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Fresh Strawberry Brunch Blintzes
One of my favorite dishes to serve guests is a platter of sweet blintzes, one of the best known of Jewish brunch foods. They are crêpelike pancakes filled with a smooth, tangy cheese center that contrasts with their crisp, buttery wrapper. In my rendition, soft, velvety ricotta and cream cheeses are blended to make the simplest of fillings. This recipe is especially well suited for entertaining, since it calls for baking all the blintzes at once instead of frying them one by one on the stovetop; but I have given instructions for both methods.
Makes 28 blintzes (serves 6 to 8)
Buttermilk Blintz Wrappers
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups cultured buttermilk
2/3 cup water
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pint baskets fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or freshly squeezed orange juice
6 ounces cream cheese
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, or 2 tablespoons liquid egg substitute
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, for frying the blintzes
Cold sour cream or plain yogurt, for serving
Preparing the Blintzes (or Crêpes)
Though a good bit of mystique surrounds their preparation, crêpes are surprisingly easy tohandle and bake up quickly once you get the wrist action of tilting the hot pan to distribute the batter evenly. (Many bakers reserve a well-seasoned pan solely for the task.) The size of the crêpes you make depends on the size of your skillet or frying pan, since the thin batter tends to spread out to the perimeter of the pan. The standard size for crêpes varies from 6 to 9 inches in diameter.
1. To make the wrapper batter, combine the batter ingredients in a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor. Using a handheld immersion blender, a whisk, or a food processor fitted with the metal blade, beat until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Lightly grease a 6- to 7-inch seasoned crêpe pan or nonstick frying pan with cooking spray. Heat the pan over medium heat until hot. Stir the batter to avoid separation. Working quickly, remove the pan from the heat and pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter, tilting and rotating the pan to completely cover the bottom. Cook until the bottom is golden brown and the top is set, about 30 seconds; do not turn the crêpe over. Slide the crêpes, cooked side up, in a single layer onto paper towels next to each other, but not overlapping to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter. (If not filling immediately, wrap the cooled wrappers in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) Makes about thirty 5-inch wrappers.
2. To make the strawberry sauce, place all of the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
3. To make the filling, in a food processor with the metal blade, combine the cheeses, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, and orange zest until just smooth.
4. To assemble the blintzes, place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling and 1 tablespoon of the sliced strawberries at the bottom end of the cooked side of the wrapper. Fold each side over to almost meet in the center; the filling will still be at the end. Fold the blintz up from the bottom to enclose the filling, ending with the seam side down, to make a plump rectangular packet. The uncooked side of the wrapper will be on the outside. Place on a plate or in a plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to cook. (The blintzes can be made to this point and frozen in a plastic container up to one month. Place a piece of parchment between the stacked layers to prevent sticking.)
5. To fry the blintzes, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place as many blintzes as will fit in the pan, seam side down. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown. Add a bit more butter for frying each batch. Keep cooked blintzes warm on a plate, covered in foil, in a 300º oven. If frying up frozen blintzes, do not defrost first. Serve immediately with bowls of sour cream or plain yogurt and strawberry sauce on the side.
6. To bake the blintzes rather than fry them, adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 400º. Butter a piece of parchment, place on a heavy-duty baking sheet, and put in the oven to melt the butter. Arrange the packets in a single layer, seam side down, turning once to coat the tops with butter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and heated through. Bake frozen blintzes without defrosting in a 350º oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately on a dessert plate topped with strawberry sauce and accompanied by a bowl of sour cream or yogurt. Store any leftover blintzes in the refrigerator.
(Reprinted with permission from Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger.
Photography by Leigh Beisch. Copyright © 2001. Ten Speed Press.)