When I was a kid there was no holiday I liked more than Maslenitsa, the Pancake Festival. It’s the oldest surviving Russian holiday dating back to 2nd century AD. It started as a Pagan celebration of Spring and Sun and was later adapted into Christianity because folks just absolutely refused to give up the merry-making. It’s the brightest and merriest holiday I know. Ice hills, street dancing (хороводы), sleigh rides, burning of Lady Maslenitsa, fist fighting, snow town battle, and of course, unlimited pancakes because pancakes are the symbol of Maslenitsa. They are golden, round and hot just like the Sun.
How to Make Russian Pancakes
Two recipes below are the traditional old Russian versions and they each have their advantages and disadvantages. The first one incorporates oil in the recipe, so you wouldn’t worry about your pancakes sticking to the pan (but you still need to oil the pan every few pancakes). The second recipe has fewer calories, but it’s more labor intensive as you have to keep oiling the pan before each pancake. Recipe #2 makes for better looking pancakes, recipe #1 makes pancakes that have more holes (and it’s a good thing, it makes it lighter and tastier). Both recipes are sugar free. You can make a meal out of it and eat your pancakes with salmon and cucumber, or call it a dessert and eat it with jam and berries.
Russian Pancakes #1
(liquids are added to dry ingredients)
1 egg (room temperature is preferable)
1 1/4 milk + 3 Tablespoons (warm)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
oil for pan
- Make a mound of flour in a bowl, then make a hole in the middle. Crack egg and let it fall into this hole.
- With a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate the flour from the sides into the egg.
- Start adding warm milk (1 1/4 cup + 3 Tablespoons) slowly, incorporating the flour from the sides and beating with the wooden spoon to make a smooth batter.
- Stop when the batter is lump free, smooth and light cream consistency. It’s beneficial to let your batter stand a little, or even overnight is ok. If the batter thickens from long standing, add some more milk (one tablespoon at a time). This is the consistency you are looking for
- Heat the pancake pan. The pan must be hot. Set it on medium. You want your pancakes to slowly bake, not to fry. I use my grandma’s secret method of pouring some salt into the pan and letting it heat. Once the salt starts turning brown, I dump it out. The pan is ready. Or if you don’t want to deal with salt, then you can sprinkle some water on the pan and if water sizzles than the pan is hot enough to start.
- Pour some oil in the pan and wipe excess with paper towel or a couple of napkins balled together.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Flip it when the edges start to brown or when bubbles come to the surface.
The trick to flipping the pancake is in the wrist movement, but if you are not there yet just use a dull knife or a narrow spatula to turn it over.
- Re-oil with oiled paper towel before every pancake.
- Keep the pancakes under a kitchen towel or they will get dry.
Russian Pancakes #2
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil + more oil for pan
- It’s better to use room temperature egg and milk for making pancakes because it makes it easier to avoid lumps in the batter. But if you woke up early in the morning and want to start on pancakes right away pour milk in a cup and microwave it for 1 minute.
- Crack open the egg, add salt and beat it with a fork.
- Add warm milk and olive oil and blend well.
- Add flour and mix it with a wooden spoon. I like to move my hand up and down, using the back of the spoon to squash away any remaining lumps. Batter will be smooth and a bit thicker than milk.
- Leave the batter to stand a little, while you are heating the pancake pan on medium. Don’t start until pan is hot or you will end up throwing away your first pancake.
- Oil the pan. What I do is dump a fair amount of oil into the pan, then wipe it with a paper towel. Hold on to this paper towel, you will use it between the pancakes to oil your pan. Make sure you don’t wipe everything away, the pan should be nice and shiny, but there shouldn’t be any pools of oil. You don’t want to fry the pancake. And whatever you do, don’t use the nonstick pans. Your pancakes would be pale and rubbery.
- Use less batter than you imagine you need. My perfect measurement cup is my Russian wooden spoon. It holds a bit less than a quarter cup.
- Flip the pancake when edges turn golden brown or when bubbles come to the surface. With this recipe I don’t get many bubbles, just smooth golden surface.