Hello and welcome back to Baking & Beer! In this post we are going to demystify crêpes!
Let me tell you some of the ways that crêpes are awesome:
1.) They are delicious in both their savory and sweet forms.
2.) They are easy and cheap to make.
3.) They can be made for dinner for one or you can have a whole crêpe party!
Indeed, crêpe parties are fun, easy, and universally loved. To make your party prep even easier, the crêpe recipe that I am about to reveal to you can easily grow or shrink to accomodate the number of people you are entertaining. Additionally, you can put away your measuring cups and your kitchen scales. This recipe requires no math, no measuring, and very little mess.
The generic term "crêpe" comes from "crispus," the Latin word for curly. I suppose this is because when you cook a crepe the edges start to curl up? I don't know, the Romans were weird.
As a lingustic sidenote - did you know that when you see a little hat over a vowel (called a circumflex), it indicates that sometime during the life of that word there was an "s" next to the vowel that got pushed out? So crêpe would have been "crespe," which sounds a lot like "crispus." You guys, words are awesome!
Anyway, back to crêpes. Very generally, the generic term "crêpe" means a thin layer of dough cooked on a very hot surface. There are many different types of crêpes around France - like "ratons" made with beer instead of milk in the northern regions and "socca" from Nice made with chickpea flour. Ethiopian injera and Mexican tortillas are basically crêpes as well. Today, however, we are going to focus on what most of us think of when we hear the word crêpe - the type you would buy filled with Nutella from a hole-in-the-wall shop in Paris and munch on as you walk down the rue Mouffetard.
The thin, floppy pancake we picture when we think of crêpes is associated with the wild seaside and rolling farmland of Brittany. This might be wrong (because I can't confirm it via the internet), but I was taught that crêpes and crêperies migrated to Paris during the Breton diaspora of the late 1800s and early 1900s. While crêpes were eaten by the wealthy and poor in 19th century Brittany, they were considered low-class in Paris for a while before becoming nearly synonymous with French food. There is still a glut of crêperies around the Montparnasse train station where the trains from the Breton penninsula arrive.
ENOUGH (potentially made-up) HISTORY! On to the recipe!
Queer Martha's Crêpes for a Party
1.) First, count the number of people coming to your crêpe party.
2.) Now gather your ingredients:
A lot of flour
1 egg per person
Whole milk (a quart or more)
That's all you need!
There are, naturally, as many variations on these ingredients as there are villages in Brittany. A very traditional (and gluten-free) recipe from western Brittany would use only water, buckwheat flour, and maybe an egg.
I had 6 people coming, so I got 6 eggs and a quart of milk. I suggest you air on the side of more milk. A quart was cutting it close.
3.) Now grab a big mixing bowl and a serving spoon.
4.) In your big bowl, put three mounded spoonfuls of flour per person.
In my case, since there were 6 people coming to the party, I dumped 18 spoonfuls of flour in the bowl. How mounded should the spoonfuls be? Listen, you just got to use your gut on this one. The thing that makes these crêpes so good is that they are a product of your heart and your mind.
5.) Once all your flour is in the bowl, make a hole in the center like a volcano.
6.) Now pour milk into the center of the flour and continue to pour until the milk overflows and floods the edges of the bowl.
7.) Mix the flour and milk together. You will end up with a sticky paste. Good job!
If your dough is really very difficult to mix, add more milk.
8.) Now add the eggs one by one. When all the eggs are incorporated, the dough should be smooth and viscous.
9.) Finally, add more milk until the dough has a very liquid consistency. The dough should still be thick enough to coat a spoon. To check the consistency, place a spoon in the dough, then run your finger along the spoon's back. The line made by your finger should be clear.
10.) The last thing that you really must do to prepare your dough is cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours - overnight is best. This lets each flour grain absorb the egg and milk in the mixture. The starch will expand and create a network of gluten that is indispensable for thickening the dough as it cooks, making the dough less elastic so that it spreads across the pan better, and making your crêpes nice and spongy. If you don't let your dough rest, you risk having brittle crêpes.
If you really can't let your dough sit for two hours, here's a shortcut for you: heat your milk before adding it to the dough. This will help the starch expand faster so you only need to let it rest for about 15 minutes.
11.) When you return to your dough, it will be thicker than when you left it. This is because the flour absorbed the liquid! Science! Add a little more milk to get the consistency back to where it was before. If you are only making sweet crepes, feel free to add some sugar, vanilla, fleur d'orange, or anything else you want to the dough. Make it your own!
Now you can start your Crêpe Party!
12.) To cook the crepes, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Wipe oil over the surface of the pan with a paper towel.
Using a ladle, pour a scoop of dough onto the hot frying pan as you rotate your wrist so the dough spreads across the pan and forms a disk. If you can't picture that... watch this video! (It's in French, but the visual defies the confines of language).
You might think that you can't do this, but you can. I know you can. Once you try it, you realize that it is easy and fun! You can fill in any holes with drops of more dough.
Let the crêpe cook for about one minute. The "doneness" of the crêpe is really subjective. I like my crêpes basically raw, most people like theirs golden brown. The important thing is that it is dry. When the crêpe reaches your desired degree of "doneness," flip it!
13.) Fill the center of the circle with your fillings.
Your fillings can be anything you want - I love swiss cheese, goat cheese, ham, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, avocado, sour cream, and thyme. My tip - cheese is the glue that makes the crepe stay in one piece. Add cheese to the bottom and the top of your other fillings so when you fold the crêpe over the melted cheese it will seal securely.
For sweet crêpes I adore plain sugar sprinked with lemon juice. And of course... Nutella!
14.) When you have filled your crêpe to your satisfaction, use a spatula to fold it like a burrito.