NerdGuy Fridays: Dispatches from a Writer's Brain - M. L. Buchman

Nerdguy Friday #10: Condor-Syrniki Pancakes

Plaguing my proofreader

I've previously mentioned my utterly awesome proofreader, Colleen. She does, however, consistently lodge three complaints against me: my abuses of the English language (though she does admit to some minor improvements under her incredible tutelage [read as a lot of red marks on my raw pages]), my forcing her to stay up all night to read the book the first time before she starts to work on it (making me smile hugely), and...the food.
She complains greatly about the food. "You keep making me hungry from reading your books. Then I have to go and find the recipes and ingredients to make that dish." (Which is apparently tricky as she lives way off the beaten track in southern Utah.)
Well, after proofreading Condor (Miranda Chase #3, which just released on Tuesday), she was "forced" to make Syrniki. These are Ukrainian/Russian Cheese pancakes (or fritters depending on who's translating) that one of my fliers speaks of with fond recollection.
Holly eased the pilot into the small shed with the others as the knock-out drug took him under. “Tom and Tim. You stay here. Find something to make sure they won’t freeze to death before they wake up. Keep an eye out, we’ll try to get the loadmasters over here next.”
“Twelve hours, they won’t freeze,” Tim poked one guy in the gut now bulging prominently above the waistband of his underwear after stealing his uniform.
“Living on too much beer,” Tom agreed.
“A little fried brown bread.”
“With that cheesy mayo-ketchup dip.”
“Syrniki fried curd fritters.”
“With honeyed sour cream?”
“Ah, Russia,” they sighed happily in unison.

It seemed a simple line, but it was enough to inspire Colleen to make them (after protesting to me). So, I finally gave in and decided to try them myself. However, I had to NerdGuy over them a bit because, hey, it what I am. And I discovered that they're very yummy! So good, in fact, that they've now replaced the recipe that our family has been using since my wife learned it from her Mum.
A Syrniki has three distinct advantages over normal pancakes:

  1. There's a toothsomeness to them that's more fun to eat.
  2. Because of the cheese, it's a lot of protein without the massive cholesterol hit of just eggs.
  3. They're much more fun to say: Sir-nih-kee or Seer-nih-kee (I found both).

NOTE: This is actually two recipes in one. I couldn't find Farmer's Cheese at first, which Wikipedia lists as "pressed cottage cheese." So, I pressed low-fat cottage cheese for four hours (which removed about 2 Tablespoons of liquid – probably not worth the effort) and ended up with a very loose batter. Thicker than pancake batter, but still pour-able rather than shape-able. Then we went out and found Farmer's Cheese (3rd supermarket), but I actually liked the first variation better (which also was lower fat).
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NerdGuy's Condor-Syrniki Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes (and 3-4 is definitely a meal with a little bacon or a smoothie).
  • 16oz - farmer's cheese or low-fat cottage cheese
  • 3 - eggs (if big), 4 eggs if small
  • 3/4 c. - all-purpose flour (+ more for dusting per below)
  • 3 T. - sugar (the Russian version looks to be sweeter with less flour and more sugar – 1/2 c. flour to 1/4 c. sugar)
  • 1/2 t. - salt
  • 1 t. - baking soda
  • 1 t. - vinegar (white or cider-we preferred the latter)
  • 1/2 c. - raisins
  • vegetable oil or extra light olive oil for frying (butter also works)
  • toppings: jam (apricot or blueberry), syrup, powdered sugar (a particularly wonderful addition), honey, sour cream, (honey and sour cream, oh yeah!)

  1. Batter:

    1. Farmer's Cheese variation: beat eggs, sugar, and salt in a bowl, then mix in flour and cheese with a fork.
    2. Cottage Cheese variation: throw first 5 ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until curds broken up and well mixed (10-15 seconds).
    3. (See the pictures below. A fork drag through the farmer's cheese leaves a trough. Through the cottage cheese, only a small furrow that fills in.)
  2. Mix baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl, stir so that it fizzes. Mix into batter.
  3. Stir in raisins. (Don't blend or they turn to mush.)
  4. Large skillet with 1-2 T. oil, heated on med-low. (The temperature is critical. These pancakes are going to rise and expand greatly. Even medium heat will burn the outside before the inside is cooked.)
  5. Forming:

    1. Farmer's Cheese variation:

      1. Dust flour on the counter
      2. Drop 1/4c. of thick batter onto flour.
      3. Dust with more flour.
      4. Pat down into a disk shape.
      5. Knock off excess flour as transfer to pan.
    2. Cottage Cheese variation:

      1. Dollop a scant 1/4c. into pan.
      2. Slap once with a wet spatula to flatten it into a disk. (If you use a dry spatula, it will stick and make a mess.)
    3. Keep them spaced way apart. The pancakes will at least double in size. (And if they merge, they're a real pain to flip.)
  6. Cook 4-5 minutes / side. Refresh oil between batches. (I found 5 minutes was best. Unlike normal pancakes, don't  wait for air bubbles that pop and not fill in before flipping. That will be too late for the turn. The edges will look massively underdone up until the final minute. When that goes away, you know the interior need just one more minute.)
  7. Toppings and enjoy. (They sit on a warmed oven plate with less collapse than normal pancakes while you're cooking next batches. Pretty good zapped in the morning, too.)

[caption id="attachment_22892" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Deep trough behind fork in Farmer's Cheese batter (wouldn't fill in at all except I used 4 very large eggs, 3 would have been better.)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22891" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Fork drag fills in almost immediately in "pourable" cottage cheese batter[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22889" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Massively expanding pancake merge (generous 1/4c. of cottage cheese batter)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22890" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Better behaved pancakes (scant 1/4c of farmer's cheese variation)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22888" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Syrniki with powdered sugar and bacon (fun to say and fun to eat)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_22887" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A few toppings: Apricot preserves, honey, maple syrup, powdered sugar (a must)[/caption]
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