Pancake. The word paints quite a picture. But what kind of picture may say something about where you live and eat. So when I say pancake do you think of Sunday morning? Does your mind automatically go to maple syrup? Maybe blueberries? If you just licked your lips and nodded ‘yes’ then there is a good chance you are from North America or very well acquainted with our pancake culture. Because steaming stacks of hotcakes dripping with syrup and melted butter does indeed conjure up comfortable memories of hearth and home.
But traditional pancakes don’t need to be homemade to be homey. Nor do they need to be American.
In fact the griddlecake we Americans so associate with special breakfasts probably has its roots in a similarly prepared Scottish pancake.
Which of course got me thinking about the roots of this simple food. One thing is for sure the pancake is an ancient food. In fact, man was cooking on the griddle long before he ever got around to figuring out the concept of an oven.
There are recipes for pancakes, in fact, that appear in cookbooks as far back as the height of the Roman Empire. That ancient Roman version combines honey and pepper. Which is an intriguing combination…
Which proves pancakes are a far more universal and much more diverse than that stack of flapjacks we delightedly shovel in our mouths in preparation for the day’s activities. In fact, it seems there is a rendition of the pancake in almost every culture. Sometimes they are a breakfast food, sometimes a midday snack purchased from a street vendor. Some countries feature them as a savory part of the meal. They certainly make delicious desserts too.
What truly defines a pancake though, is a bit hazy. It certainly can’t be defined by geography as I think I have just proven. But the idea of a basic batter, cooked in a pan and embellished to suit your tastes remains constant in any language.
And because I don’t expect you to believe me just because I say all this is so I have decided to prove the international nature of pancakes. That’s right for the next week Sup! becomes the latest franchise of The International House of Pancakes. Just call me IHOP for the next 7 days because you are going to see nothing but pancakes from across the globe the entire time.
I am starting the week with a Russian pancake in the form of buckwheat blini. I am going to top this savory little pancake with caviar and traditional accompaniments like sour cream, hard-boiled egg, and red onion.
Russian blini were originally small crumbly pancakes with the strong flavor of buckwheat. They have evolved into a much more sophisticated and subtly savory treat over the years. Making them an elegant partner to caviar.
Serving blini with caviar and the traditional accompaniments probably originated in Europe a long time ago to mask the taste of rancid or poor quality caviar. Today it is no longer necessary to go to these extremes, but the accompaniments have become standard to all but the truest of caviar purists. I also think the accompaniments are a fun interactive presentation at a cocktail party and a good way to stretch your caviar while creating an interesting palate of flavors.
- 1 1/4 c milk
- 1 1/2 t yeast
- 1/4 c lukewarm water
- 1/2 c all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c buckwheat flour, plus a little more if necessary
- 1/2 t salt
- 4 T unsalted butter
- 2 eggs, separated
- 2 T heavy cream
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, yolks and whites separated and chopped
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 1 1/2 oz caviar, per person
- 1 c sour cream
Scald 1 cup of milk in a sauce pan set over medium heat, do not let it boil. Remove from heat and allow it to cool somewhat. Mix the yeast with the warm water, setting it aside for 5 minutes until it gets foamy.
Sift the flours and salt together in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the pile and pour the yeast water and milk into that well. Gradually mix the flour into the liquid. Beat until smooth. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm place for 2 or 3 hours until quite bubbly.
Melt 1/2 of the butter, then let it cool somewhat. Add the melted butter, an additional 1/4 cup of milk, 2 egg yolks and the heavy cream, stirring to combine. The end result should have a consistency of heavy cream, you may need to add more milk to achieve this.
Whisk the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, trying to keep the mixture fluffy.
Heat the remaining butter on a large non-stick skillet or griddle. Wipe out the extra with a paper towel so that the skillet is coated with butter. Pour the batter into small rounds about 2‑inches in diameter. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes until golden brown, flip the blini and cook an additional minute or so. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with caviar, hard-boiled eggs, red onion, and sour cream.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD