Crepes: A Day Off Activity

| November 26, 2006 | 9 Comments
  • 9 Comments

In lieu of the holidays, or holidaze, depending on how you see it, I have a recipe for you, which is simple but takes a lot of time. I wonder, when someone created this food group, did they make one at a time or build a fire for the specific purpose of standing there for hours to create enough crepes for the whole village?

Like many of my dessert making experiences, the first time I learned how to make crepes I made about 500. I stood at Lulu’s 6 burner stovetop, laid out six different pans, plopped a pastry crush into a bowl of melted butter, had a two ounce ladle submerged in about a gallon of opaque liquid, and began.

Learning how to make crepes is a great beginning lesson in baking. One learns very quickly the role each ingredient plays in the end result, there being so few ingredients.

The milk is the conveyor. Without it your crepes would not be thin.

The flour is the binder. It gives the crepe toothsome ness. Too much and your crepe is heavy, too little and it’s too delicate. How nimble you are clasping the crisp edge of the crepe, in order to flip it over, will most likely determine how much or little flour you want present.

The eggs are a two part affair.

The white is the strength, literally the protein. It is also the binder. The white gives the crepe bounce. So it looks happy and well conditioned, even on a humid day.

The yolk is the fat sack. It adds richness that emulsifies seamlessly with the protein of the egg white and milk. It adds flavor and toothsome ness at the same time.

The sugar softens the pancake a bit, and of course adds sweet flavor. It also attracts color; the way fat does, helping to create a lacy pattern we associate with crepes’ pretty lacy pattern.

Salt enhances, backs up the yummy fat flavors from the butter and egg yolk, and balances. Without it your beautiful crepe will fall flat in someone’s mouth like the wafers one swallows in Catholic churches.

And the butter, ahh lovely butter, adds smoothness, rich deliciousness, and a fat to help keep the crepe lift up from the pan when it’s done. Very Important. Unlike the yolk, the liquid butterfat in the butter does not emulsify completely into the batter. This is so that it can keep the crepe from sticking. There’s only so much butter the batter can take. Extra yolks, on the other hand, are what you would add if you wanted a heartier, richer crepe.

Crepes are fabulous for breakfast. But only if you really love the people you’re making them for, or you love watching the sunrise. I had a crepe party once. With three pans going I spent five hours in the kitchen, watched my friends interact with each other, and ten minutes after sitting down to let everyone begin eating, the crepe plate was empty.

But crepes are also a great vehicle for fillings. Feeling productive? Make a lovely sweet or savory filling, plop it in the middle of your finished crepe, bring up the ends and tie your “purse” with a strand of chive or ribbon, and there you have a precious little food for a party or your own amusement.

Want something more complicated to keep you occupied on a rainy Sunday? Make ganache, when it has thickened, dollop onto crepe in straight line, but leave a little bit of a border, as if you were making ravioli. Roll crepe around ganache, leaving it to lie on its seam. Freeze absolutely solid. Deftly cut into “coins” with a sharp, non-serrated knife. When ready for dessert, scoop little balls of ice cream on top of coins. Voila! Something impressive for the person who’s eaten everything.

After all the work a crepe takes, I prefer to eat them, as is, with simple toppings. In cooler weather I’ll substitute a portion of the all purpose flour with chestnut or buckwheat flour. Inside these warm flavored crepes I’ll spoon on brown sugar sauteed bananas, buttered pears or apples tossed in caramel. In summer I love simply cut strawberries tossed in sugar and whipped cream. And for you salty folks, there are always mushrooms, cheese, eggs, ratatouille and anything meaty.

Whatever your preference: diffident or toilsome, this crepe recipe should surely be kept in the recipe standards file.

CREPE BATTER

1 1/4 CUPS WHOLE MILK
3 EACH LARGE EGGS, room temperature
3/4 CUP ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
3 ounces MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER,
+ more for the making of the crepes
1/2 teaspoon KOSHER SALT
3 TABLESPOONS SUGAR
1 TABLESPOON VANILLA EXTRACT

1. Combine all ingredients except flour and melted butter in a blender.
2. Sift flour.
3. Turn blender on low speed. Uncap lid and, while blender is going, add flour a little at a time.
4. When all flour is added, add butter and turn blender up in speed for 1-3 minutes.
Pour into measuring cup, or pouring vessel. Do not wash blender just yet…

