Pancake pleasure... a la Russe

Oladi, Russian breakfast pancakes, can be a healthieralternative to the artery-clogging breakfast cuisinepopular in America

Oladi, Russian breakfast pancakes, can be a healthieralternative to the artery-clogging breakfast cuisinepopular in America

At first glance, it might appear that breakfast is not taken as seriously in Russia as it is in the United States. A brief comparison: Working in Manhattan, I was surrounded by places where you can order all the omelets, pancakes, home fries and bacon (all complete with buttered toast) that your arteries could handle. There were also bagels and lox, pastries and more. My co-workers and I would eat breakfast at the office with great ceremony. It was an important part of our day, on par with lunch and dinner.

When I moved to Moscow in 2003, breakfast withdrawal hit hard and fast. There was one place to get a good omelet - an American-themed diner in the center of town. Most of my Russian colleagues - even the burly guy who regularly put away three pork chops for lunch - seemed to subsist perfectly well on tasteless muffins, bits of dark chocolate and bananas. As long as it was eaten with tea, it was fine.

But that's only at the office. Breakfast at home is a completely different affair, one that brings out the full range of Russia's morning foods. And while the spectrum of flavors might not be as wide as in the West, there are still some incredibly tasty selections, one of the most popular being oladi, traditional Russian pancakes. These staples of the breakfast table are easy to make and versatile, lending themselves well to experimentation. Here is the simplest and most popular version.

Ingredients
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons milk
1 pinch salt

Preparation
1. Separate egg yolks and whites. Mix yolks with sugar.
2. In a small pan, melt butter.
3. In a bowl, combine flour, sour cream, salt, butter and eggs (adding eggs last), stirring vigorously until a batter has been created.
4. Add baking soda to milk, then pour into bowl.
5. Whip egg whites and add to bowl.
6. Mix once again.
7. Once the batter is ready, place a few dollops (not more than 3-4 inches in diameter) on a preheated pan and fry until underside is golden brown. Flip and repeat, being careful not to burn. We're aiming for oladi that are not more than 3/4 of an inch thick.
8. Serve with sour cream, jam or honey.

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