Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus rising time
Servings: 12 to 14
Note: Whole-wheat flour raised with yeast lends a depth of flavor that is well worth the wait for the batter to rise. Blini can be made ahead and warmed in the oven just before serving.
1 3/4 cups milk, divided
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground
1 red bell pepper
3 eggs, separated
3-4 tablespoons melted butter, for frying
1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over high heat just until it comes to a good simmer (do not let it boil), then remove from heat and cool the milk to lukewarm.
2. While the milk is cooling, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, then stir to combine. Set it aside until it dissolves and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture and 1 cup of the warm milk. Slowly incorporate the flour into the liquid with a spoon or your hands, gradually mixing it in to form a smooth batter. Beat the batter for 1 minute to fully incorporate the ingredients. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise until the batter is full of bubbles and light in texture, 2 to 3 hours.
4. Roast the pepper over high heat on top of a stove burner, turning with tongs until the skin is completely charred. Alternatively, toast under a broiler on all sides to char. Place the pepper in a plastic bag, and loosely cover to allow steam to loosen the skin. When cooled, peel and halve the pepper, discarding the core and seeds. Slice the pepper crosswise into one-eighth-inch strips. Set aside.
5. When the batter is light and bubbly, stir in the yolks and one-half cup of the milk. The batter will be elastic but should pour easily (if not, add more of the milk as needed). In a separate bowl, whisk the whites until they hold a soft peak; gently fold into the batter.
6. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons butter and heat until the butter is melted and has stopped foaming. Ladle the batter into the pan to form 3-inch blini (about 2 tablespoons of batter per pancake) and cook until the tops are bubbly and the undersides browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the blini over and cook the other side, about 1 minute. Place the blini on a plate, stacking them to keep them moist. Repeat until all the blini are cooked, using more butter as needed. This recipe makes 3 to 3 1/2 dozen blini. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point a day ahead. Place the cooked blini in an airtight container and refrigerate.)