Love Stack

Tangy, tender Russian pancakes called syrniki find their first American fan

Russian Cheese Pancakes (Syrniki)
Russian Cheese Pancakes (Syrniki)
Home cook Yelena Bachko gave us the recipe for these tangy, tender pancakes, made with tvorog (a type of quark).Todd Coleman

Soon after my family and I left Russia and moved to Brooklyn in 1990, my language arts teacher asked our sixth-grade class to practice writing instructions. When I went to my mom for advice, she suggested a recipe for syrniki, literally "little cheeses." These tangy, tender pancakes made with tvorog (a type of quark), sugar, eggs, and flour were a staple of my childhood in St. Petersburg, where Mom would make them in our cozy kitchen on frigid winter mornings. I was excited to write my own recipe—even more so when Mom suggested we make some pancakes for the class. The day the assignment was due, I proudly marched in with my syrniki on a dish, where they sat untouched—too strange, I suppose, when compared with American flapjacks. Finally, a few minutes before the bell rang, a girl named Amy walked over to them and popped one into her mouth. As she chewed, her face broke into a smile. My syrniki had earned their first American fan, and I had made my first American friend.