Thursday, February 28, 2008

Crêpes au sucre (Sugar pancakes)

Crêpes are very thin cooked pancakes that can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. The common ingredients include flour, milk, eggs, butter and a pinch of salt.

According to Jacques Pepin, “in France the crêpe used to be called pannequet, from which the word pancake is probably derived. A very thin pannequet resembles the wrinkled, fragile looking fabric which we know as crêpe.”

I remember a crêpe-like dish my mom would make that we called “egg cakes”. My sister and I would gobble each one up as fast as she made it, spread it with butter, roll it up, and dip it in pure maple syrup. Yum. One lunch time when we were in high school, we raced home to make them. Using our mom’s square electric frying pan (that did not have a non-stick coating by the way), we quickly started frying up our egg cakes. And quickly, they started sticking and burning and smoking up the house. I think we managed to get a few good egg cakes made even so. Little did I know we were making (or attempting to make) crêpes!

Wrapped around your favorite filling, such as chicken, asparagus and mushrooms or curried seafood, crêpes can be served as an appetizer, a main course, or even brunch. Often, buckwheat flour is used in savory crêpes giving them an earthy, mild mushroom-y taste. And, it’s gluten-free; however, it’s often mixed with wheat flours to mellow out the buckwheat taste.

Sweetened with sugar and vanilla, they can be filled with jam, melted chocolate, ice cream, fruit, or even Nutella (a hazelnut spread). Drizzled with maple syrup or lemon juice, sprinkled with icing sugar, topped with whipped cream or all of the above, crêpes are a simple but delicious dessert. Often, wheat flour, such as all-purpose flour, is used in sweet crêpes.

Crêpes come from Brittany (as does Pâté Pantin), a region in the northwest of France. It occupies a large peninsula in the northwest of the country, lying between the English Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south.

map from Wikipedia

The thickness of the batter can be adjusted by adding more or less milk, water, or a mixture of milk and water. Plus, it’s easier to get rid of lumps in thicker batter so adding the liquid in two stages makes it easier to get a smooth batter.

According to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you should make the crêpe batter about 2 hours before using it to allow the flour particles to expand in the liquid and the batter to thicken, insuring a tender, light, thin crêpe. Le Cordon Bleu at Home suggests resting it for 30 minutes, and Jacques Pepin says you don’t have to rest it at all!

Although there are special crêpe pans, you don’t need one to make crêpes. You just need a non-stick pan.

Crêpes can be rolled, folded into triangles, rolled into a thin cigarette, folded into a rectangle, or stacked to make a cake.

Did you know that there is a Crêpe Day on February 2nd? And I thought February 2nd was only for groundhog celebrations! It was originally a Catholic holiday called La Chandeleur. According to this link, you must have a candle lit and then hold a gold coin in your left hand while you flip the crêpe over the skillet with your right hand. If you can catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will enjoy prosperity for the rest of the year. I did practice flipping each crêpe, but next time I’ll have to light a candle and find a gold coin instead of buying more lottery tickets.

Recipe for crêpes from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

¾ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Break the eggs into the well and add one-third of the milk. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until very smooth. Then whisk in the vanilla, butter, and the remaining milk. Let the batter rest 30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a non-stick pan over moderate heat until hot. Rub some butter over the pan. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the pan and tilt the pan so that the batter runs around to make a circle. Don’t put too much batter in or the crêpe will be too thick. Let the batter set. After about 1 minute, check the color of the bottom of the crêpe to see if it’s a light golden color. Flip the crêpe. Cook for about 20-30 seconds. It takes a few crêpes to get the heat of the pan right and the amount of batter you need for each crêpe, so your first crêpe or two are for the chef, not your guests!

You can make the crêpes in advance and sandwich them with wax paper and cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Reheat as needed. You can also freeze them for later use.

Here are a couple of helpful videos that show how to cook a crêpe:


Tasting Notes:

Crêpes in any form are delicious. I love them on their own, wrapped around ice cream, or served as an entrée with a creamy chicken inside. The batter for this sweet crêpe was perfect. I think it would be fun to experiment by adding poppy seeds, different flavorings such as anise or earl grey, or different liqueurs in place of the vanilla. Definitely a keeper.

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Running total: $179.50 + $1.16 = $180.66

Butter used so far: 4 pounds, 1.5 tablespoons


amycaseycooks said...

I love crepes and so do my kids. They are easy to make and fun to eat. Great post. So informative. Good luck at culinary school.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated the practical tips. Like leaving the dough for 2 hours. Very helpful! Thank you.
Keep them coming!

Katie said...

Crepes with Nutella are my absolute favorite. Thanks for sharing hopefully more people will try to make crepes.

Shari said...

eat - Thanks for the compliments and good wishes.

Katie - I'll have to go out and buy a jar of Nutella and try it before all the crepes I made are gone! Thanks for reading.

CupcakeGal said...

I have fallen into this website thanks to Tastespotting and I can't wait to try the recipe for my boyfriend. I grew up on crepes and nutella and I was desperately looking for a good recipe to try. Thank you for your post!
PS: how many crepes can you make with the recipe?

Shari said...

cupcakegal - I'm glad you found my blog! The recipe for crêpes says it serves 6. I made nine 7-inch crêpes and had to throw out the first one, so it made 8. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

These crepes were awesome - I had them drenched in chocolate sauce and wrapping a small brick of ice cream. Very tasty!