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Buckwheat Blini with Smoked Salmon and Caviar

Yeasted miniature buckwheat pancakes, known as blini, are perfect vehicles for eating smoked salmon and caviar. They originated in Russia, where they were traditionally served with sour cream and salt herring.

Ingredients:

For the blini:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 3 Tbs. plus 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the topping:

  • 6 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 oz. caviar
  • Small fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Directions:

To make the blini, sift together the buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt into a bowl. In a small bowl, combine the yeast, the 3 Tbs. lukewarm water, 1 Tbs. of the sugar and 1/4 cup of the flour mixture; stir to mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place (75°F) until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the milk, the 3/4 cup water, the eggs, butter and the remaining 1 Tbs. sugar. Stir in the yeast mixture and enough of the remaining flour mixture to make a batter the consistency of sour cream. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until frothy and doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

In a small saucepan, warm the remaining 3/4 cup milk until bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Pour the milk into the batter and mix well.

Place a large fry pan over medium heat and add about 1 tsp. vegetable oil. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom with the oil. When the oil is hot, using a tablespoon, drop the batter onto the pan; do not crowd the pan. Using the back of the spoon, spread each spoonful of batter to make a round 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and then break, about 10 seconds. Turn and cook on the other side until light golden, 10 to 15 seconds more. Transfer to a warmed plate and keep warm while you cook the remaining batter. You should have a total of 32 to 36 blini.

To serve, place the blini on a warmed serving plate. Top each blini with a piece of the smoked salmon, a small spoonful of sour cream, a tiny mound of caviar and a tiny sprig of dill.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).