Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Crepes

The Sunday Salon.comWhen I was a little kid, my father often made crepes late in the evening, sometimes even after I'd gone to bed. This lent them an air of mystery. I grew up thinking crepes were a nocturnal food, reserved for sundown and beyond.

In reality, my father timed his crepe-making to accommodate the batter's need for a two-hour rest. He mixed the ingredients when he got home from work, then waited the appropriate stretch before he warmed up his crepe pan and got down to it.

While I was somewhat dismayed to lose my romantic view of crepes, knowing the secret did make them more accessible to me. I realized that hey, I didn't have to wait for my father to get the late-night crepe-making urge. I could whip up a batch for myself.

Crepes have since become one of my staples, albeit a less frequent one due to the planning involved. They're great with both savory and sweet fillings, and while they can be fiddly at first, they're a lot easier than one might suspect.


For twelve nine-inch crepes, you'll need:

  • 1 cup flour, either all purpose or a 2:1 blend of whole wheat and all purpose
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you'd like the crepes. I usually go with 1/4 or 1/3 cup, which renders them usable as either dinner or dessert.
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • a 9-inch pan with a flat bottom. Low-sided crepe pans work best because they allow easy access to the crepe during cooking, but you can certainly improvise if you don't own one.
  • a small mixing bowl
  • a large mixing bowl
  • a whisk or fork
  • a set of measuring cups and measuring spoons
  • a spatula that won't scratch your pan
  • a small bowl or microwaveable pinch pot
  • a pastry brush
  • tongs (optional, but highly recommended)
  • a dinner plate
  • wax paper
  • a spoon rest or a willingess you get your countertop dirty
Make Your Batter

Mix the dry ingredients in the small mixing bowl. You can sift them if you'd like, but a good stir with a large spoon should do it.

Melt the butter in the large mixing bowl, then add the eggs and whisk until everything's well combined. Add the milk and whisk a little more so the mixture comes together.

Add the dry ingredients a third at a time, whisking well after each addition. Continue whisking until the batter is lump-free.

Cover the bowl with a piece of cling wrap or some paper towels. Let it sit for at least two hours before you get on with the rest of it.

Pour Your Crepes

Before you begin cooking, lay a piece of wax paper on a dinner plate at least as large as your crepe pan. Keep the roll handy; you'll place another piece of wax paper atop each crepe you make.

Next, melt about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of butter in a small bowl or pinch pot and brush some on the bottom of the pan. Place the pan over medium heat and allow it to warm up. It doesn't have to be piping hot to begin with; as long as you can feel a satisfactory amount of heat when you place your hand an inch or so above the pan, you're good to go.

Once the pan is warm, lift it off the stove and pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of crepe batter into it. Give it a good, wrist-twisting swirl so the batter spreads as evenly as possible over the bottom of the pan. If you use 1/4 cup of batter (my personal preference), you're likely to end up with a dozen thin crepes that may have lacey edges, depending on how quickly you get the batter spread out. If you use 1/3 cup batter, you'll almost certainly have full pan coverage with no laceyness, but your crepes will be thicker and you'll end up with fewer of them.

This crepe is almost set.

Immediately return the pan to the heat and leave it until the crepe is set and begins to brown on the bottom. Later in the crepe-making process, you'll see clear evidence of this around the edges; for the first few, though, you'll have to lift the crepe with your spatula and/or tongs to check.

While the crepe is cooking, you may want to prepare another 1/4 (or 1/3) cup of batter so you've got it at the ready. You can plunk the full measuring cup down on your spoon rest (which makes it easy to transfer any spilled batter back into the bowl) or on your counter (which is messy and not recommended).

  • Once the crepe is set and browned, it's time to flip it. This is where your tongs come in handy. If you have some on hand, gently lift the edge of the crepe and slide your spatula under it. Quickly flip it with the spatula, then use your tongs to straighten out any overlaps so the crepe lies flat against the pan.

    A flipped crepe with a nicely browned bottom.

    For years, I flipped my crepes with nothing more than my spatula--and I botched at least one per batch. Since I've started using tongs, I've managed a full twelve crepes per batch. Tongs are a lifesaver for clumsy folks like me.

    The crepe's second side cooks very quickly. For the first few crepes, give it a count of thirty before you turn it out onto your prepared plate. Once the pan has fully warmed--usually from the fourth or fifth crepe onwards, in my experience--you'll only need a count of fifteen to twenty.

    Turn it out onto the prepared plate and voila! You've made a crepe.

    A finished crepe. The second side will not be as brown as the first.

    Brush some more melted butter on the pan, swirl in another portion of batter, and cover the first crepe with waxed paper while the second cooks. Repeat until you've use everything drop of batter you can possibly extract from your bowl.

    Eating Your Crepes

    Any crepe that contains 1/3 cup sugar or less can accommodate either a sweet or savory filling.

    If you choose to go with sweet, I highly recommend your favourite brand of chocolate-hazelnut spread. Slather the stuff on your crepe, fold in the ends, and roll that sucker up into you've got a delicious wee tube. I like to heat my sweet crepes up in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, but this isn't absolutely necessary, especially if they're fresh from the pan.

    A chocolate-hazelnut crepe in mid roll.

    Three rolled crepes, dusted with powdered sugar.

    If you're in the mood for a savory crepe, may I suggest you sautee a goodly number of mushrooms and encase them alongside perhaps a quarter as much bleu cheese? Duck crepes are also excellent, if you've recently cooked a duck. Spread about 1 tsp of hoisin sauce on a crepe, then place shredded duck in the middle and roll the lot up.

    Savory crepes really must be heated for a minimum of twenty seconds in the microwave, unless you're into cold food. Three to five of them make a good meal, depending on how much filling you use and what you serve alongside them.

    And that's that. You're now equipped to make as many crepes as your heart desires.


    1. I didn't know about the 2 hour thing! I used to make pancakes at night and then save the leftover batter for morning. It's still good.

      1. The resting time is an old French Canadian secret. :)