Crepes. Yeah, yeah, you say, here we go with the French food. The only thing good about crepes is the filling, right? Otherwise they’re sort of thin, bland pancakes. Without the nutella, banana, jams, chocolates, and fruit fillings, what good are they?
In some ways, I agree. They are somewhat of a blank canvass. They do need other rich flavors. But, think of crepes the way the Chinese view noodles. Ying and yang. Balance and harmony. A great noodle is nothing without a great sauce. A great sauce will not hide a bad noodle. They need each other, and they need each other to be great. So, a great jam alone has no purpose. It needs a host, if you will. A blank canvass. A piece of toast? Sure, but how about a perfectly made crepe. Get the idea. It’s synergy, it’s a relationship. They need each other to exist. The better they are alone, the greater the final product. The crepe and the filling work off each other, both have to be great to work.
So, what’s the secret? Couple of things… First, the batter itself should, ideally, sit over night. This gives the flour time to relax and absorb the liquid fully, letting the gluten strands relax, yielding a delicate product. Second, the pan has a lot to do with the finished product. They sell crepe pans, but unless you’re going to do this a lot, it’s not necessary. You do need a very clean, well greased non-stick pan, preferably 10 in (like an omelet pan). Third, you usually need to adjust the heat a few times until you get it locked it. This usually means sacrificing your first or second crepe. Once you have the pan at the optimal temperature, you won’t have any more problems. And last is the amount of butter used while cooking. One of the best tricks for this is to dip a small cloth in melted butter and work it in the bottom of the pan. You need the fat, but only a minimal amount.
Please keep in mind before doing this: crepes can be sweet or savory, can be made a day or two in advance (though not recommended) and, unlike their American counterpart, the pancake, they are not necessarily a breakfast item.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Inactive cook time: 1 – 12 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: about 1 dozen crepes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup fat free (skim milk)
1 large organic egg
1 tbsp melted organic unsalted butter (have more butter reserved for cooking)
1 tbsp sugar
Sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Whisk in the milk, egg and butter. Whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 hr to 12 hours (longer is better).
Heat a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium flame. Dip a soft cloth into melted butter and rub into the pan. Ladle a couple ounces of the batter into the pan, tilting the pan to evenly spread. If you put too much in, pour a little out. The crepe should be as thin as possible. Cook until slightly browned on the bottom and the edges are crispy. Flip and finish cooking. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment in a warm place. Continue until the batter is gone.
Traditionally, crepes are folded into quarters and served with a variety of fillings. Banana, chocolate, nutella, honey/yogurt, berries, and jams are the most traditional. There are also specialty crepes, such as crepes suzette, which is a dessert crepe made with an orange sauce, flambeed table side.
I like adding chopped herbs to crepes and finishing them with a goat cheese mousse and smoked salmon. But they are, like everything else you make, yours. Be creative, try different things.