Shrovetide, or just “pancake week”, is an annual event when Russians become literally crazy about pancakes, or “blini” – as they are called here. We eat them plain and stuffed, unleavened and yeasty, sweet and savory, and with literally every possible filling. This year, I decided to finally try one of the most traditional Russian blini recipes – pancakes with pripek.
“Pripek” is a Russian word meaning some type of baked filling. So, pripek is basically any filling that bakes right into a pancake. The point is that instead of putting the stuffing into a ready pancake, you mix the filling with the batter and bake it like that. In olden times, blini with pripek were one of the most popular types of pancakes in Rus: they were baked exclusively in a traditional Russian village oven on a cast-iron skillet greased with lard. However, today this recipe is not that popular and widespread – I guess it is simply because pancakes with pripek require a bit more time and skill. I believe, however, that if you master them once, then you will come back to this recipe over and over again.
Some of the most traditional sweet and savory pripeks are bunch onion, fried mushrooms, boiled eggs, buckwheat porridge and sweetened tvorog. I decided to cook two different types of pripek – tvorog with honey and savory mushrooms with greens – so as to show you the different ways how to bake pripek into pancakes. There are actually several techniques of doing it: the first method is when you place the ready filling on a pan and then pour it with the batter – this goes perfectly with chopped savory filling. The second one is a bit more tricky: you pour batter on a pan, add some filling on top, then cover it with another layer of batter and cook from both sides – so you get a kind of “double pancake” with pripek inside. This is the best way to make blini with sweet and creamy pripeks such as tvorog.
1. Firstly, prepare the fillings, or pripeks, for your blini. For the savory ones you need to fry mushrooms: I use champignons but feel free to use any mushrooms you like or that have on hand. Just cut them finely and place in a pan with hot oil. Add some salt, freshly ground pepper and fry on medium heat until soft.
2. Then add some greens: it is common to add chopped bunch onion to mushroom pripek, but I like it better with spinach – you can use leek or parsley as well. Cook together for 5 more minutes and set aside.
3. For your sweet pripek take soft tvorog, or any alternative, and whisk it with sour cream so that the filling is more smooth. Or use heavy cream instead to get a more creamy taste and consistency. Then, add honey to taste – for me one tablespoon is enough.
4. Now, move to your basic crepe batter: firstly, whisk eggs with sugar and salt. At this step use 1 tablespoon of sugar only: you need a kind of unleavened batter for our savory pripek, so after you finish with them, you may add more sugar into the batter for a sweet pripek.
5. Next, add milk with water and mix the batter again. Then, add all the flour at a time and properly stir the mixture: the batter should be absolutely smooth with no lumps, so it may take some time. Lastly, add some oil – I usually use sunflower or olive oil – straight to the batter and mix once again.
6. Heat your pan and start making blini! Generously smear the surface with butter and spread 1 heaped tablespoon of savory pripek. Then pour it with the batter.
7. Once it is cooked on one side, quickly but gently flip it over and cook until golden brown. Repeat until you run out of filling.
8. Moving to blini with sweet pripek, you can sweeten the remaining batter with one more tablespoon of sugar if you like. For tvorog filling try a different technique: firstly, pour some batter on a hot smeared pan and wait until it slightly sets.
9. Then spread some tvorog filling over the first layer of batter and carefully pour it over with the second. Cook until golden brown on both sides.
10. Blini with pripek are much more scrumptious while they are still warm, so serve them right after cooking. Sprinkle the savory ones with some fresh chopped greens.
11. Dust the sweet ones with powdered sugar and enjoy your pancake meal – priyatnogo appetita!
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