As a child I always liked Saturday mornings. They meant special breakfast for us. I grew up with a mom who worked full time. She had an important job as an engineer so every morning my brother and I had pretty simple breakfasts before heading to school. She loved to spoil us on the weekends by making something special for breakfast. I still remember waking up to the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. Syrniki (seer-nee-kee) were one of her Saturday treats and one of my precious childhood memories. I missed them terribly when I moved away from Russia. Syrniki are made from a farmer’s cheese called ‘Tvorog’ in Russian and I couldn’t find a good substitute in the US or Canada for the longest time. It’s very similar to cottage cheese and ricotta cheese but is drier and has a tangy taste. This is what it looks like in texture.
However, I am getting reports that all the major supermarkets in North America are now carrying this item under the name of ‘Farmer’s Cheese” and you can always find it in any Russian or Eastern European store if there is one close by. I bought mine from a local Eastern European Foods shop in my neighborhood in London. Imagine my excitement! It’s been so long since I last made the recipe that I had to pull out my Russian cookbooks for a refresher. As I often say I am not a recipe follower, I only use it as a guideline. I had to combine two different ones, tweak them in a few places and this is what I came up with.
Farmer’s Cheese- 1 lbs/450 gr
2 tbsp. oil
4 tbsp. sugar
3/4 c. flour plus extra flour for dusting and rolling
1/2 tsp. baking powder
The method of preparing syrniki is pretty much the same as old plain pancakes. If you ever attempted to make pancakes you will manage this recipe with ease. Combine cheese, eggs, sugar, oil, flour, baking powder and vanilla in a medium size bowl and mix all the ingredients with a hand mixer until you get a homogenous mass- no longer than 2-3 minutes. The mixture will be very sticky. Don’t panic, that’s what you are supposed to get!
Put your non-stick or cast iron frying pan on the stove on medium heat and add 3 tbsp of oil to it.
Dust a clean work surface with some flour. Take a regular soup spoon and start scooping the mixture from the bowl. Put it directly on the floured surface and roll it in the flour, then flatten it with your palm to make it into a patty. Continue the process with the rest of your cheese mixture until it’s all gone. You should get about 14 patties.
Before you start frying your syrniki make sure the oil in the frying pan is very hot by sprinkling a bit of flour into it. If it sizzles it’s hot enough. Fry your syrniki the same way you would pancakes. When you turn them over they should puff up a bit. The flour coating will make the outside slightly crispy while the mostly cheese filling will taste light and delicious.
Dust syrniki with icing sugar as the final touch and serve them with your favourite jam or a fruit sauce. If you want a truly Russian experience enjoy them with a bit of “smetana”-creme fraiche. I love mine with blackcurrant jam! Yum! This one tasted just like my babushka used to make. If only my kids had the same appreciation for it. They rejected it and went for the maple syrup. However they LOVED the syrniki and I have one of the pickiest children in the world. I call it- Success!