Now we move to the dessert portion of this weeks posts: The classic French crêpes. As I mentioned the other day, a crepe is basically a thin French pancake traditionally served as a dessert.
Outside of France, I often see the crepe batter used as a galette batter. This, while not strictly traditional, is not necessarily a bad thing. Making a crepe savory is as simple as stuffing them with what you would expect to find in a galette. I’ve done this myself a few times–it’s one less batter to make. Just remember that while a crepe can generally fill the role of a galette as a savory dish, the galette cannot normally make the leap to be a dessert. The buckwheat flour contributes earthy, wheat flavors that meld better with savory foods than with sweet ones.
As I mentioned before, the crepe is the refined version of the galette. The crepe uses much richer ingredients (milk/beer, eggs, white flour) and yields a much less dense dish.
My favorite fillings for crepes generally keep it simple. Lemon juice and sugar, butter and sugar, and dark chocolate are my top three favorite. And Nutella. Definitely Nutella. I eschew the many American recipes that adorn their crepes with whipped cream or ice-cream in favor of the simple, traditional application of flavors. I rarely get more complicated than pouring a bit of warmed Grand Marnier and lighting it on fire (which looks awesome, by the way).
I’ll repeat a few things from the galette recipe here as the preparation and cooking methods are very similar.
Using a non-stick skillet is key to good crêpes and galettes. If you try this in a regular skillet, your success rate will probably be very low.
2 cups unbleached flour
2 1/2 cups milk (or 1/2 beer, 1/2 milk)
2 tbsps oil
up to 3 tbsps Grand Marnier (or use a tiny bit of orange extract)
unsalted butter (for cooking)
- Make a well in the center of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and combine gradually with a whisk until it comes together. DO NOT just mix everything with a spoon. Gradual mixing is key to avoiding a lumpy batter.
- Keep mixing until it nearly forms a dough. It should be thicker than brownie batter and most of the flour will still be on the edges of the bowl. Slowly add beer/milk to thin it and to work in the rest of the flour. Once as it comes together, add the salt, oil, and Grand Marnier. Whisk well.
- Allow the dough to rest at least two hours in the fridge. Remove from fridge half an hour before use.
When you are ready to cook, the batter may need a little more liquid added to thin it, especially if allowed to sit in the fridge over night. It should have the consistency of a thin pancake batter (or like heavy cream).
Use the largest skillet you can get your hands on!
Tip: Put a pad of butter in a small plate and keep a paper towel folded to smear butter into the skillet between cooking. Keep using the same paper towel. You could use a non-stick spray, but any Frenchman worth his salt would insist on using real butter.
- Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. When hot (a drop of batter will sizzle), add butter to the skillet and wipe with the paper towel to coat the pan.
- For a 12 inch skillet pour slightly under one half cup of liquid into the center of the skillet and swirl the pan to spread the batter evenly. I find it helps to shake the pan as you rotate. If you need to patch any holes, do it quickly so the crepe cooks evenly.
- After 30-60 seconds, flip the crepe. If you aren’t afraid to drop one, go ahead and try to flip it in the pan. Otherwise just slip a spatula under and flip.
- Cook for 30 seconds more, add whatever filling you need and cook for 30 more seconds. Some fillings, like syrups, are best to add once the crepe has been plated.
- To plate, fold the crepe in half to make a semi-circle, again to make a quarter-circle, and one last time to make eighths.
Dark Chocolate Sauce
If you have a chocolate sauce you like, you can use that instead of making your own. I like a rich, dark chocolate flavor that is not too sweet. This simple recipe takes only moments to make and allows you to easily control the flavor.
2 parts cocoa powder
1 part sugar
2-3 parts hot water
Start with 2 parts cocoa powder and one part sugar in a bowl. Add just enough hot water to mix it in a thick paste. Starting out with a paste will make sure that all the chocolate and sugar dissolve without leaving lumps in the sauce. Once the chocolate and sugar are mixed in the paste, taste it. If you like a sweeter sauce, add more sugar, for a richer chocolate flavor, add more cocoa. Slowly incorporate more hot water until it reaches the consistency of a thick sauce.
Butter Sugar or Lemon Sugar
You could probably figure this out yourself. The ingredients are already listed for you…
For the butter-sugar crepe, while the open crepe is still in the hot pan, spread some butter over the crepe with a spatula. Then sprinkle on some sugar to your liking. Fold. Serve.
For the lemon-sugar crepe, replace the butter above with freshly squeezed lemon juice.