Blini, caviar and local sparkling cider

Happy new year!

Last night, we had two favorites for our little New Year's Eve party - blini with caviar and smoked salmon, with a local speciality called Blauacher Chlöpfmoscht.

First about the Blauacher Chlöpfmoscht. This is a sparkling wine made from apples - so I guess you could call it a cider. But what a delicate, lovely thing it is. It's a very pale champagne white, with a faint scent of fresh apple, sparkly and very festive. (The color is so delicate in fact, that I couldn't get a good photo of it...I'll try again next time we get a bottle.) By local, I really mean local - it's made at a farm that is about 3 minutes walk from our house, Müller. The town where we live is not that rural really - we are about 30 minutes by commuter train from the center of Zürich - but there is still plenty of farmland around. And we are very lucky to have Herr and Frau Müller, who operate a small organic farm where we can buy the most delicious fresh, large eggs, not to mention totall chemically free beef. Unfortunately their operation is too small for them to ship their products, including the Blauacher Chlöpfmoscht. Whenever we go visiting and know that our hosts appreciate wine, we try to bring along a bottle, and it's always appreciated.

Blini, on the other hand, can be made anywhere, with the right ingredients. It's the perfect buttery yet bland carrier for caviar - the sturgeon kind, or salmon eggs, or even (undyed!) lumpfish. Any kind of smoked fish goes well on it too. A dollop of creme fraiche or good sour cream, or unsalted butter, never hurts. You can also try sweet toppings like butter and marmelade. Unlike crepes, blini batter contains yeast. Blini are great make-ahead party food. Just make a big stack, lay out the toppings, and let everyone go at it.

Below are two variations. The first uses buckwheat flour. The second uses some ripe desem. Both recipes make a lot of blini. Blini freezes very well, stacked with a piece of parchment or waxed paper in between each and then wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap.

Buckwheat blini

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour (all purpose, or soft - not bread flour)
  • 2 packets of dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups 2% milk (or 3 cups whole milk + 1 cup water)
  • 120g or 4 oz. or 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 large eggs
  • Oil for cooking

Sift together the buckwheat and white flours.

Dissolve the yeast and about a 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the lukewarm water. By lukewarm, that means if you put your finger in, it should feel a bit warm but not hot. Let it proof (bubble up) for a bit, about 5 minutes.

Mix together 1/3 cup of the flour mixture with the yeast-water mixture. Cover and let proof (bubble up) for 30 minutes to an hour. If you leave it for the longer time, the yeast flavor will dissipate more - which I prefer. I don't really like the flavor of commercial dry yeast that much.

Add 2 cups of the milk (or milk and water mix), the rest of the flour, salt, the rest of the sugar, beaten eggs and melted butter to the dough, and mix. Add more flour if necessary to bring to the consistency of mayonnaise. Cover and let proof (bubble up) for about 30 minutes. It will get quite bubbly, so be sure your bowl is big enough to avoid a countertop volcano effect.

Heat up the rest of the milk (it's easiest to do this in the microwave). Pour it over the batter and mix gently to make a thinnish but not too thin batter. It should be the consistency of unwhipped cream.

Heat up a griddle or a couple of nonstick frying pans over medium heat. Put about 2 Tbs. worth of batter in the pan or on the griddle, let the batter spread to about 4 inches / 10 cm diameter. Cook until the batter on top of drying out, then flip to briefly cook the other side. Repeat often until you end up with about 50 blini. Enjoy with whatever toppings you like.

Desem blini

  • 1 1/2 cups ripe desem
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour (all purpose, or soft - not bread flour)
  • 1 packet of dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 120g or 4 oz. or 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 large eggs
  • Oil for cooking

Mix together the desem, lukewarm water mixed with yeast and 1 Tbs. of sugar (see above), and about 1/2 cup of the white flour. Let proof (bubble up) for 1 hour, no less. Desem seems to need a bit of time to get used to the yeast (and note there's only 1 packet of yeast, since desem has its own leavening power.)

Add 2 cups of the milk, the rest of the flour, salt, beaten eggs and melted butter to the dough, and mix. Add more white flour if necessary to bring to the consistency of mayonnaise. Cover and let proof (bubble up) for about 30 minutes. It will get quite bubbly so be sure your bowl if big enough.

Scald (bring to boil) the rest of the milk. Pour it over the batter and mix gently to make a thinnish but not too thin batter.

Heat up a griddle or a couple of nonstick frying pans over medium heat. Put about 2 Tbs. worth of batter in the pan or on the griddle, let the batter spread to about 4 inches / 10 cm diameter. Cook until the batter on top of drying out, then flip to briefly cook the other side. Repeat often until you end up with about 50 blini.

I think you could substitute whole wheat flour for the white flour in the desem blini recipe, though I haven't tried this myself. The desem blini has a slight sourness which is very good with fishy toppings like caviar.

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