illiteracy. I remember learning in elementary school something about stone idols whose faces were supposed to be smeared in buttery blinis, much like in American pie-in-the-face sitcoms. I also recall the name Yarilo, supposedly one of the ancient pagan deities that represented the sun. So it all made sense, somehow. However, today in Lugansk, Ukraine, there is a park-museum of ancient stone idol sculptures, but none of them are either Yarilo, or the sun.

ec1510bbebc6188e4d7e07597762c076

Well, here he is, a pretty handsome  youth, personifying spring, love, and fertility, overseeing and protecting peasants plowing the land, so I guess, the sun is also shining there somewhere.  However, even though the name BLINI is Slavic/Russian, and the actual stuffed blini are called blintchiki – almost blintzes! – it is doubtful that the Russians invented them since flat fried bread of some kind has been known, probably, even to the cavemen. Certainly, a variation of it exists in every country or culture.  So it wasn’t a great shock when I read on http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ that blintzes are of Hungarian origin. Why not? But then it said that pancakes with various fillings, common in Hungary, are called palascinta, especially when they were baked together as a sort of a multi-tiered cake, and that has triggered another memory.

We have learned from our Bessarabian (then Moldavian, now Moldovan) neighbors a delicious layered cake called placinta.  Being a curious cat, I have long ago discovered that the name came from Roman placenta which means cake, which in turn came from a Greek word specifying a thin cake. So that, apparently, was yet another thing that the Romans appropriated from the Greeks, together with musical scales and the art of debate. The same Marcus Cato who has given us a cheesecake recipe also described the method of making a placenta cake: layers of thin dough interspersed by layers of cheese mixed with… honey! But wait a minute, this is my cheese and raisins pie, not a blintz! Romans also flavored it with bay leaves, but then you know those ancient Romans – they stuck bay leaves into everything, symbolizing victory.

plc483cintc483_cu_brc3a2nzc483

The Romans, and then Romanians made huge trays of it, cut it into squares and sold them as individual pastries. Placenta cakes are still very popular in Romania; they are made not only with cheese and raisins, but also with feta cheese, potatoes, apples, and even chocolate (Yum!). We used to make it with cheese and pumpkin, and that’s how I’ve made it for my father on Thanksgiving in the U.S. (for recipe, please click here). In no way was it associated with blintzes or Shavuos. If anything, blintzes are still the closest relatives to Russian blini, minus the yeast.

Cheese blintzes 1.jpg

We mix the dry ingredients first: flour, brown sugar, a pinch of salt. Pretty basic stuff. Then whisk eggs with milk and vanilla (I use soy milk instead of regular milk, but do whatever you prefer).

Cheese blintzes 1b.jpg

The tricky part is to slowly introduce the wet mixture to the dry ingredients while stirring all the time to get rid of the lumps. Either you have to have two pairs of hands, or a better helper than my cat!

Chesse blintzes 1a.jpg

Frying pan of the size you want your blintzes to be is pre-heated to medium, misted with oil, and now comes the second tricky part.  Thin liquidy batter must be spooned (or ladled) onto the frying pan in a lighting-quick circular motion. It must cover the entire surface, yet be thin enough to be easily folded later. If the first one (or two!) does not come out right, don’t worry! The Russian saying is, “The first blin is always a mess.” Practice the circular wrist movement in your yoga class. It takes literally a minute or two, and you’ll see the edges curling up. Time to remove it, quickly mist the frying pan again,  and repeat the procedure.

Cheese blintzes 2.jpg

Even though these bletlach (that’s Yiddish for blini before they are stuffed) look golden and gorgeous, like the sun, they are only fried on one side. Warning: make sure to chase kids, cats, and dogs out of the kitchen at this point, otherwise you’ll be left with nothing to stuff! But seriously, all that’s needed is a little nudge while you are doing that swirling shtick with the hot frying pan, and someone might get hurt, G-d forbid!  Even my grandmother told us to keep a safe distance.

