Russian blini are an excellent option if you're looking to class up your brunch routine. Typically served with sour cream and caviar in between shots of vodka, blini may look like silver dollar pancakes, but their flavor is much more complex. Buckwheat flour gives blini their deep, slightly hoppy flavor (a good glug of pilsner will only enhance this) and a bit of cardamom adds notes of herbs and citrus. Most blini recipes call for yeast, but this one doesn’t. While I don’t think anyone should be afraid of cooking with yeast, I do believe there are more important things in life than fussing over yeasted blini.
Instead of a straight sour cream, I prefer to accompany blini with whipped mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese. The tangy mixture smeared on the pancake and topped with smoked salmon (more affordable than caviar—but hey, if you have some on hand, don't let me stop you!) is like your favorite bagel sandwich, but infinitely more exciting.
Drop 1 cup plain yogurt, ½ cup ricotta, 1 teaspoon honey, 3 eggs, and 2 tablespoons melted butter into a blender. Mix on low until the mixture is just combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together ¾ cups buckwheat flour, ½ cup all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon cardamom, ½ teaspoon baking powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda. Pour the mixture into the blender along with the wet ingredients and blend on low until combined. Let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whip ½ cup mascarpone with ¼ cup sour cream.
Pour the batter into a bowl and whisk in ¼-½ cup pilsner beer or seltzer. The batter should be significantly looser than before.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brush with olive oil or butter. Drop small spoonfuls of the batter onto the skillet to make 1½-2-inch blini. Cook until bubbles rise to the surface, then flip and cook the pancakes for another minute or so.
Serve blini with a scoop of the whipped mascarpone, pieces of smoked salmon, and chopped chives.