Syrniki (pronounced like SYR-nee-kee, where y in ”SYR” sounds like the i sound in ”bill”) are one of my all time favorite things to eat… Out of ALL THE FOOD in the world. I remember being excited every time my grandma or my mom made them, and sadly I just don’t think to make these regularly.
Part of the reason is that I can’t always find farmer’s cheese at the grocery store, which is the main ingredient in these Russian cheese pancakes. Another reason is because I never cooked when I lived at home so in my head this was always something that babushka made. But when I went food shopping with my mom in Brooklyn recently, I made sure to pick up some of the farmer’s cheese just so I can make these.
I have seen farmer’s cheese at major grocery stores in the US, but not often. It usually comes in a block like the one below. If there is a Polish grocery store around you, they would definitely have it in the dairy/refrigerated section. Failing that, you can take regular ricotta, drain it until no more liquid comes out, and then use that in the recipe. The taste will be similar.
I called my grandma asking for her recipe, and as usual for all traditional family recipes, the response I get is ”oh, I don’t know, you need farmer’s cheese, eggs, flour, a little bit of sugar… just add the flour until the texture is right, don’t add too much or they’ll be tough.” Well thanks.
Luckily, these turned out perfect. I guess years of hanging around the kitchen impatiently waiting for syrniki to be ready gave me some intuition about what looked ”right” for the batter.
And these really were amazing. These are like little soft pillowy pancakes of cheesy goodness. I can’t describe the flavor or the texture, but they are just SO GOOD. If you are at all curious, I really encourage you to try these. They are super quick and easy to make. The only thing you need to make sure to do is dredge them in flour on both sides before frying, otherwise they will stick to the pan (yes, even with oil!) and will fall apart. Aside from that, they are fool-proof.
What do you serve these with, you ask? Well, if you don’t want to experiment too much further, these are amazing with maple or agave syrup. You know, like normal pancakes. Or with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
But my favorite is the traditional way. Russian people put sour cream on EVERYTHING. So I like these with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of jam. A homemade raspberry or blueberry sauce would also be amazing. Aldo thinks sour cream does NOT belong in sweet foods, so he happily goes the syrup route.
Syrniki (Russian Cheese Pancakes)
Makes: 10 pancakes. Total time: 25 minutes.
- 1 lb farmer’s cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour + 1/3 cup for dredging in a separate small bowl
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Optional: 1/2 cup raisins
- ~6-8 tablespoons vegetable oil (3-4 tablespoons per batch for cooking)
- Plop the farmers cheese into a large bowl. Crumble it into little pieces with a fork. Add the 2 eggs and mix well. Add the 1/2 cup flour, sugar, and salt, and mix well, using the fork to break apart any clumps of flour or farmer’s cheese by pressing them into the bottom of the bowl. If you want to use raisins, add them in and mix well.
- Use a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop with a squeeze release mechanism to plop about 1/4 cup of batter into the dredging flour. Gently press down with your hand to flatten the batter, then flip over and press the other side into the flour. Shake off the extra flour and set aside until you are ready to cook them.
- In a large skillet, heat 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and gently place the flour-dredged cheese pancakes into the pan using a spatula. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until each side is golden brown. Place on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
Add more oil to the pan, wait for it to heat up, and then cook the second batch of pancakes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve with syrup, jam, honey, whipped cream, or the traditional Russian way – with sour cream.