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Homemade Blintzes Decoded


Everything you need to know to make blintzes fit for a gourmet—from original recipes for seasonal fillings and sauces to crepes to assembly and cooking techniques

By Jayne Cohen
June 2011

Table of Contents

Recipes

Classic Cheese Blintzes with Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
Cheese and Sabzi Blintzes with Chive Sour Cream
Potato and Caramelized Onion Blintzes Topped with Tzatziki
Spinach-Cheese Blintzes with Yogurt-Dill Sauce
Salmon Blintzes with Minted Pea Puree
Blueberry Blintzes Topped with Honey-Ricotta Whip

Blintz Basics

Making the Blintz Leaves (The Basic Crepe)
Filling the Blintzes
Cooking the Filled Blintzes

Blintz Quick Fixes

Strolling through my local greenmarket deep into spring, I surveyed the tender young things newly arrived: tall, blushed stalks of field rhubarb, peas in the pod, a profusion of greens and herbs, and strawberries--early, but red-ripe to the core. These will make wonderful blintzes for Shavuot, I thought, filling up my bags.

The smell of frying blintzes still brings me back to summers at the Concord, the luxurious Borscht Belt hotel where we lunched on hot cherry and blueberry blintzes slathered in cool sour cream while my father played gin near the pool. Or the single, rich, eggy onion roll I’d allow myself so I wouldn’t ruin my appetite for the huge, pillowy blintzes to come (cheese? oniony potato? one of each?) at Ratner’s, the Garden Cafeteria, or other hallowed dairy restaurants—now gone—on New York’s Lower East Side. And there were the dairy dinners at home, where my parents considered everything “light”—from the blintzes to the mamaliga furrowed with streams of melted butter to the sweet cheese noodle puddings—because they contained no meat.

Like Heinrich Heine’s nostalgia for Sabbath stew, those memories nourish my Jewish soul. But truthfully, I taste my food with a different tongue these days. Living close by a huge market for local farmers, the Union Square Greenmarket, for many, many years, I stop by whenever possible to shop for what looks best and freshest. When it comes to blintzes, that means fillings and sauces that change with the seasons: apple-cranberry blintzes with maple-ricotta topping in the fall and cheese blintzes with tangy strawberry-rhubarb sauce or a spanakopita-like filling of fresh spinach and feta topped with herby yogurt for Shavuot.

Long before the Greenmarket and the Jewish-American dairy restaurant, there was the shtetl, where Jews learned about blintzes from their Russian and Ukrainian neighbors. Most food scholars trace blintzes to blini, small, leavened pancakes (usually yeast-raised) that have been enjoyed by Eastern European Slavs since pre-Christian times. Round as the sun, blini were eaten to celebrate its return at the end of winter. Later, like pancakes and crepes in other European countries, blini became the festive fare served before the Lenten diet began.

Gil Marks, in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, suggests the direct ancestor may not have been the blini, but rather, a thin, unleavened wheat crepe introduced by the Turks into the Balkans, eventually finding its way to Ukraine, and to the Jews there.

Whatever the exact origin, Jews enthusiastically adapted the idea, filling their blintzes with cheese, fruit, forest mushrooms, and later, potato, rolling them into neat envelopes, and frying them in butter for Shavuot and other holidays when dairy dishes rule. They were usually served with sour cream, applesauce, and in the case of sweet cheese blintzes, sometimes jam or preserves. For non-dairy meals, blintzes might be stuffed with meat and fried in schmaltz or oil, perhaps accompanied by an onion compote.

We are talking celebration food mostly, because homemade, from-scratch blintzes are not for quick weeknight meals. While preparing the batter in a blender these days is pretty quick, making the blintz leaves (bletlach¬, in Yiddish) means frying them (though on one side only) one at a time. Then there is the filling to prepare and maybe a special topping. And after the blintzes are filled, they—unlike crepes—must be cooked again.

It can be a tedious project, especially if you have a large family or a lot of guests. But it is not at all difficult, particularly if you find a good rhythm, working carefully and patiently pouring in the batter and frying the blintz leaves. A good nonstick skillet is a big help too. (For very detailed, step-by-step instructions, including troubleshooting information, see Blintz Basics.

