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In 2010, my brave and kitchen-savvy teenage son challenged his uber-talented Aunt Sharon to a blintz-off for our annual break-the-fast meal on Yom Kippur. It ended in a tie with Sharon’s crepes taking the lead but my son’s filling getting top nod.
What is a blintz?
In case you aren’t familiar with cheese blintzes, a blintz is a cheese-filled pancake usually pan-fried in butter and served with jam and sour cream. The word blintz is derived from the yiddish word “blintze” which is derived from the Russian word “blinyet”, which means little pancake.
When do we eat cheese blintzes?
In our circle of friends, we eat them to break the fast for Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement that comes ten days after the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
Traditionally, Jews fast and ask for forgiveness for their sins to start the year off with a clean slate. Come sundown, Jews across the globe scramble to the dining table to end their 24-hour hunger strike with dairy-based menus. And our friend Sharon is legendary for her break-the-fast cheese blintzes.
But there is another Jewish holiday called Shavuot when dairy foods like cheesecake and blintzes are frequently eaten. Shavuot celebrates the time when the Torah was given to the Jewish people. However, no one knows for certain why we eat dairy foods to mark this occasion. One possibility is to symbolize the land of “milk” and honey.
But you needn’t be Jewish or wait for either Yom Kippur or Shavuot to eat blintzes. These rolled and filled crepes are a bit of a process to make but they freeze well and you can eat them all year long.
How the cheese blintz battle began
One year, we couldn’t attend Aunt Sharon’s annual gathering and my son decided he wanted her mouth-watering blintzes anyhow. So he headed to his infinite cookbook of the 21st century, the Internet, and found Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Blintz Recipe and proceeded to cook.
They came out so well, he decided to make them again the following year to compare to his Aunt Sharon’s. Low and behold – he almost won the battle but the crowd called it a tie.
Battle of the Blintz – Round 2
When our annual invitation arrived the next year, I checked with my son and he quickly agreed to take part in Round 2 of the Battle of the Blintz. Despite his outstanding prep technique, Sharon prevailed. He oven baked his (yes, you can blame me) instead of pan frying.
With Sharon’s much improved filling and her thin, crispy blintz leaves pan-fried in butter, the nod went her way. But even she admitted, his filling was OMG! Yummy (meyer lemon zest and ricotta soprafina cheese take it over the top).
And the homemade strawberry jam he served with his blintzes almost elevated the outcome to a tie. (Disclosure: I made the jam – a mother will do almost anything to help her offspring – right?!) The jam was studded with a little fresh fig, vanilla, and a few splashes of a Mexican orange liqueur called 43.
Note: Since this post was first published in 2011, much has changed. My son tragically passed away in 2017. But his blintz legacy lives on as Sharon makes her incredible blintzes for us each and every year. I have also created a jam in his honor – please read more about him and my jam recipe, created in his memory: Gregory’s Jam.
The winning recipe
Sharon’s recipe is from a series published in 1983, called Cooking with Bon Appetit, specifically the volume called “Breakfasts and Brunches.” Her mom gave her the series of books when she was first learning how to cook. Over the years she has tried different cheeses and perfected her own efficient process all outlined below.
Let’s ask the expert! Sharon: “I make them in large batches and freeze them, uncooked. Usually, I have about 3 dozen in the freezer, which we’ll eat between Yom Kippur and the end of the year. I usually fry up some over Thanksgiving weekend, when we often have guests.”
Freeze them spread out on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, you can stack them more tightly in layers separated by parchment paper in sealed containers.
Tips for speeding up the production line
If you are new to making blintzes, it is probably wise to make all of your crepes first, then fill and fold and either fry or freeze. But as you get more confident with your crepe making and blintz folding, Sharon suggests filling and folding the blintzes while you make the crepes. This makes life easier, as you don’t have to layer the crepes with the wax paper.
Sharon’s very efficient method:
- Make crepe.
