Classic French Recipe: crepes {day twenty-three}

{day twenty-three} Classic French Recipe- Crepes

I am very excited to share this recipe with you not only because Crèpes are delicious but also because I know, from bitter experience, how difficult it can be to make a lump-free batter. I grew up watching my mother make crèpes; they never failed and so I now use the same technique she did. I fell pretty confident about it, and can guarantee a 90% chance of success at getting the batter right if you use it (I won’t say 100% because there’s always one, isn’t there?). There is definitely a knack to it but it is a simple thing when you know how, and with a bit of practice there is no reason why anyone, even people who consistently produce lumpy batter, can enjoy light and thin crèpes just like the French make them. I have taken a lot of pictures to show you what the batter should look like throughout the process.

I make crèpes every couple of weeks at home, either as a full meal or at breakfast. It’s cheap and festive and everyone loves them. Little Girl has been known to eat as many as 6 crèpes all by herself; she is an addict, just like her mum.

Ingredients

For approximately 20 pancakes
For our family of four, I count 2 savoury crèpe per adult, 1 savoury crèpe per child, and the rest goes towards making sweet crèpes.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 500 mls semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vegetable oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • optional flavourings for sweet crèpes (not all at the same time, obviously, just pick one!): 1 tbsp dark rum, 1 tbsp orange flower water (very popular in France), 1/4 spoon vanilla extract

Utensils: a whisk, a very flat frying pan, as wide as possible, a ladle, a palette knife or flat plastic/wooden spatula

20151004_crepes

Method

A. Mixing the ingredients:

1. Put the flour and the pinch of salt in a large bowl.

2. Make a well in the middle of the flour: literally, with your fingers, dig a hole in the middle.

20151004_the well 1

3. Break the two eggs into the well.

4. Pour the oil into the well.

5. Now is the important part for making lump-free batter: you must pour the milk into the well very gradually, starting with the equivalent of half a small glass, whisking it well before adding the same amount, again and again. First, gently break the egg yolks with your whisk. Instead of mixing all the flour in straight away, start mixing from the well out so that everything in the middle is relatively whisked together. There will be lumps at this point. Then add a little more milk, and whisk in slightly larger concentric circles, incorporating a little more of the flour. You can be quite forceful in your whisking, just keep it to small circles to start with. Eventually, you will have added all the milk and whisked all the flour in, and it should be lump-free!

mixing1-3 Collage

mixing 4-6 Collage

6. If you’re going to flavour the batter, whisk your chosen poison in now. If you are making savoury crèpes first, wait until you’ve cooked those before adding the flavouring. I’m not sure ham and vanilla go that well together.

7. Cover the batter with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour (you can make the crèpes straight away, but they will be so much better after a little rest).

B. Making the crèpes:

8. After an hour, take the batter out of the fridge. It is normal for the mixture to have separated a little bit and for it to be thicker. Just mix it all in together and add a little more milk if needed to loosen it a bit. The batter should not be so thin as to be completely liquid but it should coat the ladle a bit and should not be so thick that it can’t flow around the pan without help.

Batter Collage

9. Add a very small amount of oil in your frying pan (about half a teaspoon), using kitchen roll to evenly coat the pan. You won’t need to add any more oil after each crèpe, just this once to start. Now turn the heating on as high as you can. The pan must be very hot before you start pouring the batter in. You can adjust it later when you have cooked a couple if it is too high but keep it fairly hot anyway.

10. Tip the frying pan and using a ladle, pour the batter at the top of the pan, using your wrist to rotate the pan and distribute the batter thinly and evenly.

C. How to know your crèpe is cooked:

11. Keep a close eye on the crèpe in the pan. When the edges start to visibly brown and/or curl a little (after approximately a minute), the crèpe is ready to be turned. Release the edges slightly all the way around and slide your spatula underneath, then turn (yes most people only do the whole crèpe-flinging thing to show off or entertain the kids) The other side will take about 10-15 seconds to cook max. You can see from the right-hand picture below that a cooked crèpe should actually have some colour to it. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of crèpes on the internet that look suspiciously anaemic to me, but one side of the pancake should look cooked.

cooked crepe Collage

This is how thin a crèpe should be:

20151004_thickness 15

D. How to keep your crèpes warm:

12. You need a pan of boiling water, set on low so it doesn’t actively ‘boil’ anymore, with a plate on top. Gradually add your crèpes as you make them and keep them covered with foil. Sure, you can separate them with baking paper if you want, but that’s a lot of faff for something that’s going to be eaten in the next fifteen minutes. If they have been done well, they are not actually going to stick to each other and turn to mush when you try to separate them. Just put the plate on the table when you’re ready and peel them off as you go.

Fillings

You can put whatever you want in your crèpes. I am a big fan of filling them with just a spoonful of caster sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, but I only started doing that in England. It’s not a filling French people use. Instead, we tend to have Nutella (with or without fresh banana slices) or jam in it. There’s always whipped cream, maple syrup, plain fresh fruit, honey, whatever.

Ham and cheese crèpe topped with fried egg:

This is what we do at home when we have crèpes as a main meal. You need: ham slices, grated cheese and eggs. I get all my ingredients ready before I start, because it requires to be a bit quick, seeing as each crèpe only takes a minute to cook and you can’t leave the room/try to do it all at once.

20151004_ham egg cheese crepe

– Before I start cooking the crèpes, I set a separate pan on low/medium heat and start frying the eggs.
– Once one side of the crèpe is cooked, I turn it over and quickly put grated cheese all over it, topped with a slice of ham.
– Then I slide the cooked crèpe onto a plate, top with the fried egg, and fold the four sides over the egg.
– Grind a little black pepper on top, and eat!

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4 thoughts on “Classic French Recipe: crepes {day twenty-three}

  1. There’s so much more I want to say about crêpes that I don’t know where to start. It looks like our mums had the same way of producing a lump free batter 😉 I also make crêpes with my mother’s recipe because I want them to taste like hers (memories!). I’m surprised you don’t use buckwheat flour for the savoury crêpes though, I can’t have cheese and ham on a sweet one! Just feels strange. Anyway my favourite filling is also sugar and lemon, it’s quite popular in my family!

    • It’s not sweet batter though, just plain flour batter. I can’t be bothered with making 2 separate batters for sweet and savoury. I’ve never actually used buckwheat flour before. I don’t know why, I guess I’ve not grown up with it so it’s just never occurred to me to do so. I think of buckwheat crepes as ‘local specialty’ rather than the standard. Don’t get me wrong, they taste great and I love them, but they’re not my first thought when I think about crepes. All it shows is I’ve not grown up in Brittany.

  2. I have loved reading through your series! I am an American mom… I went briefly to Paris a few years ago in college and loved it.

    Recently I’ve read Bringing Up Baby (the American version of the Throwing Food book) and French Kids Eat Everything, so we’ve been trying to eat more in the French style. Not necessarily French food, but with courses, vegetables served as a starter, a small portion of cheese and fruit at the end, etc. It’s been fun! And is really helping my kids eat better!

    • that’s great! i’ve read somewhere that the reason they start with vegetables is that hungry kids are more likely to eat them if it’s the first thing they’re offered. makes sense to me!

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