My son did a heritage project at school. He was born in Russia and the research proved to be very educational. Today was the feast where the students brought food from the country they reported on. I have been wanting to make blini pancakes for some time now and decided to make them for this event. (At the same time I made the blini pancakes, I taught my friend C how to make scones. Her son reported on England.)
This a neat yeast batter that is made in steps over a period of hours, though time consuming, the finished result is delicious!
I have been to Russia 4 times and have had blinis on every trip. On the last trip I began to really wonder how they were made because they have tiny air pockets and are not a "quick batter" which is leavened by adding baking soda, baking powder or air. They were pliable like a crepe but just to be sure it wasn't the same thing, twice at dinner, I ordered crepes for dessert and I was served crepes, not blini. I believe Gourmet's recipe is as close as you may get and it is indeed made with yeast. If you make other thinned out batters then you are actually making crepes and if they look like the pancakes you get in the US and the batter is made the same way, you are simply making the pancakes you are familiar with. Here is the blini recipe straight from The Gourmet Cookbook.
In a large bowl, stir together 1 package of Dry Active Yeast (2 1/2 tsp), 1/4 Cup Warm Water (105-115 degrees) and 1 tsp Sugar. Let it become bubbly for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pot, warm 1/2 Cup Milk and 1 Tbl UnSalted Butter until warm (105-115 degrees). Add 1/2 Cup Buckwheat Flour, 1 Tbl Sugar and warmed milk to the yeast mixture and combine vigorously with a wooden spoon.
Cover with plastic wrap and either let rise in a warm place for 2 hours or for a more pungent blini, let rise overnight in the refrigerator.
Again, warm 1/2 Cup Milk to 105-115 degrees. Separate an egg reserving the white in a bowl. This will be beaten later. Add to the batter the Milk, 1/2 Cup regular Flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 Egg Yolk. Using a wire whip, combine for 1 minute. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. With 10 minutes to go, using a hand mixer, beat 6 Tbl Heavy Cream until soft peaks. Completely wash the beaters. Beat the Egg White until stiff peaks begin to hold. Fold the beaten cream into the batter. Fold the white into the batter. Heat a griddle and using butter cook 3" blini pancakes. You can keep these warm on a platter until ready to serve. Serve with caviar, sour cream, smoked salmon or just simply with berries and sour cream or whipped cream.
pree-YAHT-nah-vah ah-pee-TEE-ta!! (bon appetit)