by Margaret Mendel
Recipe at the end of this post.
“Who’s next?” is the eagerly awaited question from the cook standing at the stove with a hot crepe ready to be eaten.
Crepes are not that difficult to make and are a real crowd pleaser. For the first time crepe maker the rules are simple and once you get into a rhythm everything runs smoothly. Just remember that the pan needs to be at a consistently medium high temperature, the perfect dolloped of dough should be dropped into the pan, and these thin, delicious goodies will take only a couple of minutes to slide off the pan and into the waiting dish.
The crepe is eaten in dozens of unique variations all over the world. In Ethiopia a large, nearly table-sized crepe is served on a tray adorned with a variety of meat stews and cooked vegetables and eaten communally. Each diner tears off a piece of the crepe and then scoops up a bit of stew or vegetable and eats it with his or her hands. In Russia small pancakes, usually not more than two inches in diameter are adorned with sour cream and caviar and eaten with a strong swig of vodka. The most well know crepe is the Crepe Suzette, a delicate pancake drenched in a sugary orange sauce infused with liquor, usually Grand Marnier, and ignited; the crepes are brought to the table in flames. The alcohol in the liquor evaporates producing a slightly thick, caramelized sauce. With a dollop of ice cream you have a dessert fit for Royalty.
This versatile bit of food shares its history with the pancake as flat, unleavened breads dating back to prehistoric times. The circular pancake shape thought to be designed in reverence of the sun, which was worshipped by ancient civilization. The pancake evolved and making its way to Europe, took on a variety of names and traditions.
The crepe is believed to have originated in Brittany, an area located in the northwest region of France, around the 12th century where in medieval times feudal lords were presented with buckwheat crepes filled with meats and cheese by the peasantry as a demonstration of loyalty. White flour crepes come onto the scene in France around the turn of the 20th century when the processed wheat flour became more affordable for the average household. Today the crepe is served everywhere in France. It is a celebratory food served on the Tuesday before Lent and the French celebrate the crepe on February two as a National Holiday. The crepe was brought to the United States in the 1930s by a French chef who claimed to have invented the Crepe Suzette.
There is no limit to what can be put inside a crepe. But the ingredients that go into making a crepe batter are simple and usually on hand: flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt and sugar. The savory crepe, typically made with buckwheat flour (a gluten-free flour) is unsweetened and usually is filled with savory food. Though I have eaten buckwheat flour crepes with honey and berries and they were delicious. So don’t limit yourself to making crepes with only white wheat flour. There are crepe recipes that use no eggs, and recipes that use no milk. Then there are crepe recipes for the body builder that uses whey protein powder instead of flour and instead of a whole egg, the recipe calls for using only egg whites and includes cottage cheese, oats or peanut butter for flavoring.
I’ve made something called Mille Crepe, a stack of six to eight crepes layered with beef gravy and thinly slice meat. It’s easy to make, but the gravy must be warm so that it’s easily ladled over the crepes. Preheat the oven and a serving dish that is larger in circumference than the crepes. The first crepe is put onto the serving dish; a portion of the gravy and meat is ladled onto the crepe and the dish is returned to the oven. The next crepe will be placed on top of the other crepe, gravy is pored over and the dish is returned to the over. This is repeated until you know that you have only enough gravy to cover one more crepe. This large stack of crepes and gravy is sliced like a pie. If you have left over batter don’t worry. The good thing about crepe batter is that it can be stored in the refrigerator and if used within 24 hours, it will preforms perfectly for another meal.
The following crepe recipe is the one I use. The only suggestion I have is to make the batter at least two to six hours a head of time or if serving them for breakfast the batter could be made the night before. The flour, whether white or buckwheat, soaks up the liquid ingredients and makes for a smoother and more tender crepe. Everything else is patience and timing.
Here are a few other tips. Lightly grease the pan in the beginning and if the pan has recently been scrubbed clean with soap, make sure that there is a glassy surface on the pan before you get started with the crepes. Keep a paper towel doused with oil nearby to rub across the pan between each crepe. Test the pan with a drop of batter before making crepes to insure there is a friendly sizzling sound to tell you that the pan is ready. Pour batter close to the pan to keep the batter from splattering. Once the first side of the crepe has cooked and the crepe is turned over, the second side will take only half the time to cook as the first side.
½ teaspoon salt
1teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
Beat in separate dish:
Add to the beaten eggs:
½ teaspoon vanilla (*homemade vanilla recipe)
Make a well in the middle of the sifted dry ingredients and add the bowel of wet ingredients. Incorporate completely but do not over mix or the crepes will be tough. Set aside, if possible, for at least two hours. But if time does not allow, heat up the pan and start the cooking. I have found that a quarter cup measure is the perfect amount of batter for a full-sized crepe. If you are good with eye-balling-it then use an ice cream scoop about ¾ full or a large serving spoon that might hold about a quarter cup of batter.
Test the pan with a drop of the batter to insure that the pan is hot enough. I have found that moderate high heat, which cooks the crepes evenly, is that balance of heat just before the pan begins to smoke. If the pan smokes, turn the heat down just a slight bit. Once the batter is added to the hot pan tilt the pan every-which-way to get the batter cradling the edges of the pan. The middle may be the thickest, while the edges will be slightly crisp. The crepes will only take two to three minutes to cook on the first side if the pan is the right temperature, and then only another minute or two on the other side.
It may take a bit of practice if you’ve never turned a crepe before, but hang in there and after a few tries, those luscious crepes will come off the pan with a perfect rhythm.
My favorite topping for a crepe is a slight smear of butter, a dusting of powdered sugar and a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. There is no limit to the topping for a crepe: Nutella, chocolate syrup, berries, banana slices, nuts, powered sugar, brown sugar, cottage cheese and fruit. If you like it, most likely it would go nicely inside a crepe. Roll it up and just enjoy.
1 Vanilla bean
1 cup Kentucky Bourbon
Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the dark meaty pulp and be careful to save everything. Place all the scrapings and the shell of the vanilla bean into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour in the Kentucky Bourbon, secure the lid and let stand for up to 6 weeks. What you do with the rest of the Kentucky Bourbon is up to you. Happy cooking.
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