I admit I was intimidated for years. When I was working on my first book, a seasonal children’s cookbook, I turned to my mother for a blintz recipe. Mom was a terrifically accomplished cook, skillfully turning out the most inventive and delicious Italian dishes. But she considered herself—and extrapolating genetically, my sister and me—to be pastry-challenged. Somehow, that category included blintzes made from scratch. So I dutifully followed her convoluted recipe, preparing the “blintz leaves” by trimming the crusts from thin-sliced sandwich bread, flattening the bread with a rolling pin, then dipping the filled “blintz” into an eggy batter before frying it.

It wasn’t until I began working on my first Jewish cookbook, The Gefilte Variations, and wanted to experiment with fillings, that I realized that making blintz leaves was no more difficult than making crepes—easier, actually, since they’re fried on only one side.

Arthur Schwartz recounts his blintz “aha!” moment in his wonderful book, Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited. His grandmother Elsie “made a two-day ritual out of preparing blintzes.” She filled her thin crepes with oniony potatoes or pot cheese blended with sour cream and fried them in butter. Elsie would undertake this grand cooking project only once a year—for Shavuot—and prepared so many blintzes at once that lots had to be stashed in the freezer and many others given away to family and neighbors.

But it was not because the blintzes were hard to make—it was her perfectly manicured, very long nails that were to blame. As Arthur puts it, “Her nails were so long that they could make holes in the translucently thin pancakes, and she was only willing to take her manicure down once a year.”

The blintz fillings and toppings we feature here are not only seasonal; they’re also especially fitting for Shavuot. Strawberries, rhubarb, and blueberries recall the ancient agricultural roots of the holiday, when the “first fruits” were brought to the Temple. The holiday is most closely associated with dairy dishes, and sweet cheese blintzes are often arranged on Shavuot plates to suggest the festival’s religious significance as well: placed side by side, they look like the Tablets given to Moses on Mount Sinai--or like an unfurled scroll, the Torah.

The fragrant herbs and greens in the recipes call to mind the Israelites’ beautiful Shavuot processions through Jerusalem, as well as verdant Mt. Sinai and the aroma of Paradise the Torah is said to offer. Iranian and Italian Jews celebrate the holiday with roses, so we’ve added a few drops of rose water to the strawberry-rhubarb sauce. And the honey that sweetens the ricotta whip reminds us this was the time of year when young boys in Eastern Europe began their Hebrew lessons. At their first class, the students were given a slate of letters smeared with honey. After the teacher recited the alphabet, the children licked it off, forever linking learning with sweetness.

As the seasons change, and pumpkins, pomegranates, apples, and pears fill farmers’ market baskets, we’ll bring you new fillings and sauces for your blintzes.

The Recipes

Classic Cheese Blintzes with Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
(By Jayne Cohen)

If you want to serve these creamy cheese blintzes as Ten Commandments, arrange them atop a pool of the sauce, side by side in imitation of the Tablets, and sprinkle five tiny parallel lines of cinnamon over each.

For the Cheese Filling:
About 1 pound farmer cheese (two 7.5 ounce-packages are fine)
1/3 cup cottage cheese, preferably dry-curd (pot cheese); if unavailable, use large-curd cottage cheese
2 ½ ounces (about 5 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 3 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks

For the Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce:
2 cups rhubarb stalks (leaves discarded--they can be toxic--and ends trimmed), sliced crosswise ½-inch thick
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated light brown or white sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups fresh ripe strawberries, rinsed first, then hulled, and cut into quarters
Few drops rose water (optional)

1 recipe Blintz leaves (see Blintz Basics)

Unsalted butter, mild oil, or a combination, or ghee, for frying or baking

Optional Accompaniments: sour cream or yogurt; cinnamon for “writing” the Ten Commandments; fresh mint leaves for garnish

You will have to eliminate some of the excess liquid from the cheese to avoid soggy blintzes or the need for fillers. I find a lot of liquid accumulates in the farmer cheese packaging, so after I unwrap it; I drain off the water and pat the cheese dry with paper towels. Put the drained farmer cheese in a large bowl.

If dry-curd cottage cheese is unavailable (it is increasingly hard to find, except at some deli counters in areas with large Jewish populations), also drain the large-curd cottage cheese. This is easiest done by draining for 15 to 20 minutes through a strainer lined with a coffee filter or a layer of paper towels.