- Turn cooked crepe onto clean dish cloth, cooked side up. Pour batter into pan to start to cook next crepe.
- While it cooks, fill and fold blintz.
- Put blintz on cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment.
- Repeat steps until crepe batter and blintz filling are gone!
- Freeze one sheet at a time, and then you can layer frozen blintzes in freezer container.
- Generally, Sharon does this by herself, but a helping hand is always nice.
How to make a crepeMaking the crepe is not hard but it is a technique.
- The right size pan is important – 8-inch non-stick is best.
- The proper amount of batter is key – a scant ¼ cup.
- And pay attention to the heat of the pan – medium heat (can use water droplet test) and the speed with which you spread that batter around the pan (quickly).
Luckily, I captured my son showing us his prowess with the crepes many years ago. And I am so glad to be able to share it with you.
Cheese choices for the filling
Sharon’s recipe calls for cottage cheese, farmers cheese and cream cheese. Occasionally people have a hard time finding farmers cheese in the store or don’t even know what it is.
Farmers cheese is essentially cottage cheese drained of its whey. So if you can’t find any, you can buy extra cottage cheese and drain some in a coffee filter – you’ll see the whey come out and you’ll end up with the drier farmers type of cheese.
The recipe Gregory used called for ricotta cheese and cream cheese for the filling and quite frankly, it is a fantastic combination. It’s ok to play with the filling cheese choice – the idea is to end up with something slightly sweet and not overpoweringly flavorful and somewhat melty. Here is how the cheese combination from Sharon’s blintzes looks:
What to serve with blintzes
The classic blintz toppings are jam and sour cream. But here are some other ideas:
- Use yogurt instead of sour cream
- Use fresh fruit
- Make a fruit compote
Supplies for making cheese blintzes
Probably the two most important tools are the 8-inch non-stick pan to make the crepes and fry pans for cooking the blintzes. A blender to make the crepe batter is easiest but you can definitely whip vigorously by hand. And the same goes for the filling – my son made it in the food processor but you can also mix it well by hand. In fact I think Sharon does just that. It’s also nice to have sheet pans to lay the blintzes out.
Have you ever prepared blintzes? Do you have a favorite recipe? Do you make something similar but with a different name and cultural background? Share your stories in the comments below.
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Sharon’s Cheese Blintzes
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- 8 ounces farmer cheese
- 6 ounces cream cheese
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla
For Pan Frying
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Place eggs, water and milk in blender and mix until combined.
- Then add slightly cooled melted butter and flour and blend until smooth.
- Refrigerate the crepe mixture for 1 -2 hours or even overnight.
- Add the cheeses, sugar, egg and vanilla to the bowl of a food processor and blend well. (You can also do this by hand – Aunt Sharon always does, Gregory used the processor.)
- This can also be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for a few hours or overnight.
- Use an 8-inch non-stick frying pan (or crepe pan if you have one). Heat skillet over medium heat until a drop of water bounces off the surface. (For extra insurance, you can also brush with a bit of melted butter.)
- Add a scant 1/4 cup of batter to pan when it is ready. Quickly swirl it around to cover the bottom of the pan and let it cook until the edges begin to curl and brown. Do not flip the crepe.
- If you are new to blintz-making, place crepes browned side up on a towel (place a piece of wax paper or parchment in between each just to be 100% sure they don't stick together) and cover lightly. Repeat with remaining batter – be sure to keep cooked ones covered as you make the balance of the crepes.
- When you are confident in your crepe-making, see notes below for Aunt Sharon's tips on speeding up the process.
Fill and Fold Blintzes
- To fill and fold each blintz, place 1 heaping tablespoon of filling down the center of the crepe. Tuck two sides toward the center. Then fold the two remaining sides like an envelope. Place seam side down on a parchment-lined tray or platter. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.
- Now you can either cook them, refrigerate them covered, or freeze them for later use.
- Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat or until butter is bubbly. Place blintzes seam side down in pan – do not crowd. Heat until browned on both sides. Serve immediately.