I think I've mentioned before that I studied abroad in Russia and taught English for a year there after I graduated college. I probably also mentioned that I used to be like the Band Camp Girl in American Pie, but instead of always saying, "This one time at Band Camp...," I would say, "This one time, in Russia....." I embrace that mockery fully. I had an amazing time in Russia and I wish they had a better leader than Putin. Actually, while we're wishing, I wish WE had a better leader than Trump.... but that's not what this is about.
This is about one of my absolute favorite Russian dishes-- Syrniki. Syrniki roughly translates as "little ricotta cheese pancakes." My friend's host-mother in Petrozavodsk, Russia would make these for us and serve them with her homemade jams. I remember sitting with my friend in her little warm kitchen, gobbling these up one after another. Some of that had to do with how delicious they are and some has to do with the way Russians love to feed you. I remember saying, "I can't eat anymore. They're so good" and her host-mom saying, "Don't worry, I'm not counting." I responded, "I am counting!" and we all laughed. I think some of the happiest times are had in a Russian kitchen. Really, any kitchen. (Oh, man, I'm getting excited for the holidays!)
The "little ricotta cheese pancakes" translation isn't quite right. I suppose Syrniki could be made with ricotta cheese, but they're really meant to be made with tvorog, or Farmer's Cheese. Most large grocery stores do stock Farmer's Cheese, although you may have to search for it. Serve these warm with your favorite jam or just some fresh berries. Also, this recipe easily doubles if you're serving a crowd.
gluten-free russian syrniki, (makes approx. 8 pancakes)
- 7.5 oz farmer's cheese or tvorog
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 plus 1/8 cup gluten-free flour blend
- 1/4 cup white rice flour, for dusting
- 1.5 TBSPs granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp white vinegar
- 2 TBSPs vegetable oil for frying
Combine cheese, eggs, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix together with a fork. In a smaller bowl, stir together baking soda and vinegar. Enjoy the fizz and then add baking soda and vinegar mixture to the ingredients in the large bowl. Mix well with a fork until it is well combined. The "batter" should still have some cheese clumps... that's the nature of the farmer's cheese.
Add a 1/4 cup of white rice flour to a shallow bowl. Using an ice cream scoop or clean spoon, pick up about a golf ball-sized spoonful of batter. Drop batter ball into the bowl of flour and using clean, dry hands, roll the batter ball around to completely dust it with flour. Shake excess flour off pancake... it should flatten out a bit, but still stay rather thick. Set pancake down on a clean plate and continue to form pancakes until you've used up all the batter.
Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. There should be a good layer of oil in your pan. Once the oil and pan are well heated, add floured pancakes to the pan. Let them fry 3-4 minutes per side. They will puff up slightly as they cook. Serve warm with jam, fresh fruit, and sour cream.