Meanwhile, use a fork to mash the farmer cheese very well. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and blend thoroughly. Add the drained cottage cheese and the sugar and mash until smooth. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Beat in the egg yolks, cover, and chill thoroughly. The filling will be firmer and easier to work with when cold. Prepare the sauce. In a nonreactive bowl, toss the rhubarb with the sugar, and set aside to macerate for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Transfer the rhubarb and all the accumulated juices to a saucepan. Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Cover, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb breaks down. Uncover, raise heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until much of the liquid has evaporated and rhubarb is thick and jam-like, about 7 minutes or so. Stir in the strawberries, and simmer until they are softened (they’ll continue to cook off heat), about 5 minutes. Stir in a few drops of rose water, if you’d like (go easy here—you can add more later, if you want). Transfer the sauce to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to chill the sauce and meld the flavors. Taste before serving and adjust rose water with another drop or two, if desired.

Fill the blintz leaves, using 1 heaping tablespoon of filling per blintz (don’t overfill), and bake or fry them (see Blintz Basics for detailed instructions on filling and cooking blintzes). (I find these are best when filled and folded and then chilled again, wrapped, up to 1 or 2 days before the final baking or frying. The cold cheese filling is firmer and less likely to leak out when heated.)

Serve the blintzes with the strawberry-rhubarb sauce, accompanied, if you’d like, by sour cream or yogurt, and garnished with mint leaves. Steady hands may enjoy putting the Ten Commandments in cinnamon on the blintzes, using a tweezers or toothpick to do the writing. Yield: 16 to 18 blintzes

Cheese and Sabzi (Persian-Style Green Herbs) Blintzes with Chive Sour Cream
(By Jayne Cohen)

To make the filling, follow the recipe for Classic Cheese Blintzes, but omit the sugar and vanilla extract, and add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in a combination of herbs that includes fragrant, tangy, and oniony ones. For fragrant, choose from the following: 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, cilantro, or flat-leaf parsley, or 2 tablespoons chervil or tarragon, or use a mixture of these herbs. For tangy, very finely slice ¼ cup, firmly packed, of tart greens, such as arugula, sorrel, watercress or other cress. For oniony, choose either 3 tablespoons of very finely chopped scallions--use both white and firm green parts--or 2 tablespoons snipped chives.

To make the sauce, whisk 3 tablespoons snipped chives or finely minced scallions and, if you’d like, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest into 1 ½ cups sour cream. If you have chive blossoms, even better. Or add chives or scallions to labneh (extra-thick Middle Eastern yogurt, available in many markets).

Make the blintz leaves special by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of snipped fresh dill or other herbs to the batter.

Garnish with sprigs of the fresh herbs you used. Or decorate the platter with a few tangy nasturtium blossoms or other edible flowers.

Potato and Caramelized Onion Blintzes Topped with Tzatziki
(By Jayne Cohen)

A combination of alliums adds complexity to these potato blintzes: creamy mashed potatoes are mixed with sweetly caramelized onions given gentle bite with grated raw ones, and then rolled in pretty chive-flecked blintz leaves. Cool, garlicky tzatziki, a Greek yogurt sauce, crunchy with greenmarket-fresh cucumbers, provides delicious contrast.

For the Tzatziki:
1 cup cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and very finely chopped or grated
Coarse salt
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled (large or small, according to preference)
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1½ cups plain Greek-style yogurt (preferably whole-milk; even better, use Middle Eastern labneh, available in many markets) (see Cook’s Note)
About 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
About 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh dill
Freshly ground pepper

For the Filling:
3 tablespoons mild olive, canola, or avocado oil
4 cups chopped onion (1 pound), plus 2 tablespoons grated onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound russet (baking) potatoes or buttery potatoes such as Yukon gold, Yellow Finns, or Butterballs, scrubbed but not peeled
About 2½ tablespoons cream cheese

1 recipe Blintz leaves (see Blintz Basics), with 3 to 4 tablespoons snipped chives or dill added to the batter, if desired

Unsalted butter, mild oil, or a combination, or ghee for frying or baking

The tzatziki tastes best if the flavors can blend for several hours or overnight, so prepare it first. Toss the cucumber with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander. Let drain for at least 30 minutes. Rinse briefly with water, then squeeze out as much liquid from the cucumbers as possible. Pat dry with paper towels.

