Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to Cook Crepes

Crepes are amazingly versatile, very thin, pancakes. Although the word “crepe” comes from France, many cultures throughout the world have their own variations.

Not only cultures have their own variations, but different people, as well. Some people pronounce it “krape,” as in “grape.” Others pronounce it “krep,” as step. I suspect the former is the English pronunciation and the latter, the French. Most English chef's I watch on TV pronounce it “krape,” and reports it that way, too.

Different people have different batter variations, and even different levels of browning allowed. Some say it should be brown on one side, some say it should be brown on both sides, some more brown on one side than the other, and some say there should be no browning at all. My personal preference is brown on one side and, if it gets a little color on the other side, so be it. I'm not a purist when it comes to these things, but I do like a bit of caramelization when I can get it.

Speaking of not being a purist, crepes can be filled, folded, rolled or otherwise mangled, an infinite number of ways. I've filled them with cream cheese, fruit, sauteed vegetables, meat, eggs, and even peanut butter. They make a great dessert just sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The first time I ever tried crepes was when I was a young boy. My older brother had come back from a mission to Arizona/New Mexico, and made us an alcohol-free version of crepe Suzette. I still don't know how he lit the sugar cubes on fire. I don't remember seeing any liquor anywhere, bur I could be wrong.

I didn't have crepes again until I was an adult, and started making them myself. I'm no expert, and I don't make them very often. Recently, though, I made dinner crepes, filled with leftover ham and vegetables, for my oldest daughter's birthday. She's studying French in school and I like encouraging her, even it's with food.

This recipe is just one of dozens of batter variations I've found and tried. Most people think of two kinds of crepes, savory and dessert. Honestly, a basic crepe recipe can be used for either one. The only difference, here, is that I don't always add the sugar unless I'm making a dessert crepe.

Equipment needed
Measuring cups and spoons
Mixing bowls
Frying pan or specialized Crepe pan.
Plastic wrap

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

Put the flour in the sieve and sift it into a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt, and the sugar to the bowl, and whisk together.

Break the eggs into another bowl and beat until scrambled. Add the milk and whisk together. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat until it quits foaming and starts to turn light brown. Be careful! The difference between lightly browned butter and burned butter can be as little as a few seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly mix the melted butter into the batter.

Cover the batter with plastic wrap and let it stand on the counter for one hour. If you want to wait longer, put it in the refrigerator, and then let it come to room temperature before cooking.

I'm not exactly sure why crepe batter needs to rest, but I suspect it has something to do with limiting gluten formation. Maybe one of you gentle readers can tell us.

As for the rest, I leave you the following video. It shows how to cook the crepe in a crepe pan. There are all kinds of specialized pans available if you really want to check them out. I just use my skillet. It works just fine.

I've recently started using a technique I learned from Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques. It requires one extra step, and seemed a bit odd to me at first, but it ensures that you're get a very thin crepe, regardless of the size of your pan. I'll have to share it with you, someday.

Photo by Wong Mei Teng

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