Syrniki are sweet little cheese pancakes that are found across Eastern European cultures, including among Ashkenazi Jews, which is my heritage. My mom used to make these for my brother and me, especially with us helping. Though they seem to have been rotated out as we got older, I am lucky enough to have a copy of my elementary school cookbook, put together by the school PTA and published in 1992. Each parent, as well as many of the staff, submitted at least one recipe and looking through the book always feels a bit nostalgic. On page 94, surrounded by several recipes for mac and cheese, noodle kugel, and egg dishes, is my mom’s recipe for syrniki.
- 2 lbs. farmer cheese (see notes)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1-1 1/2 c. flour
- 1-2 Tbsp. high heat oil
Mash cheese with a fork. Add egg and mix. Stir in sugar and salt. Add flour, a little at a time, while kneading dough. Continue adding flour and kneading until dough can be shaped into balls. Cover hands with flour and make bolls the size of small apples. Flatten into pancakes 1 inch thick.
Add 1 Tbsp. oil to a nonstick pan and heat over medium until the oil easily coats the bottom of the pan. Cook pancakes for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden. Add additional oil to pan as needed.
Serve with homemade applesauce.
In Slavic countries, quark is used to make syrniki now, though the name of the dish comes from syr, which used to mean a soft, white cheese. Though syr now refers to a harder yellow cheese in Russian, it retained the old meaning in Ukranian. Farmer cheese, which I used in this recipe, is a simple fresh cheese made by pressing excess liquid from cottage cheese and very similar to syr or quark. You can make your own farmer cheese at home by placing cottage cheese in cheesecloth and letting it sit in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl for several hours or overnight. It is also very similar to queso blanco.