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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Bliny, Soviet style!

With recipes for Buckwheat and Wheatflour Bliny.

From Sputnik Magazine, USSR 1988:

Lovely round bliny, glistening and hot, like the generous sun. Drenched with vegetable oil, they are a reminder of the offerings made to the great stone idols in pre-Christian times. The blin pancake is a symbol of the sun, of warm days and good harvests, of harmonious marriage and healthy children.

Thus wrote the famous Russian writer Alexander Kuprin.

Indeed, bliny have been famous in Russia since time immemorial. For our heathen ancestors they were the chief delight at feasts held in honour of Veles, the god of fertility. Celebrated at the beginning of spring, Veles' day was incorporated into the Christian calendar as Shrovetide, or Pancake week, the week before Lent.

Pancake week has always been a jolly festival, a time for letting go and real merriment. In the old days, throughout the Russian lands the week was a time boisterous fun and entertainer outside and in the streets: troikas were to be seen tearing everywhere, sledges would hurtle down hillsides, and hilarious snowball fights were held that involved the storming of snow fortresses, whose incredible forms were easily fashioned with the moist March snow.

Also, the week was considered a good time for getting married. An invariable feature of Pan-cake week was the festive table laden with food.

Bliny were the ornament and main culinary item of the holiday table. There were bliny with butter, with sour cream, caviar, jam, honey -- in fact with anything that would be appetizing wrapped in hot fried dough.

This is how bliny are made:

Firstly, you must leaven a thin dough. To do this, add yeast to some warm water or milk, then sprinkle into the solution flour, mixing to form a liquidy dough. This part of the process will require half of all the flour used to make the bliny.

Do the mixing in a wooden or enameled bowl. The mixture will expand, and must increase in size by about two or three times.

Stand in a warm place, having covered the bowl with a towel (under no circumstances seal the top: the mixture must breathe). If the dough rises too quickly, "knead" it with a spoon and put it in a cooler place.

When the mixture has doubled or trebled in size, add to it the remaining flour, and also salt, yolks of eggs, sour cream, oil, and other ingredients. Again put in a warm place. As soon as it has risen for a second time, pour in portions into a hot frying pan.

Now, about the frying pan. Made of cast iron, it should be no bigger than a dessert plate -- the traditional size of the Russian blin. Then the pan must be absolutely clean. To make sure of this, get the pan hot and sprinkle the bottom of it with coarse salt; heat well and move around; then wipe with a dry cloth. This will also stop the bliny from burning and sticking. It's best to use a wooden ladle that holds exactly one portion for pouring the mixture into the pan. The seared and cleaned frying pan should, by the way, be smeared with a little salt-free pork fat or vegetable oil.

The blin should be turned with a spatula once it has started to brown. The cooked bliny should be put in a pile, covered tightly, and left in a warm place so that they don't go cold. Best of all, they should be kept hot in an oven, or some other hot place, once cooked.

The bliny may be served with clarified butter, caviar, sour cream, and salmon. There are hundreds of Russian bliny recipes. Here are two of the most popular:


Take 2 cups of buckwheat flour. 2 of wheat flour, 4 of milk; 3 raw eggs, 100 g single or sour cream, one tablespoon of granulated sugar, 25-30 g yeast, 2 tablespoons butter, salt to taste. And vegetable oil for the frying pan.

Sprinkle the buckwheat flour into an enameled saucepan, pour in two cups of warm milk, into which the yeast has been added and blended. Mix well and leave to leaven in a warm place. When the mixture has risen, knead it with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining milk, sprinkle in the wheat flour, and blend. Put the mixture in a warm place again.

Once the leavening is done, add the egg yolks blended with the butter, sugar and salt. Mix.

Beat the cream and egg whites into a froth, and add to the mixture. Leave to stand in a warm place for 15-20 minutes. Now prepare the bliny in the frying pan.


4 cups wheat flour, 4 of milk, 50 g butter, 3 eggs, 20-25 g yeast, sugar and salt to taste.

Make the leaven mixture using only half the flour, then prepare as buckwheat bliny, only without the cream.



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