Cheese blintzes 3.jpg

While the bletlach are cooling off,  get the filling ready by mixing farmer cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Spread each bletl fried side up and put a heaping tablespoon of filling  on the half closer to you. Leave about 1 1/2 cm (1/2 inch) on top and both sides. Fold it starting from the top, as you would fold an envelope.

Blueberry blintzes 3.jpg

Place on a plate seam down and put aside. Continue stuffing and folding, and remember to put filling on the fried side. If you make a mistake, as I do all the time, it’s called a chef’s bonus. You stuff it – in your mouth!

Cheese blintzes 5.jpg

Stuffed and neatly folded, your blintzes now have to be fried again, this time on both sides. It is very quick, too, no more than a minute or two on each side, medium heat. Even though I mist the pan with oil, I still prefer to blot excess oil by lining a plate with paper towels before actually arranging them in a dish that will be kept warm for Yom Tov.

Cheese blintzes 6.jpg

This is how they were served on my holiday table. I don’t know from apple sauce, but we usually serve them with sour cream or jam.

INGREDIENTS

Batter:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup milk or substitute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Filling:

  • 1 lb farmer cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons sugar or substitute of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

PROCEDURE

  • To prepare batter, first mix dry ingredients.
  • Whisk eggs with milk and vanilla and slowly introduce to dry ingredients, while stirring all the time to avoid lumps.
  • Pre-heat small frying pan to medium, mist with oil
  • Quickly spoon or ladle batter and swirl the frying pan around, making sure the entire surface is evenly covered.
  • Fry for a minute or two until edges start curling up.
  • Remove, mist pan with oil, and repeat procedure.
  • To prepare filling, mix farmer cheese with egg, sugar, and vanilla.
  • Spread each piece fried side up, put heaping tablespoon of filling on the half closest to you leaving about 1 1/2 cm (1/2 inch) on sides and top. Fold like an envelope.
  • Fry stuffed blintzes on both sides for about a minute or until golden brown.
  • Remove, blot excess oil.
  • Serve hot with sour cream or jam.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

21 Comments Add yours

  1. randyjw says:

    My Mom used to make these with farmer’s cheese, too; they were so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes they are, and so easy to make, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A_Boleyn says:

    One of my favourite dessert dishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! And we don’t even serve it for dessert, but as a first main course, after the appetizers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A_Boleyn says:

        It’s the same for my mom’s plum dumplings/pierogies. My parents eat them as a main dish. My brother and I ate them as dessert. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. OMG plum dumplings! What about sour cherry dumplings with a sweet cherry sauce? As kids, we would be sent up the trees to pick plums and cherries!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    I hope you have enjoyed the soup, and now you are ready for the first main course – blintzes.

    Like

  4. Yana says:

    These are my favourites! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I could send you some! Thank you for your kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I’m going to have to Google farmer’s cheese and see if I can find it around here. And what better sous chef than a cat? My dogs think they’re a great help when I’m cooking. If I can’t find the farmer’s cheese what could I substitute?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Farmer cheese is a drier and pressed version of cottage cheese. There are two ways you can do it:
      1. Make prostokvasha (clabbered milk), either dairy or not https://koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/prostokvasha-non-dairy-clabbered-milk/, pour it into cheese cloth, hang it to drain overnight, then put it under press. You have to find non-pasteurized milk, though, otherwise it won’t clabber.
      2. The easy way is to skip the first step, place cottage cheese into cheese cloth, drain it, and put under press for a couple of hours.
      You can use cream cheese to substitute, but it comes out too mushy, without texture.
      I hope this is helpful!
      Good luck, and please let me know how it comes out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Elizabeth says:

        In Michigan it’s illegal to sell raw milk. That sucks since I’d much rather have it. I’ll have to try the cottage cheese method. Unless I can find one of the dairy farmers willing to flaunt the law!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When I first came to the US, I tried to make it with pasteurized milk with unpalatable results, so I’ve learned from experience.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Elizabeth says:

        I’m going to try the cottage cheese while searching for farmer’s cheese.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Good luck – enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s