My mother made the world’s best blintzes. She was a wonderful cook and baker (which was why I was an overweight teenager and didn’t drop the excess until I moved to Israel and had to survive on my own cooking).
I did bring my mother’s blintz recipe with me, and I followed it faithfully. But one year, for reasons I no longer remember, I used the recipe of my late next-door neighbor Hillela Narkiss, who was also a fabulous cook. It was from Hillela that I learned that blintzes don’t have to be sweet, and every year after, for the holiday meal on Shavuot—the Jewish holiday on which it is traditional to eat dairy foods—I made savory blintzes for the main course and sweet ones for dessert.
Hillela’s recipe for the crepes (6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 cups milk, and 6 tablespoons melted sweet butter) is a cholesterol bomb, but I salve my conscience by using skim milk. Also, the crepes are paper thin—each batch makes about 30 to 40—and the cheese used for the filling is relatively low fat. As you get to the bottom of the batter, it gets thicker and you dilute it with more skim milk. And after the initial greasing of the (nonstick) pans, there’s no need to grease them again. All that dilutes the cholesterol to a tolerable level.
For years and years I fried the crepes (on one side only) in two pans that were not exactly the same size, one of which was left over from my college days. Finally, about ten years ago, I splurged and bought two identical frying pans. That was the last year I made blintzes (kids moved away, they didn’t really like blintzes anyway), until today.
We’re invited to a huge family dinner at our son’s in-laws’ tomorrow night, and the blintzes will be one of my contributions. When I mentioned this to my daughter-in-law, she told me she’d heard you can buy decent frozen blintzes at Rami Levy, the supermarket where we shop. She wasn’t being nasty; she merely wanted to spare me the effort. I just turned up my nose.
I prepared the batter (double the recipe) last night and put it in the fridge, because it has to rest at least an hour before being used. Making one crepe takes just a couple of minutes; making two batches’ worth takes at least two hours, even with two pans going at the same time.
But…there are things you can do while the crepes are cooking. Clean the kitchen cabinets, for example. Listen to the Brahms marathon, which is part of the Israel Festival that just opened. Get a loaf going in the bread machine. Fold a load of laundry. Take some pictures of the crepe operation. Write this blog post. All of which I did this morning.
I’ll fill the crepes later (they need to be completely cool). That can be done without breaks, and it can also be done sitting down, which is wonderful. You lay the crepe with its cooked (brown) side up, so that the brown is not visible after the blintz is rolled. You can brush the blintzes with melted butter before putting them in the oven to bake, but this is not really necessary. And it reminds me of something that happened to my mother one year that she made a lot of blintzes.
She belonged to Pioneer Women, an organization founded in Palestine (under the British Mandate) in 1921, that worked toward equality for women and for the welfare of women and children; the American branches raised funds to support the organization’s activities. One of their fund-raising events of my mother’s group was a luncheon around the time of Shavuot.
My mother prepared a large platter stacked with unbaked blintzes and brought it to the event hall. The idea was to lay them out in pans, bake them, and serve them fresh out of the oven. But that was someone else’s job.
When the oven was opened half an hour later, to my mother’s horror, instead of the blintzes being a nice tan shade and slightly crisp, they were a pale, soggy mess. One of the other women, who obviously didn’t know a thing about baking, had left them piled up and had dumped a huge slab of butter on top.
It is the only culinary disaster involving my mother that I remember. And that is a blessing to savor on Shavuot.
Photo and text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the photo or text may be used without written permission of the author.