Breakfast at its Finest: Crêpes
“…sprinkled with sugar and eaten hot, (crêpes) form an exquisite dish. They have a golden hue and are tempting to eat. Thin and transparent like muslin, their edges are trimmed to resemble fine lace. They are so light that after a good dinner, a man … is still willing to sample three or four dozen of them! Crêpes form an integral part of every family celebration. Served with white wine, they take pride of place on all joyful occasions.”
Anatole France (16 April 1844 – 12 October 1924), French poet, journalist, and novelist.
Ahh. The time-honored crêpe.
Light, airy, and ridiculously hard to fix at home. What? Not true?
Well, crêpes are light and airy. But that part about crêpes being hard to prepare at home? Yeah, that’s not so true. With the right tools and practice, you will soon be able to impress friends and family with your homemade crêpes!
Don’t be afraid to try
While crêpes may be a little more delicate than a traditional fluffy pancake, cooking them in your home is perfectly doable. Because they are so thin, it is important to have the right tools. A nonstick frying pan will work fine, but specially made crêpe pans are also available. Where a frying pan’s sides slant upward, crêpe pans are perfectly flat.
Tilt the pan in your hand until the batter is spread thinly over its entire bottom. Once the crêpe batter no longer looks wet and the edges begin to curl, flip it with a nonmetal spatula and finish the other side. Crêpes cook very quickly, but are simple enough to make. Once they have been cooked, they are ready to either be stacked into a mille crêpe (see below) or to be filled and folded.
In addition, crêpes keep well in the refrigerator or freezer, so make plenty of extras. You can use these later for quick and easy meals or to make last-minute party appetizers.
Question: Crêpes are from France, right?
Answer: Oui! Crêpes originated in Brittany, France. Though they are often described as paper-thin pancakes, the crêpe has a much wider use than does the pancake. In fact, they are often served for any meal of the day. In France, la crêperies are as common as fast food joints in the United States and can be as simple as a food stall on the street or a full cafe.
Question: Does everyone in France eat them?
Answer: Well, I don’t know about everyone, but crêpes are so popular in France that February 2 is known as Crêpe Day! Crêpe Day was originally a celebration of the Christian holiday Candlemas, but over time it evolved into a non-religious prosperity tradition. On February 2, it is rumored that if you can successfully flip your crêpe in the pan single-handedly, while holding a coin in your other hand, you will have good luck all year.
Question: Is a crêpe a crêpe a crêpe?
Answer: Typically, crêpes fall into two categories: Sweet or savory. Sweet crêpes (crêpes sucrees) are usually eaten as sumptuous desserts. They are filled with fresh fruit, syrups, ice cream or sorbet and are usually made with wheat flour. Savory galettes (crêpes salees) make great appetizers, side dishes, or even main courses when filled with meats, cheeses, or vegetables, and are traditionally made with buckwheat flour.
But that’s only a partial answer
- Mille crêpe: The mille crêpe is a special French cake that is made up of 20 layers of crêpes, despite the fact that its name translates to “a thousand crêpes.” It is often layered with maple-scotch pastry cream and topped with caramelized sugar. Serve this delectable dessert to your guests and they will feel like they are eating a creation from an upscale luxury bakery.
- Crêpes Suzette: Perhaps the best known crêpe, the Crêpes Suzette is the classic tale of a potential cooking disaster that turned out to be the cook’s greatest success. French Chef Henri Charpentier claims that at age 14 he was an assistant waiter and was preparing crêpes for the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VII of England. While cooking them, Charpentier accidently let the cordials catch on fire—but it was a fortunate accident because the prince relished the dish and praised it greatly. The dish was originally named in honor of the prince, but Edward insisted they be named “Suzette” after a woman who was among his group. Thus one of the most famous crêpe dishes was created.
- Crêpes dentelle: These crêpes are thin, biscuit-like wafers the French often serve during afternoon tea. Dentelle translates into “lace” in English, and these wafers truly are as airy and delicate as their name implies. In addition to accompanying hot drinks such as tea, coffee, or cider, crêpes dentelle make great dessert garnishes. Serve them alongside creamy desserts such as ice creams and puddings or crumble them into cake batter to add a little crunch to your dessert. When preparing crêpe dentelle, it is important to keep in mind that speed is key. They need to be rolled immediately after being taken off the stove so that they retain their shape once cooled.
Question: Do you have a recipe for crêpes?
Answer: Oui! To get you started with your experiments in the world of crêpes, here is a basic recipe:
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- butter to grease pan
Whisk flour and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Gradually stir in milk, water, and butter until the batter is smooth. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into a buttered nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the batter spreads evenly.
Cook for about two minutes or until the edges begin to curl.
Flip the crêpe with a spatula and let it cook for another 30 seconds. Serve hot with a topping of your choice.
Variations: For a more savory crêpe, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of fresh herbs to the egg batter. Sweeter crêpes can be made by adding 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and two tablespoons of a liqueur, such as orange, to the batter.
Hungry for breakfast? Check out our other blogs on the subject here at CHEFS Mix:
Your turn: Have you ever made crêpes? Have you ever eaten a crepe?