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Why I make these sirniki, or Russian cheese pancakes, for Shavuot [VIDEO]

If you read and discuss enough biblical commentary and ask why ancient figures didn’t do things along what we today think of as “Jewish” lines, you often get the response of ‘Well, they didn’t have the Torah yet. They didn’t know.’ It’s always been a point of comfort for me as someone who was raised in a secular household by Soviet-Jewish refugees. A great deal of Jewish practice first requires being initiated.

A plate of sirniki, or Russian cheese pancakes, for Shavuot

A plate of sirniki, or Russian cheese pancakes, for Shavuot Image by (Alex Zeldin)

Shavuot is the holiday where we as a people celebrate being initiated. A custom that has arisen with Shavuot is the eating of dairy-based foods. On a personal level, Shavuot is a holiday with a dual meaning. One for us as a people, and one for me returning to the fold. The best way my subversive brain knows to do that is to celebrate the holiday with my favorite dairy foods from the former Soviet Union. Consider it sweet revenge.

Among my favorite dishes is Sirniki, or Russian cheese pancakes. Sweet and crispy, contrasted with the sour tang of sour cream, Sirniki were always a Sunday morning treat when I was a kid. What better association to blend back into Jewish tradition than one of my favorite childhood dishes?

I hope as you celebrate Shavuot with your loved ones that this dish may bring you some sweetness too.


1 lb cottage cheese or farmers cheese
2 eggs
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 Tbs baking soda
3-4 Tbs of sugar (I use 3)
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Neutral oil with a high smoke point for cooking (I prefer sunflower oil)


Mix all ingredients until there is an even consistency throughout. Set skillet to medium heat. Add in neutral oil with a high smoke point. Pour mix into pan, 3-4 inches in circumference. Heat for 2-3 minutes, until bubbles begin showing in the center Wear protective gear, flip sirnik and let sit for 2-3 more minutes. Plate up, serve with sour cream or jam and fresh fruit.


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