Mash the garlic into a paste with 2 pinches of salt. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic paste with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Beat in the yogurt until smooth and creamy. Stir in the cucumbers, and 2 tablespoons each of the fresh mint and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, and add more lemon juice or fresh herbs, if needed. Cover and refrigerate to let flavors unfold and mingle for at least 3 hours, or, for best flavor, overnight.

Make the filling. Heat the oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and pepper them lightly. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring so they are thoroughly coated with oil. Cover, turn the heat down to the gentlest simmer, and cook slowly until the onions are meltingly tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir from time to time to make sure the onions don’t burn. When they are very soft, remove the lid, turn the heat to high, and sauté until tinged a rich bronze in places. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to redistribute the syrupy juices. If necessary, turn the heat down a bit to prevent the onions from sticking and burning. Adjust the seasoning and set aside.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a large saucepan, add enough well-salted water to cover by 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Partially cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife tip or a thin skewer. Drain the potatoes, let them cool enough to handle, then peel.

Mash the potatoes until smooth and lump-free, using your favorite tool--a food mill, ricer, potato masher, or electric mixer (but not a blender or food processor.) Mix in the cream cheese, sautéed onion and its oil, grated raw onion, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Taste--if not creamy enough, add a little more cream cheese and blend in well. Cool to room temperature. The blintzes will be easier to fill if the potato mixture is chilled, so if possible, refrigerate until cold.

Fill the blintz leaves, using 1 heaping tablespoon of filling per blintz (don’t overfill), and bake or fry them (see Blintz Basics for detailed instructions on filling and cooking blintzes). Serve the blintzes hot, accompanied by the tzatziki. Yield: About 18 blintzes

Cook’s Note: Regular yogurt will be too watery here; Greek-style yogurt is much thicker and creamier. If you can only find regular yogurt, be sure to drain it for several hours in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, coffee filters, or paper towels.

Spinach-Cheese Blintzes with Yogurt-Dill Sauce
(By Jayne Cohen)

Reminiscent of the Greek pastry, spanakopita, this filling makes use of the fresh, local spinach appearing in markets now. You can also prepare it with other available greens, like Swiss chard.

For the Filling:
4 packed cups fresh spinach leaves, stemmed (see Cook’s Note)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
½ cup feta, crumbled
½ cup small-curd cottage cheese, drained
3 tablespoons grated Kefalotyri or Romano cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of nutmeg or dried oregano (optional)
¼ cup snipped fresh dill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper and, if needed, salt
1 large egg, beaten

For the Sauce:
1½ cups Greek-style plain yogurt (see Cook’s Note)
3 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh dill

1 recipe Blintz leaves (see Blintz Basics)

Unsalted butter, mild oil, or a combination, or ghee, for frying or baking

Prepare the filling. Wash the spinach well, dry it, and chop it coarsely.

Heat olive oil or butter in a large skillet until shimmery. Add onion and garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until translucent and very soft, 5-7 minutes. Add spinach a handful at a time, letting each wilt and cook down a bit before adding another batch. When all the spinach has been added and it is releasing its liquid, raise heat to moderately high. Cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated and spinach looks dry. Remove pan from the heat, and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine feta, cottage cheese, Kefalotiri or Romano cheese, lemon juice, and, if using, nutmeg or dried oregano. Pulse to mix well.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, put it in a colander and, using your hands or the back of a spoon, press out as much liquid as possible. It should be rather dry. Add the spinach, along with the dill, mint or parsley, and pepper to taste to the food processor. Pulse briefly to combine. Taste, and add salt if needed. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, stir in the egg, and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until cold, so mixture will be easier to handle.

Make the sauce. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in dill. Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to mingle.

Fill the blintz leaves, using 1 heaping tablespoon of filling per blintz (don’t overfill), and bake or fry them (see Blintz Basics for detailed instructions on filling and cooking blintzes). Serve the blintzes hot, accompanied by the Yogurt-Dill Sauce.

Cook’s Note: When fresh spinach or other greens are no longer available, you can substitute a 10-ounce package of frozen leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.

