Crêpes

This is version 2 for me. After 25+ years of making crêpes with my first recipe, I finally decided to adjust it after my daughter went to the web and couldn’t find it. So she found another one and used it instead. Her crêpes were buttery and more delicious I thought than mine. So, I adjusted my recipe to use butter and more eggs.

Savory crêpes

For a savory crêpe, common at crêperies throughout France and Québec, omit ½ the sugar and substitute vegetable oil for part or all of the butter (unless your savory dish would benefit from the butter) in the recipe below. Also, substitute buckwheat flour for ½ of the flour in this recipe for authentic Breton-style Saracen (sarrasin) crêpes. Stuff with chicken or broccoli and pour a Béchamel sauce over it, or do a breakfast with eggs, bacon and cheese. Etc. There is no limit.

Now, if these pages were widely perused by French and hosted commentaries, very rude remarks concerning this Breton crêpe would be inscribed. First, some are indignant that crêpe is misapplied to the Breton galette. Second, some swear up and down that water and not milk must be used. Last, many think it’s a great act of impiety to add wheat flour.

Ultimately, you’ll find recipes for Breton crêpes that match mine. Still others call them by this name, they are sold under this name at crêperies all over France and Québec, many swear by using milk (it’s Brittany after all: with Normandie the two make Wisconsin little more than a footnote in the annals of dairy history), and many think that they taste better when a portion of wheat flour is added.

Crêpe secrets

Great crêpes are paper-thin and evenly round.

There are two great secrets to crêpe making. First and foremost is the brute skill that comes with practice. I give a method here and illustrate it. If you’re good, you can cook decent crêpes on any surface, but the second trick will secure you a legend as a crêpe maker.

The second secret is the pan. Find a steel (not stainless) crêpe pan from a kitchen supply place and season it well by heating it evenly after coating it with vegetable oil—just as you would for cast iron cookware. Rinse it, wipe it down and repeat. Never scour it unless you make a mistake and burn it, then start over again seasoning it. My pans are absolutely black after years of crêpe making. They work perfectly.

If you really get into crêpes, don’t use Teflon-coated or other non-stick surface pans. These produce a shiny crêpe that doesn’t brown very well. They also tend to be less robust and require more protective care in storage than steel ones.

Yield

This recipe yields about 30 9-inch diameter crêpes.

Ingredients

4 eggs
a few drops vanilla extract
2½ cups milk
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup white granulated sugar
3 tbsp melted butter

Preparation

1. Use a standard blender and its 2-quart mixing container to beat the eggs—just a few pulses. Add a few drops of vanilla and the milk. Pulse a few times.

2. Add the flour and pulse until well incorporated. Then add the remaining ingredients in order pulsing all the while. Ensure no flour or other dry ingredient encrust itself on the side of the container.

If you find the effect of bubbles in your batter unacceptable, set this mixture aside in the refrigerator for an hour or even overnight. You will see the effect of bubbles in my pictures here. This is because I don’t mind them.

You are ready to cook, however, ensure that the batter hasn’t thickened too much while at rest as flour tends to absorb the milk over time. The batter should be very liquid as compared to pancake batter. Batter you let stand in the refrigerator overnight will inevitably need to be thinned.

Use a folded paper towel to apply and maintain vegetable oil on the cooking surface. There should never be so much oil as to “sautée” the crèpe.


Execution

Pour a bit of batter into a moderately hot crêpière, or flat, round, hand-held griddle as discussed earlier. The batter should cover an area of the pan as shown in the illustration.

The pan is hot enough if you can hear the batter pop slightly against the pan. Of course, if it starts spattering into the air, the pan is too hot.

 

Roll the batter around until the entire (flat only) surface of the pan is covered or the batter stops flowing. Shake the pan back and forth very hard to spread out over the remaining uncovered areas.

Watch that the batter is not too thick and, if so, thin it out with milk.

 

If the batter didn’t just barely cover the pan, insufficient batter was poured and you can quickly pour a little more.

If the pan is covered but there is batter to spare, you have poured too much so keep rolling until the batter stops flowing and becomes even, though undesirably thick. Or, you can pour it off the pan, cut and discard the sprue afterwards.

 

As soon as the edges have dried and turned a bit brown, flip the crêpe by carefully inserting a very thin spatula under it, working a few inches of the crèpe away from the pan before reaching all the way under and flipping it over. If the pan has low sides (as does any crêpière), a nylon version of the knife used to ice cakes works well for this (large, offset nylon spatula).

The second side will not brown much but it should be dry and present a few brown spots before it is removed. Caution: do not cook the crêpe until crispy deeper than the edges! It should more or less lay over the spatula or knife without cracking or breaking too much. As the crèpes sit in a pile, the edges will soften.

 

Pile the crêpes on the back of an inverted plate, moistening each one lightly with butter. I set a stick of partially unwrapped butter on its end on each one as I cook (and since I run two pans simultaneously, the butter is there just the right amount of time).

(no photo)