Did I mention that fall is always a wee bit crazy around our house? My dashing husband tends to have lots o’business travel during these warm-and-golden turns gray-and-chilly months and it’s all as school is getting going and cooking turns from slicing tomatoes and tossing salads to actually cooking things that take more than ten minutes to pull together. Sooo… my fall gets a little insane. A bit busy.
While I’m busy roasting things he – for work, mind you – gets to run off to London and Paris. He returned and gave our son a jar of Nutella. Ernest was pretty intrigued. Then my dashing husband explained that the best way to have Nutella is in a crêpe. Then he said that I would make crêpes.
“Mama can make crêpes?”
Yes she can.
Like a champion, so I won’t go into how now I’m somehow making crêpes as part of his “sorry I was gone for two weeks but I was thinking of you” gift.
I learned to make crêpes when I went to French camp at age eleven. Have I mentioned French camp before? It was awesome and is, possibly, the geekiest thing about this very geeky girl. French camp itself isn’t nearly as geeky as my deep and abiding love of it is. Folk dancing, wine drinking songs, lace making, Mille Bornes, berets – I loved it all. I’d like to say my favorite thing was learning to make crêpes, but my favorite thing was actually the hot chocolate and buttered baguette we ate for breakfast every morning which was a far far cry from the whole grains and sensible lean proteins of breakfasts at home most mornings. Even when my mom made a treat (like German pancakes), it wasn’t hot chocolate for breakfast.
I did, however, learn to make crêpes at French camp and I still use the recipe I learned when I was eleven – with the optional brandy.
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled plus more for the pan
1 cup flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 – 2 Tablespoons brandy or liqueur (Grand Marnier if making crêpes suzettes, for example) – optional
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest – optional
In a blender, whirl the eggs, milk, and cream until combined. Pour in butter and whirl to combine. Add flour, sugar, and salt and whirl to combine – you may need to scrape down the sides so all the flour gets incorporated fully. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill for at least two hours and up to two days. Just before you’re ready to make the crêpes, stir batter – it should resemble very thick cream. Stir in brandy and/or lemon zest, if using.
Now, if you have a crêpe pan that is awesome. I have one and I love it, but I have made dee-licious crêpes in the crappiest most random pans you can imagine. A soup pot, a dented aluminum piece of s***, a cast iron griddle over a wood-burning stove – they all work if you want it bad enough. A frying pan is better that other options – a smaller one better than a bigger one.
Heat the pan over medium heat and melt a generous amount of butter in it – like a full tablespoon. Pour off the excess butter into a small dish or measuring cup ( you can use it as you make more) and ladle in three to four tablespoons of batter for an eight-inch pan. If you don’t have an eight-inch pan, you’ll need to experiment with the amount that works for your pan. Quickly swirl the pan to spread the batter in a thin layer over the whole pan, then swirl a bit more to spread any extra batter evenly over the batter that has already started to set, or cook, against the hot pan.
Let the crêpe cook until bits start bubbling under the middle and the edges turn from golden to almost brown. Then you need to flip the crêpe. This is when a thin wooden crêpe spatula can come in handy, but a fork gently used or fingertips that aren’t too sensitive work too. Treating the crêpe like a regular pancake and trying to flip it with a metal spatula will, in my experience, only lead to heartbreak. The crêpe will tear easily at this point, but practice will make perfect and you’ll figure out how to flip it using a method that makes sense to you. Before I had my thin wooden crêpe stick, I would slip a fork under one edge and sort of lift and flip it with my fingers after lifting the edge off the hot pan.
You may need to straighten or flatten the crêpe a bit to get it to lie flat after flipping. You can do this with your fingertips (notice my weird monkey paws doing just that below). Let it cook on the second side until both sides have brown spots, then slip or flip the crêpe onto a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. You should end up with about a dozen eight-inch crêpes.
Be warned: the first crêpe will not turn out. It will be a disaster. You will think “oh no, I can’t do this.” Find comfort in this: every first crêpe of every batch of crêpes I have ever made hasn’t turned out. It’s been ripped, uncooked, and often landed on the plate in a weirdly pale and gloppy looking heap. Sometimes that’s happened with the first two or three crêpes if it’s been a while since I made them. Just keep making crêpes and you and the pan will get used to each other and it will all work out.
This is why, however, you may choose to make the crêpes before you want to eat them. They keep, covered with plastic wrap, at room temp for several hours very nicely and reheat to perfection. Just pop a cooked crêpe in the hot pan, lay on any fillings, and fold and heat and serve in a snap. Everyone will think you’re genius.
If you’re feeling really crêpe-tastic, you might even consider making galettes – buckwheat crêpes that are pure perfection for savory items. I was feeling nothing if not crêpe-alicious the other night, so after I flipped all the crêpes to fill with Nutella, I busted out the galette batter and filled those puppies with ham and cheese, blue cheese and walnuts, and smoked salmon and crème fraîche. Same method, nuttier result.
2 cups whole milk
6 Tablespoons butter, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons sugar
1 cup flat beer
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
In a small saucepan, warm the milk, butter, sugar, and salt until butter melts. Let cool slightly and pour into blender. Add beer and whirl to combine. Add eggs and whirl to combine. Add buckwheat and all purpose flour and, again, whirl to combine. Cover and chill at least two hours and up to two days. Cook as crêpes.