Regular yogurt will be too watery here; Greek-style yogurt is much thicker and creamier. If you can only find regular yogurt, be sure to drain it for several hours in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, coffee filters, or paper towels. Yield: 16 to 18 blintzes

Salmon Blintzes with Minted Pea Puree
(By Jayne Cohen)

This recipe makes a lovely Shavuot main course, complete with a vegetable accompaniment, fresh peas. To keep the fresh salmon super-moist for the blintz filling, it is very slowly roasted, emerging melt-in-the-mouth silky and perfectly cooked throughout. Keep this method in your recipe files for an effortless main dish throughout the year; slow-roasted salmon is excellent warm or at room temperature, paired with sauces from aioli to green olive, spicy fresh tomato, or the yogurt-dill sauce from the Spinach-Cheese Blintzes recipe.

For the Salmon Filling:
¾ pound fresh salmon fillet, skin on, any pin bones removed with a tweezers
Extra virgin olive oil
Smoked Spanish paprika
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup sliced onion
About 1 tablespoon panko or other breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat panko)
About 1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill leaves or chives, or a mixture

For the Pea Puree:
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt
2½ cups fresh peas (see Cook’s Note)
8 stems of fresh mint (remove leaves and set aside; reserve stems)
1-2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 recipe Blintz leaves (see Blintz Basics)

Unsalted butter, mild oil, or a combination, or ghee for frying or baking

Sour cream, plain or flavored with a little prepared white horseradish or grated lemon zest or the Yogurt-Dill Sauce (from the Spinach-Cheese Blintzes recipe) as an accompaniment

Prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Bring the salmon to room temperature. Choose a shallow roasting pan large enough to accommodate it in a single layer and smear it with some of the oil.

Coat the fish on both sides with the oil. Stir together the paprika, salt and pepper to taste and massage into the flesh. Place the fish skin side down in the pan and scatter the onion on top. Slow-roast the salmon. The exact cooking time will vary according to your taste and the thickness of the fish. Medium, my preference (remember, it will cook a little more when you fry the blintzes), will be cooked in about 25 minutes: just cooked through, showing the slightest bit of translucence at the thickest part, the skin easily peeled off. Even when completely cooked through, the salmon will look rare, since it will still be brightly colored throughout. The buttery flesh will not flake as you are used to, but instead will gently separate into layers when you poke it. Pull off and discard the salmon skin and brush away the onion. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Prepare the pea puree. Heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmery. Add onion and garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until translucent and very soft, 5-7 minutes. Add peas, 1 cup water, and mint stems. Simmer until peas are tender. Discard mint stems. Transfer peas and their cooking liquid to a food processor, along with reserved mint leaves, dill, and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. When ready to serve, return the puree to the pan, and warm over low heat. Stir in the butter. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep warm.

To fill the blintz leaves, use about 1 heaping tablespoon of salmon per blintz (don’t overfill), then sprinkle with a bit of the breadcrumbs and herbs. Roll them up, and bake or fry them (see Blintz Basics for detailed instructions on filling and cooking blintzes).

To serve, scoop a large dollop of the pea puree on each plate. Top with hot blintzes. Spoon the sour cream or Yogurt-Dill Sauce over the blintzes. Yield: 16 to 18 blintzes

Cook’s Note: When fresh peas are no longer available, you can substitute frozen ones.

Blueberry Blintzes Topped with Honey-Ricotta Whip
(By Jayne Cohen)

Barely cooked berries, underscored by a jam that echoes their flavor, give this filling a very fresh, true blueberry taste. The simple, easy ricotta whip complements it beautifully.

For the Filling:
About 5 tablespoons blueberry jam (exact amount will depend on sweetness of both jam and blueberries; I used a fruit-juice sweetened, sugar-free wild blueberry jam)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2½ cups fresh, ripe blueberries (about 15 ounces), picked over and rinsed

For the Honey-Ricotta Whip:
1½ cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 11 ounces; you can use part-skim, if desired)
1 tablespoon light, fragrant honey (such as acacia, orange blossom, or blueberry honey), or to taste
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 recipe Blintz leaves (see Blintz Basics)

Unsalted butter, mild oil, or a combination, or ghee for frying or baking

Make the blueberry filling. Warm the jam in a medium saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until it is bubbling. Stir in the cinnamon and the salt. Add the blueberries and stir well to coat with the jam. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Taste for sweetness. If necessary, add a little more jam to taste, and cook just until the additional jam is heated through and thoroughly incorporated. Transfer the filling to a bowl, then refrigerate, covered, until cold or up to 24 hours.