You may use a nonstick pan for crepes, but you may also use any pan. Because my cast iron skillet is in great shape, I can use this. I also like my big, flat saute pan.
Heat pan slightly. “Paint” a small amount of melted butter in pan with paper towel or pastry brush.
Ladle or pour in a small amount of batter to your pan that you are holding up at one end and swirling the batter around in as soon as you have stopped pouring. Swirl until the batter has stopped moving.
When the edges have begun to brown, pull, with both sets of nimble fingers, an edge towards you.
Flip!
The first crepe is the test, so no need to make it perfectly round or completely even.
Taste this crepe.
Do you want it to be sweeter? Add more sugar. More toothsome? Add a touch of flour or another egg yolk. Thinner? A splash more milk or melted butter may do the trick.
Create the crepe you want to eat.
If your pan is not well seasoned, you should be brushing a little butter in before each crepe. The more or less butter you put in will define how crisp and lacy your end result will be.

If your fingertips are sensitive, buy a “baby offset spatula.” When working, I keep one in my back pocket at all times. Use the spatula to gently bring the crispy edge of the half done crepe towards you. You’ll still need to flip the crepe by hand, but this wonderful little tool means you don’t have to put your fingers in the pan itself!

Enjoy! And if you make them, please stop back and say so in the comments section! {Please?}

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink

About the Author ()

Shuna fish Lydon was whisked and baked in San Francisco but served and eaten in New York City. She's had a 16 year tumultuous love affair with professional cooking and has BFA in photography from CCAC. Working with and for some of the best chefs in NYC and California, Shuna's resume reads like the who's who of cooking today. She identifies as a fruit-inspired pastry chef and calls the many local farmers' markets her muse. Currently "at large," Shuna spends her time teaching baking and knife skills classes, consulting at local restaurants and writing for a number of outlets about deliciousness.
  • Tony

    I make crepes for my 5 year old daughter whenever she asks for them, even on school days. I love your quote about making it for those you love. Whenever I make them, I am brought back to Paris and I’m thankful that I get a chance to make these wonderful simple treats.

  • Dave

    Strawberry and banana crepes, hand fed to My LOve…. I must do that again soon. THanks for the reminder, Shuna.

  • Scott at Real Epicurean

    Crepes are great. Mine usually turn out like haphazard pancakes, English style (i.e. sloppy).

    Oh, I’m from England : )

  • Anonymous

    i just made crepes yesterday! we are of one mind. no not really, but don’t i wish! thank you shuna for the recipe and especially for the engaging, enlightening explanation. i will remember your lessons the next time i try my hand at crepes.

    i also think you should know that your sage-caressed perfect pumpkin pie was a perfect addition to the thanksgiving table this year.

  • Passionate Eater

    I love crepes, but your mouthwatering description and step-by-step recipe made me utterly and speechlessly enamored with them.

    My heart just stopped.

    Your post doesn’t even need pictures, the words already depicts every nook and cranny of “crepes” perfectly.

  • Amy

    My favorite way to eat crepes is with a small pat of butter melted over, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a dusting of raw vanilla sugar.

    I first learned to make them from a Hungarian woman when I lived in Paris. (How’s that for cultural fusion?) I usually blend the crepes less, but let the batter rest for an hour or so, which I suspect has a similar effect of allowing the proteins to chain up. I imagine that yours are more lacy from the additional air. I will have to try it your way the next time!

  • kneeko

    hmmm crepes…. i’m craving for mango crepes… whewww

  • Anonymous

    Woohoo! After reading this insightful piece about crepes and following your recipe this afternoon, I feel I have mastered the once-daunting task of creating crepes. Finally, crepes have been demystified. Not only was I successful, but it was terrific fun!

    I don’t know how I stumbled onto this site, but I’m amazed to see a chef so generously offer her time, advice, recipes and moreover herself, to others in a blog. Cooking is an act of loving, in a way, as it involves the ingredient of sharing more than any other, and so it is really beautiful to find a chef who shares what she has experienced to others without any pretense. Thanks so much!

  • Kimmy

    I love crepes, probably too much. In fact in college I used to go to this crepe cafe called The Creperie, basically every day. I think I spent more money on crepes than on school! Has anyone tried this new “Crepini” yet? I was going to try them and wanted to know if anyone has heard of them yet. Pretty sure the place is called the CrepiniCafe.