Friday, September 18, 2009

Making Crêpes

Is it weird that crêpes scare me? They don’t scare me enough to keep me from eating them. Oh no, I have absolutely no qualms about devouring crêpes au sucre, crêpes au nutella, and crêpes au anything-else-you-can-think-of. What scares me is making crêpes. A most unfortunate incident in the fall of 2003 scarred me so deeply that for six years I refused to even attempt making France’s thin version of the pancake. Until now.

With the memory of 2003’s Crêpe Crisis fading ever so slightly, I set out to conquer my fear and redeem myself in the kitchen. The first thing I did was purchase a real crêpe pan. This is key: The French know how to make crêpes like Americans know how to make cheeseburgers, so follow their lead and get yourself a nice, flat, T-fal (made in France!) crêpe pan. After staring at my crêpe pan for a few weeks, I finally got the nerve to look up the recipe online, gather my ingredients (eggs, milk, flour, water, salt), and take a leap of faith. French friends have often told me that the first crêpe of the batch always turns out looking deformed. Shrug it off, throw it out, and try it again, they say. So I didn’t panic when my own first attempt came out looking as such:

The next three tries turned out to be totally edible – even round! – and I was particularly proud of my success at flipping the crêpes without sending them flying halfway across the kitchen. Sure, they came out a little thick, but all in all it was not a traumatizing experience. And it only took me six years to get there.

Should you decide to tackle crêpe-making yourself, here are my tips for helping you avoid disaster:

1. Use the correct pan. Get a flat, T-fal pan or a crêpe maker like this one

2. Grease the pan well with butter. This will help when it comes time to flip. And butter is yummy.
3. Chill the batter for at least 5-6 hours before using. Overnight is better. This will keep your crêpes from getting too thick as mine did.

4. Use quality toppings: good butter, fresh fruit, etc.

5. Be creative! The French have crêpes of all kinds. Salty, sugary, for breakfast, for dinner, and more. Experiment. After all, how can you mess up crêpes? Wait…


Greg Wesson said...

Myself and my flatmates had a pancakes for dinner on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday - a.k.a. Mardi Gras) - a tradition we celebrate in Canada as well.

My flatmates, being English and French made pancakes that were much more like crepes than the fluffy, thick, maple-syrup covered golden disk that I usually consider a pancake.

They made their pancakes ultra-thin, much like a crepe, and they put all sorts of toppings on them - cheese, nuts, fruit. I had crepes when I was in France, but always stuck to the sweet varieties (especially Nutella - yummy). This was my first experience with the savoury crepe, and was it very good! Since then, I have been a big fan of the savoury crepe!

It wasn't all just them teaching me about the savoury crepe though. After scouring the local food stores, I found a bottle of Quebecois maple syrup in Waitrose. Neither of my flatmates had previously tried pancakes with maple syrup. They were both impressed.

So, while I learned about the European practice of savoury crepes, they learned the Canadian practice of maple syrup. I was happy to spread a little Canada at the same time I was taking in a bit more Europe.

Lola said...

Absolutely love crepes. Fun post!

I've started making them Swedish style (i have to!) with lingonberry and vanilla ice cream.

Also make mean chicken-spinach-mushroom with hollandaise sauce crepes.

Tanya said...

@Greg, Real Quebecois maple syrup on crepes sounds divine. Cross-cultural sharing is good.

@Lola, Ligonberry and vanilla ice cream crepes also sound divine. Now that I can make crepes without destroying them I'll have to try some of these suggestions.

Zhu said...

They look good!

One of my friend in Ottawa moved from France with a profesionnal crêpe machine - I kid you not. I loved parties at his place... until he moved to Mexico, taking the precious machine with him.

I met two other French in Costa Rica last winter who also backpacked with a crêpe machine. This led Feng to believe that all French believe carry their heavy cooking tools with them.