Meanwhile, make the honey-ricotta whip. Push the ricotta through a fine-mesh sieve, rubbing with the back of a spoon. Using an electric mixer or egg beater, beat in the honey, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth and light. Taste, and if desired, add a bit more honey. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to marry. Rewhip briefly just before serving.

Fill the blintz leaves, using 1 heaping tablespoon of filling per blintz (don’t overfill), and bake or fry them (see Blintz Basics for detailed instructions on filling and cooking blintzes).Serve the blintzes hot, topped with honey-ricotta whip. Yield: 16 to 18 blintzes

Blintz Basics

Follow the recipes above for fillings or devise your own combinations from the liveliest fruits and vegetables at the market. Cooking fruit just long enough to bring out its natural sugars (or macerating delicate raw fruits like raspberries in hot liquids, such as reduced fruit juice) and avoiding fillers like cornstarch will keep the flavors brisk and fresh-tasting. If you find that your fruit is too wet for a filling, stir in a few tablespoons of ground blanched almonds or cream cheese to soak up the juices.

Making the Blintz Leaves (The Basic Crepe)

1 to 1¼ cups milk, preferably whole
3 large eggs
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Additional unsalted butter or, less preferably, a mild, flavorless oil (such as avocado), or a combination of both, for frying

In a blender, mix 1 cup of the milk, the eggs, flour, salt, and butter until smooth. Transfer the batter to a bowl. (To prepare batter by hand, beat the eggs and butter together in a bowl; mix in 1/2 cup of the milk; gradually add the flour and salt, whisking until smooth, then add another 1/2 cup of milk; whisk until well blended.)

Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours at room temperature. If refrigerated, the batter should rest for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours (overnight is fine).

Stir the batter well (don’t rebeat it because you want to avoid foamy bubbles). It should have the consistency of light cream. If necessary, thin it with some of the remaining milk. You may have to add more milk if the batter thickens as it stands.

Heat a very lightly buttered 6- or 7-inch skillet or crepe pan over moderately high heat until sizzling. (A nonstick pan works particularly well, but I find you do have to butter the pan, at least for the first blintz, to avoid a slightly rubbery texture.) Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into the hot pan (a coffee measure is good for this), and immediately tilt the pan from side to side to distribute the batter evenly over the bottom. You may find it easier both to add the batter and swirl while holding the pan off the heat. Don’t allow the batter to extend up the sides of the pan when tilting or the blintz edges will become too thin and crackly.

Cook just until the top of the blintz is slightly dry and the edges start to curl. The bottom should be pale gold, not brown. Do not cook the other side. Loosen the blintz with a spatula and turn it out onto wax paper or a large platter, fried side up. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Pile the finished blintz leaves on a platter, separating each with sheets of wax paper or a clean kitchen cloth, and keep the exposed leaves covered to prevent them from drying out. Brush the pan with additional butter or oil only if necessary, and remember to stir the batter periodically. To avoid tears, let the freshly prepared blintz leaves cool to room temperature before filling. (And the wax paper is easier to remove when the blintz leaves are cool.)

Blintz leaves may be prepared ahead. Let them cool to room temperature, keeping them separated by wax paper, then wrap well with foil. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze them for up to 1 month, separated by the wax paper and well wrapped with heavy-duty foil or in a freezer-proof container. Bring them to room temperature before filling to prevent tearing them. Yield: 16 to 18 blintz leaves

Cook’s Notes: Add very little butter or oil to the pan when preparing the leaves. The batter already contains butter, so if you use a nonstick pan, you may not need to add any, after the first blintz. To grease the pan, dip a paper towel very lightly in melted butter or oil and quickly film the pan. If you put too much in or if the butter burns as you fry the leaves, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel so as not to transfer any burned butter taste.

Work quickly greasing the pan, adding the batter, and turning out the finished leaf. The pan should always be hot before you add the batter.

