Syrniki (сырники) are tvarog (Творо́г) or cottage cheese (quark) donuts of Russian origin, that are very popular in Eastern Europe, especially in Russia and Ukraine. Syrniki are fluffy, slightly sweet Russian pancakes that are generally eaten for breakfast, accompanied by sour cream (smetana), jam and red fruits.
What are syrniki?
Syrniki (сырники) are donut-style pancakes of Russian and Ukrainian origin, traditionally served for breakfast. They are also found under the name tvorozhniki (творо́жники) by reference to tvaroh cheese (Творо́г) which is used to prepare them.
Syrniki are similar to small pancakes that are cooked on both sides. Their texture is airy due to the presence of cottage cheese which makes them light and fluffy. They are generally served with Russian sour cream (smetana), jam or even berries, including blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. More rarely, they are served with blackberries, blackcurrants or cranberries.
What is tvaroh?
Tvaroh or tvarog (Творо́г) is a fresh dairy product similar to cottage cheese that is very popular in Russia and Ukraine. It is the star ingredient of the syrniki recipe.
The tvaroh (Творо́г) or tvarog is a farmer’s cheese akin to ricotta or cottage cheese. It is easily found in most supermarkets in the United States and almost in all Slavic and Russian grocery stores.
From an etymological point of view, tvarog is also found under the name “зернёный творог” (zernyony tvorog) which literally means “grainy white cheese”. Dictionaries sometimes translate the term tvarog (tvaroh) as curd cheese, cottage cheese or farmer’s cheese.
Tvaroh is a thick, slightly more acidic version of quark or quarg. It is made by heating curd until the desired amount of lumps is reached. Then, the granular mass obtained is filtered through a cheesecloth to collect the final product.
How to make perfect syrniki?
If a different type of cheese than tvaroh is used to prepare syrniki, make sure to drain it before using it. In the absence of tvaroh cheese, syrniki can be prepared with other fresh cheeses than tvaroh.
Indeed, ricotta or cottage cheese are excellent alternatives, provided of course that they are rid of the excess liquid they contain. These are much wetter than the traditional Russian tvaroh.
Just let the cheese (ricotta or cottage) drain in the refrigerator overnight before adding it to the syrniki recipe. If the excess liquid is not removed, the pancakes may come apart during cooking and release a lot of water. The appearance of the donuts will be irregular.
The flour helps to obtain regular syrniki. Another essential step to make perfect syrniki is to cover them with flour before frying. Indeed, the addition of flour prevents them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
To obtain regular pancakes of the same size, use two tablespoons to form dough balls which will be placed on a plate with flour.
It is possible to fry several syrniki at a time (4 to 6 depending on the desired size). Also, be sure to leave enough room in the pan to easily turn them over.
Other famous pancakes in Russia and Eastern Europe
Unlike syrniki, oladyi generally do not contain tvaroh or quark cheese. They are prepared with flour eggs, milk, baking powder and sugar. In the past, buckwheat flour was used to prepare them, but this version of oladyi is rarer nowadays. Also, some recipes mention the presence of sour cream, yogurt or kefir to obtain pancakes with a more airy consistency. Other recipes introduce raisins.
Blinis are very popular crepes in Russia and Scandinavia. In the past, they were made with sourdough and baked in the oven. Today, they are cooked in a pan like pancakes. Blinis are served mainly as a canapé base at aperitif time with smoked salmon or herring, smetana and fish eggs.
Syrniki (сырники) or tvorozhniki (творо́жники) are tvarog (Творо́г) or cottage cheese (quark) donuts of Russian origin, very popular in Eastern Europe.
- 2 cups tvarog or cottage cheese
- ½ cup flour sifted
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch baking powder
- 3 tablespoons clarified butter or 3 tablespoons of neutral vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoons of flour for the work surface
- Potato masher
- If the cottage cheese is too wet, drain it for at least 2 hours in cheesecloth.
- Before removing it from the cheesecloth, squeeze it well to get rid of its water.
- Place the cottage cheese in a large bowl, and mash it vigorously using a potato masher to rid it of any lumps.
- Add the flour, baking powder, egg yolks, sugar and salt.
- Mix well.
- The dough should be very smooth and should not stick to the hands. If necessary, for example, if the cottage cheese is too oily or too wet, add a little sifted flour.
- Sprinkle the work surface with 3 tablespoons of flour.
- Give the dough the shape of a large sausage with a diameter of about 2 inches (5 cm).
- Cut slices about 1 cm (½ inch) thick.
- Add the two remaining tablespoons of flour on the work surface.
- Pass each slice thus obtained in the flour.
- Heat the butter or oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Fry the syrniki for 4 to 5 minutes per side.
- Serve with smetana, jam, and berries (example: blackcurrant, raspberries, blackberries, and/or cranberries).