Monday, January 24, 2011

Baking Class: Buttermilk Fritters

I have fallen in love with a Russian cookbook called Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook. I was lucky enough to have stumbled across it at the Printer's Row Book Fair the year before last. It's a big book, both in size and content. The authors traveled across what was the entire Soviet Union collecting recipes from everywhere, not just Russia, so there are Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian influences represented as well.

By the time I had gone through the first chapter after getting it home, I had already earmarked several recipes that I wanted to try. But something came up, as it often does, and I left it half finished. I recently decided that it was time to finish looking through it. By the time I was done, I had marked 36 recipes that I knew I wanted to make.

I find it somewhat amusing that of all the choices I had, from borscht to dumplings to stews, I decided to make buttermilk fritters. What influenced my decision was the buttermilk in my refrigerator that was already ticking away well past the "sell by" date. That, plus the fact that, according to the author, children all over Russia are as familiar with the aroma of them cooking as American children are to the smell of popcorn popping at a movie theater. Had to give that a try!

These are made in two steps, which makes them perfect for a weekend brunch. First you make the batter, using two egg yolks. Then you let the batter sit for an hour (which gives the egg whites time to come to room temperature and you time to do other things), after which you beat the egg whites and fold them into the batter.

These were quite good. Beating the egg whites and adding them separately at the end makes for a light fluffy pancake, but the buttermilk gives it that hearty flavor that makes buttermilk pancakes so good.

These are not technically fritters, which are usually coated with batter and fried. They are actually pancakes, but a lighter version of the buttermilk pancakes with which I am familiar. They are quite good with powdered sugar and a fruit compote, like the blueberry compote I made here, and which is actually more blueberry looking and appealing in real life than it is in the picture above.

This recipe makes about 20 fritters, which is enough for four people. It's a lovely way to start a weekend day.
2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional oil for frying
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda and whisk until well blended.

In a larger bowl, combine the egg yolks, buttermilk and oil and whisk until it is well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the wet in three batches, whisking well after each addition to make sure it is well blended.

Let the batter stand for one hour. Leave the egg whites out so they come to room temperature.

In a stainless steel or glass bowl using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the batter.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Drop the batter approximately one-and-a-half tablespoons at a time into the skillet. Let them cook for 2 to 3 minutes, and then turn and cook on the other side for an additional 2 minutes, or more if necessary. Repeat until the batter is gone.

Keep the fritters warm in an oven that has been preheated to 225 deg. F.

Good with powdered sugar and jam, honey, or sour cream.

from Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook, by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman (Workman Publishing, 1990)

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