Authentic Russian blini are the diameter of a plate and yeasty, with lots of tiny air bubbles from fermentation. Anya von Bremzen’s batter gets its lightly sourdough tang from a slow overnight rise in the refrigerator. To grease the skillet, Russians traditionally use a potato half-skewered on a fork and dipped into a bowl of melted butter and oil. They then eat blini by smearing it with a little sour cream, topping it with smoked fish, herring or caviar, and rolling it up.
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons (1/8 envelope) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups half-and-half, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for brushing
1 large egg, separated
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Canola oil, for brushing
How to Make It
In a small bowl, whisk the water with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the yeast mixture with ¼ cup of the flour until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the batter has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Add the remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour to the batter along with the half-and-half, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, egg yolk, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter overnight, stirring once or twice.
Bring the batter to room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Fold the beaten white into the batter just until no streaks remain. Let the batter stand for 10 minutes. If the batter is too thick, whisk in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a thin pancake-like batter.
Meanwhile, line a plate with wax paper. Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat and lightly brush with oil. For each blini, add1/4 cup of batter to the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom. Cook over moderate heat until small bubbles form on the surface and the underside is golden, about 2 minutes. Flip the blini and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer the blini to the prepared plate and brush with melted butter. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with oil as needed. You should have 12 to 14 blini. Serve at room temperature.
The blini can be stored in an airtight container overnight at room temperature.