When I was a kid, in the 70s, my mom, my uncle, Jay, and I would go to a tiny Ukrainian restaurant on 2nd Ave in NYC called the Kiev. Finding a table was nearly impossible; I remember it being so crowded that we’d climb over people to get to our seats. Once we were situated, the waiter brought bread to the table. When the tower of challah came we could no longer see each other, which forced us to crane our bodies around this centerpiece to talk to one another. The crazy pile of delicious bread wasn’t even the main event. We were there for the blintzes. The slightly sweet, farmer cheese stuffed crepes. By the time they hit the table I was stuffed with challah, but I managed to eat everything in front of me. I loved that place and the feeling of leaving full, really full.
I just googled the Kiev to see if it is still there and I am sad to report that only a glossy reproduction exist. To me it was the tight, atmosphere-free dining room, stuffed to the rafters with blintz-eating patrons that made it special. I am disappointed that I will never get to take my boys. Instead I’ll make them blintzes at home. All that’s missing is a tower of challah (I’ll save that for another day) and the slightly surly servers, but my blintzes are well loved. The key is finding fresh farmers’ cheese, not the dry crumbly version. I use a crepe recipe from my sister-in-law, Maxine, who spent her high school and college years in France. Top the creamy blintzes with whatever you like or just eat them plain with a brush of butter, and maybe some sour cream.
3 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour (spoon and sweep measure)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
3 cups milk (skim or whole)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Melted butter for coating baking dish and for painting on the prepared blintzes
Sugar for sprinkling on blintzes
4 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 pound fresh soft farmers’ cheese (if you can’t find fresh farmers’ cheese, substitute 4 oz cream cheese plus 12 oz whole milk dry curd cottage cheese)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons matzo meal
1 large egg
Take your pick of the following toppings:
Strawberry sauce – follow the link for recipe, but after it is cooked puree the fruit.
To prepare the crepes:
Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and 1/2 the milk, whisk until it is all blended. Slowly add the rest of the milk, vanilla and melted butter. The batter should be the consistency of thin maple syrup, if it is too thick, add more milk. If there are large lumps, strain the batter.
Heat the crepe pan* over medium heat. Rub the surface of the pan with a tiny bit of butter, I use what is left clinging to the sides of the pan I melted the butter for the batter in.
Ladle in enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of your pan. The amount will depend on the size of your pan. My larger pan takes about 1/2 cup and the smaller one is about 1/4 cup. This may take one or two crepes to perfect.
Swirl the pan around until it is evenly coating the bottom of the pan. Allow it to cook until the batter is no longer wet looking.
Use a spatula to lift the crepe up and flip it to the other side.
This is MUCH easier to do with the smaller pan, but once you get the hang of it, the large ones are no problem.
The crepes should be very pale golden and still soft, if they are getting too brown or are crispy on the edges you need to take them out of the pan sooner and/or turn down the heat. Continue to cook them and stack the finished ones up on a plate. You will get enough for about 12 large crepes or 24 smaller ones.
At this point my boys usually steal a couple and fill them with jam,
fold them, dust with powdered sugar and have a little snack.
To make the blintzes:
preheat the oven to 425°F
Butter a Square Baking Dish. (You can bake all of the blintzes at once or you can save some for another day and freeze them for up to 2 weeks. Depending on how many you are baking, you can use a larger or smaller baking dish.)
Mix together the cream cheese, farmers’ cheese, sugar, vanilla, matzo meal, and egg until it is well combined. Spoon a 2 to 4 tablespoons of the filling into the crepe, depending on the size you are working with.
Fold the crepe in half over the filling.
Then fold the two sides up and over the filling. Folding the crepe into a neat package.
Lay the crepe into the prepared baking dish. Brush the top of the crepe with the melted butter and continue with the rest of the crepes you want to bake. For those you are not baking, fill and fold them, then wrap them well with plastic wrap, placing a piece of wax paper between them.
It is okay to overlap them slightly. After you have brushed them with butter, sprinkle the tops with a bit of sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges just start to caramelize.
You can also fry the blintzes in butter on the stove for a crisp finish.
Serve the blintzes hot with any of the toppings. My favorite as a kid was apple sauce and sour cream, but I gave them to my boys with strawberry sauce and the last of the season’s fresh peaches.