Allow the batter to rest, and stir, don’t beat, to eliminate most of the bubbles. Occasionally, bubbles will form on top of a cooking blintz leaf, and generally they are superficial and will cause no damage. But if a bubble looks like it will create a real hole through the finished leaf, I immediately smooth over it with some of the still wet batter from another part of the blintz or I dab on a smidgen of fresh batter to cover it, letting the leaf continue cooking until it seems dry. (Because the leaves are very thin, cooked only on one side, and most fillings are rather wet, even fairly small holes could mean fillings oozing out while blintzes are frying.)

Filling the Blintzes

Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling across the middle of the cooked side of each blintz. (Tempting as it may be to use up that extra bit of filling, do not overfill blintzes or they might explode.) Fold in the sides, then fold the bottom of the blintz over the filling, and roll up, jelly-roll fashion, pulling the top over tightly. You should have a neat package. Place filled blintzes seam side down, so they don’t open up. At this point, you can refrigerate the blintzes for a couple of days or freeze them for up to 1 month, if you want to, and fry them just before serving. Don’t bother to thaw frozen blintzes, but adjust cooking time accordingly.

Cook’s Note: Fillings should always be cooled at least to room temperature. I find it is often easier to work with chilled fillings: they are firmer and less runny.

Cooking the Filled Blintzes

To fry the blintzes, heat butter, a mild oil, or a combination, in a heavy skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Or, even better, use ghee, the Indian equivalent of clarified butter, available commercially in many specialty stores with kosher certification. (Since the best medium for frying blintzes is probably clarified butter--its higher smoke point means it won’t easily burn, yet it will still imbue the blintzes with that pure butter taste—and I almost never have the time to prepare it from scratch, I often turn to ghee.)

Add the blintzes seam side down, without crowding the pan. Cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Adjust the heat if necessary, and watch that the butter does not scorch.

Or you can bake them, for a slightly lighter taste. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Melt a generous quantity of ghee, butter, or butter mixed with a little oil on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow baking pan. Add the blintzes and turn to coat well on all sides. Arrange the blintzes (seam side down) on the sheet so their sides are not touching. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp and golden brown on both sides. I usually find it is not necessary to turn them; if they seem slow to brown on top, however, I flip them over for a few minutes. When preparing a large number of blintzes for company, it is usually easiest to bake them.

Blintz Quick Fixes

If you still can’t see your way to preparing homemade blintz leaves—or you just want a quick fix sometimes—there are some alternatives. Admittedly, they won’t taste like the delicate eggy crepes of true blintzes, but you will be able to use them with your own fillings and sauces.

  • Readymade Crepes of different brands—domestic and imported, some made by small local companies—appear in the market from time to time, including some that are kosher-certified. They are sturdier than blintzes and larger. Trim them or use them for large blintzes. They will be drier and may unwrap easily, so it is best to bake—not fry—them. Use plenty of butter, coating well on all sides, and be sure to bake seam-side down, without turning.
  • Egg Roll Wrappers, available kosher-certified at most large supermarkets in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Dab your finger with egg white to paint the wrapper edges around the filling, otherwise the blintz will not seal well. The filling will turn the wrappers soggy if they are not fried or baked fairly soon after being filled, so don’t let too much time elapse between these steps.
  • Small, thin wheat tortillas can be used with a sweet cheese or a fruit filling for something blintz-like, or actually, more of a crepe. Pour some pure fruit juice (unsweetened; I used apple-strawberry juice for cheese-filled ones) into a skillet large enough to hold a tortilla in one layer. Heat until just beginning to bubble. Using tongs, place a tortilla in the pan, pushing it down to submerge it. Use the tongs to turn the tortilla over, and cook just until it is puffy and heated through. Remove from the skillet. Put some filling in the center of the tortilla and roll up or simply fold over. (A regular blintz enclosure won’t stay.) A recipe like the blueberry blintz here can be served as is, since the filling doesn’t need further cooking (i.e., it contains no raw eggs) and this blintz will still be tasty served at room temperature instead of hot. But most blintzes will need further cooking, so bake the filled tortilla on a rimmed cookie sheet, making sure to coat all sides of the tortilla with melted butter.

Jayne Cohen writes and lectures extensively on Jewish cuisine and culture. Her most recent book, Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations (John Wiley), was named a 2009 finalist for a James Beard Foundation award in the international cookbook category.

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