Formerly, during the celebration of Easter, the Church forbade eating of a few things, not only meat but also other food including eggs, milk, cheese, and butter.
But people wanted to eat something different, and thus were born the ancestors of pancakes, people mixed wheat flour with water and then spread it thinly on hot stones to cook. Later some prohibitions were removed and the church authorized to include eggs, milk, sugar and butter in the diet of abstinence. Given this opportunity these products were added to the original mixture and pancakes began to be cooked in pans (pan and bread – hence bread cake or “pan cake”) with the addition of butter or fat resulted in cakes that everyone wowed and so did the custom of cooking them stacks and stacks of pancakes for the first Tuesday of fasting. Once ready the head of household or monastery rang a bell for everyone to come to eat…
Time passed and some customs became the thing of the past, but pancake lingered at the table of all households and restaurants as it can be filled with both sweet (dulce de leche, jam, cream, etc.) and salted stuffings (meat, cheese, ham, vegetables, fish, pates, etc).
The different types of pancakes
Pancakes, or more precisely crêpes as French people call them, are originated from Latin word “crispus”, which means curly, are a gastronomic element made primarily from wheat flour forming a disk-shaped mass. It is usually served as the basis of a dish or dessert applying all kinds of sweet or savory ingredients.
Common ingredients of the baked dough are flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt and sugar. There are generally two types: sweet crêpes with wheat flour and crêpes made with buckwheat flour. They are a result of cooking the batter in an extended disk-shaped pan and are cooked from both sides in a pan or something more specific like a crêpière (specific device made to cook it more easily).
Originated from Brittany, the western part of France, where they are called krampouz, today crêpes is a popular recipe in all European countries, especially on the Chandeleur, the day of carnival, as part of the French tradition. Buckwheat came to Europe from China and came to the Eastern Europe where it gave rise to a similar meal – blini. In Brittany crêpes are traditionally served with cider.
In central Europe they called palacinka (Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia), Palatschinken (Austria), palacsinta (Hungary) – all terms derived from the Romanian word “placinta” (Latin “placenta”). In some regions it is known as Pfannkuchen (Germany) and pannenkoeken (Holland) which comes from joining the words “pan” and “cake”.
In Spain it is often served with whipped cream, jam, sugar, chocolate or sausage (usually ham and cheese) for breakfast or as a snack in cafes and restaurants.
Blini are sort of pancakes from fine flour, milk, egg and yeast that are cooked in the oven or fried with or without any filling. It is very common in Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian or Polish), as well as in Jewish cuisine.
Blini are a type of pancakes or crepes made with a simple batter which extends generally over the surface of a pan. There are many variations in different cultures and countries, not just in the ingredients but in the way of it being served.
In the UK, Ireland, Australia, pancakes are traditionally served in what is called the Shrove Tuesday known as “Pancake Day”. (The Shrove Tuesday is better known in the United States, in France and other countries as Mardi Gras or better Fat Tuesday.) According to the tradition it is the last chance to eat something nutritious before the coming of the Lent.
A blintz, a blintze or blin (plural: blintzes, Russian: blini; Ukrainian: Mlyntsi) is a thin pancake (similar to a crepe).
The English word blintz comes from Yiddish (“blintse”), which in turn comes from blin. “Blin” comes from the Old Slavic mlin, which means “grind” (compare the Ukrainian word for blin “mlynets”).
Blini had a somewhat ritual significance for early Slavic peoples in pre-Christian times since they were a symbol of the sun, due to its round shape. They were traditionally prepared at the end of winter to honor the rebirth of the new sun (Pancake week, or Maslenitsa).
This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox Church and survived to today. Blini were once served at wakes, to commemorate the recently deceased.
The Russian Blini
The traditional Russian blini are made with yeasted batter, which is left to rise and then diluted with cold (zavarnye bliny), boiling water or milk just before baking them in the traditional Russian oven (to this day the process of blini cooking is referred to as baking in Russian, although currently they are pan-fried almost universally, like pancakes). Blintzes (blinchiki in Russian, considered to be a borrowed dish) it is made of unyeasted batter (usually made of flour, milk and eggs) and is almost identical to French crêpes. All kinds of flour can be used to cook blini: wheat and buckwheat to oatmeal and millet, although wheat is currently by far the most popular.
Blintz was popularized in the United States by Jewish immigrants as the blintz is a popular dish in Jewish cuisine. While not associated with any specific religious rite in Judaism, blintzes that are stuffed with a cheese filling and then fried in vegetable oil are served on holidays such as Chanukah and Shavuot (when dairy dishes are traditionally served).
Buckwheat blini are a part of traditional Russian cuisine, almost forgotten during the Soviet times, they are still widespread in Ukraine where they are known as hrechanyky and Lithuania in Dzukija region, which produces buckwheat, the only region in the country, traditionally called in Lithuanian “grikiu blynai”.
Photo by French Tart and Katii