This year, I am not sharing Valentines Day with someone special. But I will celebrate it with chocolate, starting with the indulgence of Chocolate Blini with Raspberry Drizzle for breakfast.
I created these petite pancakes to serve as dessert, perhaps at a romantic dinner for two. With Valentine’s Day this year falling on a Sunday, I realized they would also be a sensuous way to start the day.
These pancakes are called blini because they are about the same size as the little ones that Russians serve with caviar or smoked salmon.
Russian blini, which are made with buckwheat flour and yeast, are savory and dense. My dessert blini, lighter and modestly sweet, are made using melted chocolate and ground hazelnuts, aka, hazelnut flour. (You may recognize this duo as the irresistible combination in Baci, the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate candy, and in Nutella.)
Several steps for making these blini are similar to those for assembling a soufflé. First you make a dense base by combining melted chocolate, egg yolk, and ground nuts.
Then you beat the egg whites and fold them into the chocolate base, making it light and airy. Take care not to over-mix during this step; knocking out too much air makes these blini hard and dry.
If you splurge on hazelnut flour, sold at some supermarkets and many natural food stores, you can use the rest of the bag for coating fish filets and chicken cutlets, adding rich flavor and helping them take on golden color when you sauté or bake them. I also mix a few tablespoons of the ground nuts into oatmeal or use this nut flour in baking.
You can use almond flour in place of hazelnut and get pancakes that are creamier in texture and taste less nutty. I do not recommend grinding whole nuts. To make them fine enough, they will be oily, which causes egg whites to collapse too much.
I like to make the Raspberry Drizzle and measure out all the ingredients except for the eggs a day ahead. Then just before serving, I separate the eggs for the chocolate base and whip the whites, combine the base and whipped whites, and cook the blini.
I discovered that these blini freeze nicely. When defrosted, they will be more firm and dry than freshly cooked blini. Sometimes I reheat them, wrapped in foil, in a toaster oven. And sometimes I simply let them sit on the counter for 10 minutes, then munch on them as a soft, intensely chocolate cookie.