Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Blintz By Any Other Name

A blintz ready to be rolled
I know what I said about the schmaltz. If you understand the term, you probably know where you can score a Jewish recipe or two. Same thing goes for the blintz. Only this time, I need to warn you: not all blintz recipes are good blintz recipes. And between your grandma’s ancient plastic pink recipe box and the ever-broadening blog-iverse, there are many potential pitfalls.

Basically, blintzes are a dangerously thin crepe filled with crumbly-creamy, slightly sweet and tart cheese, and in some cases, they include plumped raisins. They are fried in butter and often topped with fruit or sour cream:  the perfect salty-sweet antidote for the morning meanies.

Don’t be fooled by a recipe that calls for any cheeses other than farmer cheese and cottage cheese. Similarly, you're taking a serious chance if you use a recipe that calls for buckwheat (it’s a Russian thing), a yeasted batter, or for frying in oil. Butter is the only option here – you don’t need a lot of it, but please, just do all of us a favor and use the real thing.

It’s not that blintzes are difficult to make. You just have to know who you can trust. So let me give you a really good blintz recipe here and now, from a (mostly) Jewish grandmother, whose people hailed straight from Poland. 

What’s that you say? Blintzes don’t come from Poland, they come from Russia?* A good blintz recipe can only come form a true-blue Ashkenazi Jew? Shhhh. Don’t tell my Grandma. She’s a convert to Judaism, and her family comes from somewhere west and south of modern-day Russia, but her recipe is as good as they come.

These are the blintzes of my childhood, with a slight adjustment on the sugar content (what is it with the Polish sweet tooth?). Although cooking them takes a little time, the recipe makes quite a lot of blintzes, and they easily can be frozen until you are ready to serve them. 

Blintzes are hearty fare -- a holdover from our cold agrarian roots, I suppose. You need a hefty meal after a long day in the fields. Nowadays, you'll find blintzes to be lovely for a Sunday brunch or an after school treat. It’s nearly impossible to eat just one, but be warned: two blintzes is the ideal serving size. Anything more than that and you’ll be flat-out on the couch, nursing your poor bloated blintz belly for a good hour or two until you digest.

Here's the pictorial overview:

1. Make a nice thin pancake --
ideally using a crepe pan
2. Scoop filling into the center
before cooking the other side

3. Fold down one half
4. Fold over the other side
5. Roll into a cylinder,
then fry in butter on both sides
Finished! A slightly more square blintz
than I would have liked, but you get the idea.
These blintzes bear no resemblance to the store-bought frozen variety. The pancakes are much thinner, the filling slightly sweeter (even with the adjustment I made in the recipe here), and the raisins take them over the top. They really need no other accompaniment. They are perfect, and authentic (to me at least) just the way they are.

PS: My (grand)mother's recipe was once published in Taste of Home magazine and on their website, but the editors felt that Americans weren't familiar enough with farmer's cheese, so they omitted it from the recipe. What, no one has a computer where they could look it up? Just go hunt down the cheese. In today's food-fetishized world, it's not so hard to find. (Case in point: I got mine at the Stop and Shop around the corner.) Also, the Taste of Home directions are completely different from my family's. I wouldn't trust them to bake a good blintz if my life depended on it. See what I mean about scouring the web at your own risk?

*There’s a clear link here to the Russian blini, the Polish nalesniki, and even the Hungarian palacsinta. But somewhere along the line those crazy Yiddish-speakers settled on a different name: blintz.

Cheese Blintzes

Filling ingredients:
1 cup raisins
15 oz. (two packages) farmer’s cheese
1 lb. small curd cottage cheese
½ to ¾ cup sugar, to taste
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 egg, well beaten
½ tsp. salt

Batter ingredients:
4 eggs
1 cup milk (any % milkfat will work)
1 cup flour, sifted
1 tsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 Tablespoons melted butter

Crepe pan and butter, for frying

Butter two 8x12” glass baking pans and set aside.

Boil raisins in 2 cups boiling water for 3-5 minutes, until plump but not discolored. Drain and reserve for filling.

In a large mixing bowl, break up farmer’s cheese into small crumbles about the same size as the cottage cheese curds. Combine this with cottage cheese, sugar, cinnamon, egg and salt. Mix well. Add raisins and stir gently to blend.

In a blender, beat the eggs until foamy, then add the remaining batter ingredients. Blend on high until well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. Make sure there are no clumps of flour left in the batter, then remove bowl from blender base.

Place a small crepe pan over medium heat and lightly grease with butter. Pour batter onto pan and, lifting the pan slightly, swirl it to form a thin, even coating. Pour any excess batter back into the blender. When the edges of the pancake turn brown (less than a minute), flip the pancake onto a clean dish towel.

Place a heaping Tablespoon of filling in the center of the pancake (a medium-sized stainless steel scoop works well, but if you don’t have one, just use a large spoon).

Roll the crepe into a blintz shape: Fold top of crepe down over the filling, fold right and left sides in to fit snugly over the middle, then roll into a cylinder shape. (You will want to do this while the blintz is still warm, to prevent tearing.)

Set filled blintzes into the prepared baking pans and reserve. (At this point, blintzes may be frozen for up to a month.)

When blintzes are filled, melt about a teaspoon of butter in a large frying pan. Carefully place a few blintzes into the pan, leaving space around the edges for flipping.  Fry the blintzes for about two minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Don't worry too much if the pancakes tear a little. Just try your best to keep the filling inside.

Serve warm for breakfast or a hearty snack. Because the filling is sweet, you won’t need the traditional blueberry compote, sour cream or applesauce over the top. All you’ll need is a fork and a glass of nice cold milk on the side.


  1. YUM! Now I have to make some of these because my stomach won't stoop growling.

    1. Always obey a stooping stomach ;)


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