I wanted to start the new year off with one of my favorite childhood recipes – nalesniki. Nalesniki originate in Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine, Poland) where they are as popular now as hundreds of years ago. But here across the ocean, we know them by the few different names: blintzes in Yiddish and crepes in French.
One of my most treasured childhood memory is of summer Sunday mornings when my grandma would make nalesniki. Watching her make them always seemed so magical because what was once a liquid, seemed to defy gravity clinging to the pan as she swirled it around, changing color from unappealingly pale to golden caramel and turning into something delicious.
I remember me and my brothers sitting at the table at our grand parent’s dacha’s (cottage in Russian) small summer kitchen, listening to our granny’s sweet talk, inhaling aroma of vanilla and fresh baked goods watching the tower of hot nalesniki getting higher and higher on the big serving plate as we chattered and argue of who gets the very last hot off the pan nalesnik (plural for nalesniki) and who would scrape and lick the bowl from sweet tvorog (cottage or quark cheese).
And after the last nalesnik was taken off the hot pan and evenly divided between the three of us our grandma’s hands would start flying creating a magical pirouettes stuffing and wrapping nalesniki with the sweet tvorog, greasing them with generous amounts of butter and piling them in rows and rows of creamy buttery layers in the baking pan where they would bake for half an hour to become even more delicate and so so so so delicious!! Imagine eating a soft and creamy cheesecake, and then imagine that flavor folded inside a thin and delicate crepe. Imagined?- that’s how nalesniki taste.
As the years had passed by my passion for anything that resembles me of nalesniki only got stronger. I probably know something close to 100 different crepes recipes. I make them quite often (maybe even too often), at least once a week, I call it my Sunday morning ritual and I make a huge tower of crepes, piling it high on top of one another.
My children adore everything about cerpes too, no wonder right since I’m making them that often. So if for some reason I don’t think about making crepes for more than a week, it’s a sure thing that one of them would remind me: “Mama? When are you making pancakes again? I want ones with cheese and varenie (jam)?” Max and Eva are so passionate about crepes that at the age of 5 and 2.5 can make them by themselves well obviously with some help from me but it’s still quite impressive. Just as I say to my kids: ”Don’t be crushed if you can’t get your crepes to look picture perfect. It’s easy to learn but it takes a little practice to master”. Hey, think of the two-year-old one making them! But even if you get a few ugly looking ones, remember, it looks way worse in your belly but taste just as delicious as the perfect looking ones.
Go make nalesniki you can use any crepe or pancake recipe you like. My favorite is obviously my granny’s recipe which I shared with you in the past. But just in case you ‘ve missed it I’ll share it here again. It’s the full proof super thin crepe recipe.
As per my advice on how to make the perfect crepes don’t be afraid of the batter being too thin on the pan, make sure that the crepe is really well cooked on one side before you flip it (the whole thing should slide around when you move the pan) and don’t cook it too long after flipping it, just enough to brown since it’s already cooked through. And remember, no matter what pan you use, the first crepe will probably break. Just pop it in your mouth immediately and forget about it! So with a little flick of the wrist, you will have a delicious dish that the whole family will definitely love!
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of butter, melted (can be substituted with vegetable oil)
1 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2 tbsp of sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of salt
1 kg of tvorog (small curd cottage/farmer’s cheese or mascarpone or 50/50 mix of ricotta and cream cheese)
2 eggs* (can be substituted with 1/4 cup of heavy cream)
3 tbsp of sugar or to taste
1 tsp of vanilla extract
Fresh or frozen fruits or berries or jam of choice for serving
50 ml of butter or oil to grease frying pan.
Plus another 75 ml of melted butter to grease a baking pan and nalesniki before baking (don’t substitute with oil)
*The egg yolks in the filling will remain raw, so use pasteurized eggs, if that worries you.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, butter and milk using a handheld mixer (I use Vitamix, 30 seconds and the silkiest crepe batter is done!).
- Gradually add sugar and flour whisking continuously on medium speed until no lumps remain.
- Let the batter rest for 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator. On the other hand, if you’re in the hurry you can start baking your nalesniki right away but since you still have to prepare the stuffing its a good idea to let it rest.
- The filling is easy. Mix tvorog or its substitutes, eggs, sugar and vanilla with the help of a blender and you’re ready to roll.
- Now preheat an 8-inch non-stick crepe pan or frying pan over medium heat. It must be very hot!
- Meanwhile, pour some vegetable oil or melted butter in a small bowl to brush the pan using a silicone brush before baking each crepe.
- Take the hot greased pan into the left hand (if you are right-handed) and using soup ladle pour the crepe batter (about 1/4 cup) into the pan.
- Slowly rotate the pan to make sure that the batter spreads evenly onto the bottom of the pan.
- Cook the crepe for 1-1.5 minutes on the first side, until the bottom of the crepe is lightly browned and the top looks set.
- Loosen the crepe by going around the edges of the pan using a rubber spatula, then flip it on the other side using the spatula.
- Fry the second side for only about half a minute.
- Take the crepe off the pan onto a plate and continue until you run out of the batter.
- Stack the crepes together on a plate and keep them warm by covering them with aluminum foil while you make the rest.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Grease the deep baking pan or dutch oven with butter.
- Now lets turn our crepes into nalesniki! Place a generous amount of filling in the center of each crepe and spread it gently with a spatula or a spoon.
- And fold the crepe as you would an egg roll: sides folded in first, then roll from top.
- Place seam side down into a greased baking pan.
- Once one layer is done snd the bottom of the pan is covered sith nalesniki grease them with generous amount of butter.
- Continue until you have no more crepes and/or stuffing or both.
- Now bake for 20 minutes covered with foil and then 10 minutes without the foil.
- Let nalesniki cool slightly before serving.
- Serve with fresh fruits, jam or sour cream.