By Danielle Frum and Anne Applebaum
This recipe, for traditional Polish “nalesniki,” is the third and last in FT&V’s series on seeking a better blintz for Shavuot — but the dish may be enjoyed year round. While the word “nalesniki” does translate as “pancakes,” these are closer to French crepes, and closer still to Hungarian “palacsinta”: They are thinner and more limp than American pancakes, and are meant to be folded around something, not eaten in a stack with maple syrup.
There are savory versions — you can wrap them around a chicken sauce or some grilled vegetables. But we think the pancakes work best with Polish plum jam (“powidla”), which is thick, sticky, and not too sweet. Eaten with jam (or with butter and sugar), they make an excellent breakfast, or even a light supper. Inevitably they are the thing you make when there’s nothing in the house except eggs and flour, which happens to everybody from time to time. Children unfailingly love them.
This recipe is adapted from our cookbook, From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food. Photo by Bogdan Bialy.
Makes for approx. 15 pancakes.
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cold water
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbs vegetable oil, plus more as needed
Plum jam or another jam of your preference
Place the yogurt, eggs, water, flour, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk until the batter is very smooth. You can also do this in a blender or food processor if you prefer. The batter should be well-blended and the consistency of light cream.
Cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or in a pinch, for at least 20 minutes. (This allows the flour to absorb some of the liquid and it makes the batter lighter.) Heat a small frying pan or crepe pan if you have one, preferably non-stick, over low heat. Spread just enough of the oil over the bottom to cover it thinly — you can use a brush or towel to do this. When the pan is hot, pour in enough of the batter — about 1/4-cup for a 9-inch pan — so that it makes a thin, smooth film covering the entire pan. Lift up the edges to check the pancake; when it is lightly browned, usually about 2 minutes, use the spatula to flip it over (or of course, flip it in the air like they do in the movies, if you dare). Cook for 2 minutes more, or until lightly browned. The finished pancake should be thin but not at all fragile.
Treat the first pancake as an experiment; if it has cooked too fast, lower the heat. If the batter seems too thick, beat in 1 tsp water, and add another if they are necessary. As they are done, stack the pancakes on a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb any oil. Keep them warm if you can, but they are usually eaten at room temperature, so they needn’t be very hot.
When ready to eat, spread each pancake with jam and roll them up. Let the children put on their own spread. You are allowed to pick them up and eat them with your fingers.