Cheese blintzes are traditional for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
Growing up, my family didn’t celebrate Shavuot and I certainly did not know what foods it was customary to eat on that holiday. But I always loved cheese blintzes. Lightly fried in butter and topped with sour cream, they are a delight. I always looked forward to them.
Of course, in my Mad Men childhood, they always came frozen from a grocery store. At the time, that seemed quite natural. I ate grilled American cheese sandwiches on white bread and thought TV dinners were just fine. So it never occurred to me that homemade cheese blintzes would be a million times better than the packaged variety.
Somewhere between high school and college, I found enlightenment. By the time I had my own apartment (in college), I had begun making cheese blintzes. The proof is a single sheet of looseleaf paper on which I wrote the ingredients for those blintzes. No directions, just ingredients. I don’t know how many times I made them, but I do remember the joys of making the wrappers, filling, folding, and frying them.
Although I haven’t made cheese blintzes in decades, this year I decided to update the recipe and try it again.
Shavuot is a spring holiday known as the “Festival of the Giving of the Torah.” It celebrates the time when Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. In addition, it is a harvest holiday. Along with Sukkot and Passover, it is one of the Shalosh Regalim or Three Pilgrimage Festivals. During ancient times, at Shavuot Jews brought harvest offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Over time, different traditions evolved. Now Shavuot is a time when some celebrate by going to all-night Torah study sessions, while others mark the holiday with parades, pageants, and other celebrations featuring nature and farming.
There are a few explanations for how dairy foods became associated with Shavuot. The one I am most familiar with is that the Song of Songs compares Torah to milk and honey. Now Ashkenazic Jews (those who trace their families to Eastern Europe) traditionally eat blintzes, kugel, and cheesecake in a nod to that “milk and honey” phrase.
Cheese blintzes are the Ashkenazic Jewish equivalent of sweet, filled crepes. The outside pancake is slightly thicker than a crepe. Folding the pancake around a sweet cheese filling, we gently fry them until golden on the outside and warm on the inside. I like to serve cheese blintzes with fruit, either fresh or in a compote, and sour cream.
This ingredients in this recipe are only slightly modified from the one I made in college. I only made one change and one addition. The one change is that I went from farmer’s or dry cottage cheese to a combination of small curd cottage cheese and ricotta. That switch, motivated by the ricotta in my fridge that I didn’t want to waste, turned out to be fortuitous. It turns out my local grocery doesn’t carry farmer’s or dry cottage cheese – maybe it’s out of fashion? The addition is the grated lemon zest. Because I love citrus and it adds a lovely note to the flavor of the filling.
When you read the recipe you’ll note that it has three eggs, not just two as pictured. My bad – I lost count and had already begun to cook the blintzes when I realized that my photo was one egg short. Sorry.
Jewish Cheese Blintzes for Shavuot
Cheese blintzes are a delicious brunch, light dinner, or addition to your buffet table. They are slightly sweet but not dessert.
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 8 ounces small curd cottage cheese
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 3+ tablespoons unsalted butter
Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Set aside. Mix together the eggs and 1 cup water.
Using a strainer or sifter, add the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Add a few tablespoons more water (2-4) to get batter to be loose but not watery. I added 4 tablespoons more water, for a total of 1 & 1/4 cups water. Let the batter sit while you prepare the filling.
Mix together the filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
Putting together the blintzes
Wipe an 8-inch pan, preferably non-stick, with a small dab of butter and pre-heat the pan. Put about 1/4 cup of batter in the pan, swirl it around to cover the entire pan with a light coating of batter, and cook the pancake until the bottom is golden. Slide the pancake onto a plate (without cooking the other side), add a bit more butter to the pan if necessary and repeat.
Separate each pancake with a small piece of waxed paper or parchment. Let the pancakes cool until you can easily handle them.
Once the pancakes have cooled, put one, cooked side up, on a plate or cutting board. Add 1/4 cup of cheese filling. Fold one side over on the cheese filling.
Fold the opposite side, then fold the top and bottom, so that the pancake resembles an envelope. It can be square or rectangular, depending on whether you center the cheese as a large spoonful or make it a longer rectangle. It doesn't matter.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of butter to a pan. (You can use the same pan you made the pancakes in.) Once the butter is melted and the pan is heated, add blintzes with the folded sides down. Do not crowd them. Gently heat until the bottom is golden brown.
Then turn the blintzes on the other side and continue cooking under a medium-low flame until they brown on the second side. You may want to cover the pan for a minute or two to assure that the inside filling is well heated.
Serve immediately with sour cream and fruit.
For making the pancakes, you can use a crepe pan if you have one, but it's not necessary. A frying pan or skillet with sloping sides works fine, especially if it is non-stick.
Don't worry if your pancakes aren't perfect at the edges. The pancakes are folded up, so none of the edges show.