Wednesday, July 29, 2009

International Goodies

to celebrate my membership in the george washington international law review, i decided to make an international treat. i was thinking about some sort of ethnic cookie, but i really wanted to do something russian, and they're not big on cookies. then, i remembered something my host mom made for me all the time when i studied abroad: oladi!

"what the heck is oladi?" i hear you asking. well, it's in the pancake family. it's like a small, thick, lightly leavened blini, and a blini is like a crepe. oladi, like much russian cuisine, are an inexact science... more of an art, i suppose. you mess around with it, get the hang of it, and after a few failures, it just clicks and you get it. in fact, there's a russian saying, "the first blini is always a lump," (по-русски: "первый блин всегда комом") meaning practice makes perfect, or if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

so, away we go. ingredients (based on this recipe):
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups (1 pint, or .5 liter) unflavored unsweetened kefir, available at a whole foods or wegman's type store; you can also use buttermilk or plain yogurt if you don't have kefir. you could even dilute some sour cream with milk... any sort of thick/fermented milk product will do.
  • 4 tbsp sugar (or more if you want sweeter, more desserty oladi)
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 tbsp flour, to start
  • 1 tsp baking soda, plus some vinegar
in a medium to large bowl, whisk together the kefir, egg, sugar and salt, just until blended. don't use a mixer! a fork works well.

next, whisk in the flour. you want it to be the consistency of thin sour cream. if it's too thin, add more flour by the tablespoon, whisking after each addition. i think i ended up having like 15 tablespoons or something in my batter. but start with 10: you can always add an ingredient, but you can't take it out.

now, at this point the original recipe said put a teaspoon of soda into a tablespoon, fill the tablespoon with vinegar, and mix into the batter. but i think if you just pour the soda into the batter, and before you mix it in, pour on 2 teaspoons of vinegar, and then mix it in. you're just trying to get some leavening in there. other recipes call for yeast, but this is easier. especially since i usually don't keep yeast around.

here's what my final batter looked like:

to cook these bad boys up, heat 5-6 tablespoons in a heavy skillet (i used our cast iron one, i think), over medium heat. the amount of oil is approximate; you just need enough to cover the bottom of the skillet, because you'll be frying these.

once the oil is hot, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to ladle the batter into the pan. you want them to be about 2-3 inches in diameter, and you can do a few at a time, like so:

(sorry for the bad lighting- i was concentrating on not burning them or getting splattered with hot oil. no time to check the flash.)

fry them for about 2 minutes, then flip and fry on the other side for two minutes. make sure you have enough oil in the pan after each batch. these guys soak up a lot of it, so you'll most likely need to add more to make sure the bottom of the pan is covered.

i guarantee you'll burn your first one, so just get it out of the way so you can go on to rock the oladi. see, here's what they're supposed to look like (from

and here's my first batch:

pretty bad, i know. (actually, the burnt-ness doesn't mar the taste too terribly bad. they're still edible, just not as good as they should be.)
but, here's how some the rest turned out (most had been gobbled up by this point):

and here's a close up of the one with jam on it:

pretty darn good. serve them with sour cream and jam (cherry preferably, but raspberry or strawberry is good too). we were out of sour cream, so we just put jam on them, like the one on top. you could also serve them with something savory if you wished, and they'd make a good side dish to eggs and bacon. as you can see, they're generally a breakfast thing, but are fabulous as a dessert too.

cheers, to international law review and international treats!

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