salmon blini on a blue and white plate

Richard Bertinet’s Buckwheat Blinis with Smoked Salmon recipe

By BBC Maestro

If you’re looking to revamp your breakfast menu, forget about cold toast or shop-bought croissants. For something extra special try this exclusive smoked salmon blini recipe from award-winning baker, Richard Bertinet.

Topped with smoked salmon and served with a glass of fizz, it’s a light yet indulgent treat that’s the perfect start to the day.

If you’re giving it a go, here’s Richard’s easy-to-follow recipe to create these deliciously moreish morsels.

Buckwheat Blini and Smoked Salmon recipe

Ingredients

Makes 8-10 blinis to serve for breakfast or as a starter OR 24 as canapés

For the blinis

  • 75g buckwheat flour
  • 75g gluten-free flour
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • 80g crème fraîche, plus extra for topping (see below)
  • 150g whole milk
  • 10g fresh yeast, or 7g dried ‘quick’ or ‘fast action’ yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil, for cooking

To serve

  • 8 slices of smoked salmon (or vegetarian/vegan alternative)
  • Crème fraîche
  • Fresh dill, to garnish
  • Fish roe, to garnish (optional)

Method

  1. If making canape-sized blinis cut each slice of smoked salmon into three strips and keep on one side. In a large bowl mix together the flours and the salt.
  2. Have the crème fraîche in a bowl. Pour the milk into a pan and place it on the hob over a low heat.
  3. While the milk is warming, separate the eggs. Mix the yolks into the crème fraiche and keep the whites aside in another bowl for later.
  4. When the milk has come to just under the boil, take the pan from the heat and either crumble in the fresh yeast, or add the dried yeast and whisk in.
  5. Whisk the milk into the egg and crème fraîche mixture, then pour this into the flour and stir very well with your whisk until you have a thick batter. Cover the bowl with a baking cloth and leave in a warm place to rest for about 1 hour, until the batter has risen and looks bubbly and spongy.
  6. Whisk the egg whites until firm enough to hold their shape on the whisk.
  7. With a soft spatula or spoon, very gently fold the egg whites into the batter a little at a time – don’t over over-mix it or worry about little lumps of egg white as  you  want  to  keep  as  much  air  in  the  mixture  as  possible.  Cover  the  bowl again and rest for another 15 minutes.
  8. To cook, lightly oil your pans and set over a medium heat. When hot, ladle two large puddles of batter into a large frying pan or blini pans. If making canape-sized blinis ladle six small puddles of batter into a frying pan. When the batter starts to form bubbles on top and change colour around the edge, this shows you that the blinis will be light golden brown underneath and it is time to turn them over with a spatula – this will happen quite quickly: about 1 minute for large blinis and 30 seconds for small ones. Cook the blinis for a similar amount of time on the other side. Lift out onto a wire rack and repeat with the remaining batter.
  9. To serve, fold each strip of smoked salmon over on itself a few times and place on top of a blini. Add a large or small spoonful of crème fraîche, depending on the size of blini, and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill and – if you like – a little fish roe.

What is a blini?

Blinis are little Russian pancakes, usually around 2-4 inches in diameter, which are traditionally made from buckwheat flour although today they’re also commonly made with wheat, oatmeal or millet. The flour is whisked into a batter along with milk and eggs along with any extras your blini recipe calls for, before being cooked and topped with whatever takes your fancy.

Traditionally, blini were made in the oven, but nowadays, they’re made in a pan. One side is cooked first then, as with any other form of pancake, it’s flipped over and cooked to perfection on the other side, too.

Blini are much smaller than other types of pancakes, so they’re easy to pop in your mouth in one go – but they also need to be thick enough to handle a variety of different toppings.

They’re often served as appetisers at parties or loaded with toppings as a starter, but they also make a fantastic breakfast option if you’re looking for something a little bit different.

freshly baked blinis

History of blinis

Blinis have a long history in Russia and the Slavic world. In pre-Christian times, they were thought to be a symbol of the sun, thanks to their round shape. They were made as winter drew to an end, in honour of the new sun. This was known as Maslenitsa or Butter Week.

This evolved to be adopted by the Orthodox Church. As in much of the western world, pancakes are eaten on Shrove Tuesday, in Russia, blinis are eaten in the last week before the start of the Great Lent, also known as Shrovetide. It’s traditional to use up dairy and eggs at this time, making blinis the perfect food for clearing out the cupboards before the fast.

According to tradition, if a woman prepares blinis, then the spring will bring health, success and happiness.

Many Russians still eat blini during Shrovetide today, but they’re also served at Christmas, and as canapes at various parties and functions throughout the year.

Forms of blini are found in many different countries. In Ukraine, they’re known as mlyntsi and are popular as both a sweet and savoury dish. They’re often served with sour cream and caviar in their savoury guise, or with sweet cream and fruit as a dessert.

There’s also a similar Jewish dish called blintz, which are traditionally served on the Jewish holidays Shavuot and Hanukkah, often stuffed with cheese.

Blini variations

Blinis aren’t traditionally vegan, but there are ways to adapt the recipe to suit your dietary requirements.

To make blinis vegan, you can simply remove the egg and swap milk for the plant-based milk of your choosing. Add yeast to your batter mixture to help them rise, and then make them in the same way as in Richard Bertinet’s recipe for blinis.

Richard Bertinet’s buckwheat blinis are made using a mixture of buckwheat (which is naturally gluten free) and gluten free flour, so this version of blinis is safe to eat if you can’t eat gluten or are avoiding it in your diet.

You will, of course, have to ensure that your toppings suit your dietary requirements, too – but luckily there are myriad blini toppings to suit every set of tastebuds.

caviar topped salmon blinis

Blini toppings

The most traditional blini toppings are sour cream, melted butter and caviar, or fruits and berry compote if you’re eating them as a sweet dish.

However, you can serve blinis with whatever toppings you like. Smoked salmon and crème fraiche, as in Richard Bertinet’s recipe, is a winning combination for a leisurely breakfast in bed or a delicate canape. For a vegetarian version, swap out the smoked salmon for carrot lox, and for a vegan option, you can also use vegan cream cheese in place of the crème fraiche.

 We also like topping blinis with:

  • Guacamole and prawns
  • Roast beef and horseradish
  • Lentil ‘caviar’
  • Cream cheese, pastrami and a gherkin
  • Hummus and sundried tomatoes
  • Tzatziki and roasted vegetables
  • Taramasalata
  • Miso grilled aubergine
  • Brie and cranberry sauce
  • Smoked mackerel

The possibilities really are endless when it comes to what to put on blinis!

salmon blinis with sparkling rose

Can blinis be made in advance?

Save yourself from the morning rush or a pre-party panic by making your blinis in advance. You can freeze blinis for up to two months, and they defrost very quickly.

To make defrosting them even easier, arrange the blinis in a single layer on a piece of greaseproof paper. Then wrap it tightly in clingfilm or pop in a zip lock freezer bag and remove as many as you need for your feast.

So there you have it – all your questions about blinis, answered. What toppings will you serve yours with? Whether you choose the traditional smoked salmon or go for a sweet option, we’re sure they’ll go down a treat. 

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