From Russia with Love…
The love of pancakes, or to be more accurate, BLINIS. Blinis date back to pre-Christian times, believed to be the symbol of the Sun.
They were traditionally prepared at the end of winter to honor the rebirth of the new sun (Butter Week, or Maslenitsa, also called “pancake week”). This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox church and is carried on to the present day. Blini were also served at wakes to commemorate the recently deceased.
Traditional Russian blinis are made with yeasted batter, which is left to rise and then diluted with cold or boiling water or milk. When diluted with boiling water, they are referred to as zavarniye bliny. Traditionally, blinis are baked in a Russian oven. The process of preparing blinis is still referred to as baking in Russian, even though they are nowadays pan-fried, like pancakes. French crêpes made from unyeasted batter (usually made of flour, milk, and eggs) are also common in Russia. All kinds of flour is used, from wheat and buckwheat to oatmeal and millet, although wheat is currently the most popular.
Blinis were popularized in the United States by Eastern European Jewish immigrants who used them in Jewish cuisine. While not part of any specific religious rite in Judaism, blinis stuffed with a cheese filling and then fried in oil are served on holidays such as Chanukah (as oil played a pivotal role in the miracle of the Chanukah story) and Shavuot (when dairy dishes are traditionally served within the Ashkenazi minhag). Blinis, also called “blinchiki” in Russian, are ordinarily stuffed before frying a second time. Fillings include chocolate, mushrooms, meat, rice, mashed potatoes, and cheese.