One of my favorite food memories from my trip to Paris a few months ago was going out late at night near the Eiffel Tower and queuing up with a bunch of other people to get freshly made crepes, then sitting in the park enjoying the lights of the tower while eating. The crepes were so good that the first night I had one, I ate it just after crossing the street away from the crepe stand, then turned back around and ordered another. They were that good. At home, I usually make crepes for breakfast and fill them with jam. The street crepes, while sweet options were available, were most popular in their savory incarnations. I liked the ham, cheese and egg crepes best.
I was glad that I had the opportunity to watch the crepes being made because the process was a little different than you might expect. I fully anticipated that the fillings would be added after the crepe was cooked. Instead, they were cooked right on the crepe itself – even the egg! A few practice runs and home with my own crepes, and I now I have a method that seems to come out almost as well as the crepes I had in France. The French crepes will always have the late-night Eiffel Tower advantage over mine, however.
To make these crepes, you need a large frying pan, preferably one that’s about 12-inches across. A crepe pan is not necessary unless you’re going into the crepe business. You could make smaller crepes, but you might have to compromise on how you fold it to get all the filling it. It’ll still taste good, however. I used deli sliced ham and havarti cheese for these. Turkey meat is good, too, if you’re not a fan of ham, even though the saltiness of the ham really goes well with the egg and cheese. Havarti and Swiss are my two favorite cheeses for these, but feel free to use your favorite sliced or shredded cheese. The amounts given below are just suggestions, as I tend to eyeball the amount of cheese I’m using. No matter how you tweak the filling, you’ll end up with a great-tasting crepe. The batter can me made in advance and will keep well in the fridge for about 2 days, as long as you give it a stir before using.
I don’t usually provide step-by-step photos for recipes, but in an effort to recapture even a hint of the experience of watching a pro make crepes, I’ve photographed all the steps to go along with this recipe.
This recipe is from Tante Marie, a famous French cook who, according to some “set new standards for French cuisine”. With a name like “Aunt Marie”, however, I find it rather difficult to believe that there actually was such a person. I could be wrong here, but it probably isn’t unlikely that the name was a creation of someone trying to sell a cookbook. Not that there’s anything wrong with that because the recipes that originated with Tante Marie’s French Kitchen(now out of print, I think) are some french classics.
Take this crepe recipe, for example. It is lighter than most, using a combination of water and milk in the batter. It comes together amazingly fast, is versatile and delicate in taste and texture. The crepes are also very easy to work with, which makes them ideal for rolling or folding around different fillings, both savory and sweet. This recipe was also chosen as the best pancake recipe by a group of chefs who include Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater and Heston Blumenthal (of the Fat Duck) . I’m still partial to the fluffy american style of pancakes, but these are excellent.
Let me stress that you do not need a crepe pan to make crepes. All you need is a good skillet, lightly greased. I think that a lot of people have never made crepes at home because they thing they need special equipment to do it, but this is definately not the case. Once the batter is in the pan, use the handle to lift it up and swirl the batter around to create a crepe of uniform thickness.
My absolute favorite way to eat crepes is with jam, for either breakfast or dessert. The ones in the photo above have raspberry and cloudberry jam in them, and are topped with a bit of confectioners sugar. Other sweet fillings that are good are butter, sugar and lemon juice or Nutella and banana slices. For savory fillings, I recommend leaving out the brandy or vanilla extract, which is a good substitution if you do not want to buy a whole bottle of brandy to use one teaspoon. Try filling the crepes with peppers, cheese and shredded chicken or a sauté of peppers, onions and mushrooms, with or without feta cheese, for a great main course.
(recipe from Tante Marie)
200 ml. milk (2/3 cup)
100 ml. water (1/3 cup)
100 g. all-purpose flour (3/4 cup plus 2 tsp)
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp brandy (optional)
Place flour in a large bowl, add milk and water gradually, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Beat in eggs, salt, vegetable oil and brandy (or vanilla extract), if using. Make sure batter is very smooth, then set aside to rest for at least 20-30 minutes.
Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease and pour a measure of batter onto the skillet (I used a scant soup ladel full, about 1/4 cup). Pick up the skillet and swirl the batter around until it even coats the entire bottom of the pan.
Cook until the edges come away from the pan and the top of the crepe looks almost dry, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for about a minute.
Fill with jam (or other desired filling) and serve immediately.
Makes about ten 10-inch crepes (can be doubled or tripled)
I have been meaning to experiment with alternative flours for some time. Anything from rye to buckwheat to rice to mesquite. Did you know that your can actually make some rather strange types of “flour”? To make pumpkin flour, for example, all you have to do is dry/dehydrate pumpkin and then puree it into dust. Now, I couldn’t find a single recipe that told me exactly how to dry out my pumpkin, so I supposed I’ll have to hold off on that. Using flours other than wheat can dramatically change the taste and texture of your baked goods. For example, adding a tablespoon of instant mashed potato – aka potato flour – to your bread will make it a bit moister than usual.
Never one to go only halfway (well, maybe sometimes), I went out and purchased a bag of white rice flour and plunged headlong into an attempt at gluten-free baking. Not because Shauna guilted me into it. No sir.
Did you know that 1 in 133 Americans are gluten intolerant? I tried some of the recipes on the back of the bag of flour, too, and discovered that a major concern of the manufacturer is sugar content. Let me tell you that a nearly unsweetened muffin, no matter what kind of flour is used to make it, is not a muffin that I want to eat. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, since I filled up on crepes before I started baking.
Tender, tasty and a bit thicker than your typical crepe, I liked these a lot. You can see from the photo that I made them in a nonstick pan; if I had greased the pan with butter, they would have browned a bit more. They held up well to jam (my favorite on crepes), but you could easily smear them with nutella or wrap them around sausages and dip in maple syrup. And they’re gluten free, so you can share the recipe with your Celiac friends.