Dishes to Impress Your Friends: Crêpes
There’s a good chance you’re at least mildly familiar with crêpes, whether you’ve enjoyed a few with powdered sugar and Nutella or just saw them on the menu at a brunch with friends. You may even just think of them as fancy, skinny pancakes, and you aren’t totally wrong. But to consider them as just pancakes on a diet doesn’t give crêpes the credit they deserve. A well-made crêpe can be sweet or savory, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack to-go. There are literally street vendors in Paris that can whip up a crêpe of your choosing in under a minute for a few euro.
Despite the reputation, crêpes are actually pretty simple to make, allowing you to easily make a large quantity for friends and family. Want to host your own brunch and make a showstopping centerpiece that won’t drive you crazy in the process? How about a little flameless Crêpe Suzette?
The Basics of a Batter
The key to a good crêpe is the batter. This is where a lot of aspiring home cooks fall down. There’s a pretty basic equation you can use for the batter mix. Start with equal parts all-purpose flour to liquid (usually milk or water). Then, take however many cups they make together and mix in that many eggs, half that amount of tablespoons of water, 1.5 times of tablespoons of melted butter.
For example, if there are two cups of flour and liquid together, mix in two eggs, one tablespoon of water, and three tablespoons of melted butter (preferably unsalted if possible). Add a pinch of salt and another pinch (roughly ½ teaspoon) of sugar for sweeter crêpes.
The final ingredient is time. This allows everything to settle and get the right consistency. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, though overnight is best. What’s good about this equation is it allows you to mix up the portions a bit. This amount makes roughly six eight-inch crêpes, or for about two people. If you’re making enough for a party of eight, just multiply the amounts by four and you’re set.
The most important aspect of your batter is having the right consistency and fat content. A higher fat content from milk or butter makes a softer, more tender crêpe, while less fat makes a firmer, stronger crêpe. If you have too much fat, your crêpe may be too soft and break as you flip it. If there’s not enough fat, your crêpe may become chewy or even crispy. It helps to make a test crêpe first to ensure that it’s the right consistency and fat content. If the crêpe is too firm and chewy, add some milk, cream, or melted butter to the batter. If it’s so soft you’re unable to flip it, add water. Some people even like to add beer to their batter for flavor and to have a similar impact as water.
It’s What’s Inside That Counts
While a good batter can make a tasty crêpe and a bad batter can ruin them, what truly sets crêpes apart is what you add to them! Think of a crêpe as a blank canvas that you can add your personal taste and flair to. While crêpes don’t necessarily have a bland flavor, they do a have light taste that allows you to mix and match. For example, you can go savory or sweet. Throw some bacon and eggs into your crêpe, and you have a savory breakfast to go. You can truly let your creativity run wild with your fillings.
Perhaps the king of crêpes, the one that has the most wowing reputation, is the Crêpe Suzette.
Of course, crêpes are best known for sweet fillings. Fruit jams like raspberry, grape, or strawberry all work really nicely in crêpes. The bit of acidity gives the overall dish a nice bit of brightness and keeps it from becoming too heavy. Nutella and peanut butter are also good choices since they’re easily spreadable and just pack in the flavor. Your other ingredients don’t need to just be inside the crêpe either. Powdered sugar, fresh fruits, or whipped cream all would not be misplaced on top of a well-folded crêpe, sometimes all together.
Perhaps the king of crêpes, the one that has the most wowing reputation, is the Crêpe Suzette. This crêpe is covered in an orange-flavored caramel sauce (called beurre Suzette) and generally flambéed (lit on fire) tableside as a finishing touch. While we won’t be lighting anything on fire — it’s not really something we’d be comfortable suggesting unless you’re experienced — we’ll be learning how to make a safer version.
No-Flame Crêpe Suzette Recipe
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp of water
- 3 tbsp of melted unsalted butter
- 1 tsp of salt
- 3 tbsp & 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 tbsp of fresh orange zest
- 1 cup of orange juice
- 1 tsp of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp of Grand Marnier liquor
- ¼ cup of butter
- 2 ¼ cup scoops of vanilla ice cream
- Combine the flour, milk, water, eggs, butter, salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of orange zest.
- Whisk until the batter is smooth.
- Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, though overnight is preferable.
In a large frying pan, gently melt 3 tablespoons of sugar without stirring.
- When the sugar takes on a caramel color, immediately remove it from the heat and stir in the cup of orange juice.
- Stir in the zest, lemon juice, and Grand Marnier.
Return to low heat and stir until the caramel is mixed thoroughly into the liquids.
- Add in the butter and stir until it’s melted.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and lower to a gentle simmer until it’s a silky sauce.
- While the mixture simmers, remove the batter from the fridge and start the crêpes (this can also be done ahead of time).
Heat a tablespoon of a neutral-tasting oil or butter in an 8- or 9-inch pan over medium heat.
- Add ¼ cup of batter and tilt the pan so that the batter spreads to thinly cover the entire pan.
- Allow to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, when that side is lightly browned and slides when you gently shake the pan.
Using spatula, turner, fork, or your fingers, flip the crêpe.
- Cook this side of the crêpe no longer than 30 seconds and set the crêpe on plate.
- Continue making crêpes until you’re out of batter.
- Once the crêpes and sauce are ready, add the crepes and heat until the crêpes are warmed through.
- Serve with a scoop of ice cream!