Crêpes, one of the quintessential and classic French dishes. I have no doubt that if you asked 100 people on the street to list a French dish, crêpes would be in the top 5. And, after my 3 months in France, I can see why.
I do have a confession however. Until 2011 (and nearly 26 years old), I had never had a crêpe, let alone a crêpe in France. And, the worst part – I had been to France twice before living here for 3 months, and still, I never had one. One of my girlfriends in Toronto told me to have a crêpe for her when we said goodbye, and I realized then and there that I would have to do it (again, such a hard life, eh?!)
My town here in France has many crêperies. These are quaint little restaurants, tucked into small spaces on side streets, that feature crêpe as their main menu items. They sometimes have salads on the menu too, but for the most part, they have just crêpes. They do however, feature two types of crêpes – traditional and galettes. What is the difference you ask? Traditional crêpes are made using a basic flour and egg mixture (like my recipe below!) and are generally topped with sweet filings/toppings. Galettes are made with buckwheat flour and are generally topped/filled with savoury fillings. I generally don’t like sweet things, but here in France, I realized that I like crêpes, but they have to be done right (i.e. not too sweet). Galettes aren’t for me, I am not a fan of the buckwheat flour/texture.
CH and I argue about what the perfect crêpe is. He likes his slightly thicker with a mountain of Nutella on-top. I like my crêpes paper thin, slightly crispy edges, sprinkled lightly with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Plain and simple. However, as the recipe below illustrates, crêpes are so versatile, so you can easily please everyone in your household, with just one batch. They would even be fun to do for a dinner party dessert and have a toppings bar.
One thing I should also clarify, is that the French do not eat crêpes or galettes for breakfast. They are generally eaten at lunch time, as a snack or for dessert. However, as CH and I found out, the make for the perfect Sunday brunch item – just be prepared to spend a little more time in the kitchen as they take a while to cook individually. CH and I embraced this and spent literally 3 hours making crêpes a few Sundays ago. I was in charge of cooking them, I’d pass them to CH who would top them, and then we would immediately devour it, while the next one cooked. It was a really fun morning in the kitchen, and quite tasty too!
Do you need a special frying pan to make crêpes? I’m not sure. I went out and bought a 6 euro crêpe pan from a local kitchen store and it worked beautifully. When I am back in Canada, I will test out a normal non-stick pan and report back. I hope for those who don’t have a crepe pan, and those who don’t want to buy one, that you can make them without one.
To conclude, crêpes have the reputation of being hard to make, however I can attest that they are NOT. All you need is a good basic recipe (below!) and plenty of time and patience (and imitating Julia Child’s accent while preparing them also adds to the ambiance!). Also, don’t forget to plan ahead a little, the batter needs to rest for a minimum of 1 hour.
Enjoy & Bon Appetite!
Classic French Crêpes with Lemon & Sugar
Yield: 15 crepes
Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ 1 – 2 hours to rest)
Cook Time: 2 – 3 minutes per crepe
Ingredients – Basic Crêpe:
- 1.5 cups of all purpose flour (185 g)
- 3 eggs, slightly whisked
- 1 cup of milk (250 ml)
- 1 TBSP sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 TBSP melted butter
- warm water, to thin out batter
- vegetable oil for brushing the pan (unless it is a non-stick pan)
Ingredients – Topping:
- 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced (separate the zest and the juice)
- sugar for sprinkling, icing or regular
Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center with your fingers. Place the eggs, milk, sugar and salt into the well. Using a whisk, gradually draw the flour into the center, trying to prevent any lumps from forming.
Continue to gradually draw in the flour, until the mixture is well incorporate and smooth.
Add the melted butter to the batter, and whisk well to combine and smooth-out the batter. At this point, there should be no lumps and it should be a slightly thick batter (think pancake batter – you will thin it out below).
Cover the mixture with saran wrap and set-aside on your counter for 1 – 2 hours, to allow the mixture to rest.
Meanwhile, zest & juice your lemons and set-aside.
When the batter is ready, prepare your station by placing your bowl of batter, your spatula, icing wand, oil & pastry brush, and clean plate beside your stove. You want everything handy.
Thin out your crêpe batter by adding warm water, bit by bit. You want your batter to be the consistency of a light cream, so it should just coat the back of a spoon, but no thicker.
Begin by heating your pan over medium-high heat (around setting 8). Grease the pan with vegetable oil, if using.
Using a measuring cup, pour about 1/3 cup of batter into your hot pan and immediately tip the pan around in all directions to cover the bottom of the pan. If you have too much batter, pour it off – you want the crêpes to be paper-thin. Using your spatula/icing wand, gently skim the surface of the crêpe to even out the batter.
(Do not worry if you ruin your first crêpe or if it doesn’t work, apparently it is the myth that the first one never works out, no mater what you do!)
When the outside edges are brown (~ 2 minutes), flip the crêpe GENTLY and cook on the other side for 1 – 2 minutes.
Remove the crêpe from the pan and immediately top with a sprinkle of sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice (if you want the extra tang). Fold the crêpe as the picture above shows, or roll it. Serve and devour immediately.
Repeat with remaining batter. Don’t forget to grease the pan between each crêpe.
* If you are making these for a group, you can keep them warm under foil while you prepare the others *
Recipe From Laura Calder – French Food & Home