Crêpes – lessons learned from my daughter

My daughter Eleanor just graduated from Colorado College and is moving to Chicago in a few weeks.  I love having her around this summer – especially when we’re in the kitchen, making food, chatting and eating together.  Ever since she was in high school, crêpes have been Eleanor’s “thing.”  She makes them like a pro and enjoys serving with countless variations of fillings and toppings.  When I asked Eleanor to do a guest post, we both knew what the subject would be. 

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Swirling the batter takes practice. Try to do it quickly, so the crepe stays thin. Eleanor moves her wrist to tilt the pan.

Eleanor, the crêpe–maker

Hi! I like to refer to myself as DaughterWouldKnow, although I am by no means an expert cook.  I am a self-proclaimed French nerd (aka Francophile), so you won’t be surprised that I love to make crêpes.   This blog post is split into 2 parts. This week I focus on making the batter and the crêpes; next week I’ll talk about fillings and toppings.

Crêpes are very thin pancakes that you can eat plain or with as many add-ons as you like.  There are 2 basic types: sweet ones that take various dessert-type accompaniments and savory ones that can be stuffed with meat, cheese and/or vegetables.  For this post, I made sweet crêpes with the recipe I learned in Royan and savory crêpes with a recipe from epicurious.com (one of my mom’s favorite recipe websites.) I made 4 batches of the sweet and 1 of the savory.  I guess you can figure out which part of the meal I enjoy most.  

I first learned how to make crêpes in a cooking class during a summer abroad program in Royan, France.   A few years later, I had a second chance to learn in a summer job at a Georgetown crêpe café (a crêperie.)  Each crêpe-maker seems to have her or his own special tips or secrets.  My advice is to pick up what you can from others and then put what you learn into practice.  The more crêpes you make, the more confident you’ll get and the better your crêpes will be. 

Before the recipes, let me give you a few tips that will help if you’ve never made crêpes before. 

Savory crepes are made with buckwheat flour.  (We found it at Whole Foods.)  The flour is dark brown, as is batter made from it.  Don’t let that color alarm you, either in the batter stage or after you cook the crêpe. Although their color may not be appetizing if you’re not used to it, savory crêpes do taste wonderful with fillings. Check back for those next week!  

For both recipes, I recommend following the recipe carefully.  If you do, there won’t be lumps in the batter and they will turn out just right. Also keep in mind that the first crêpe usually doesn’t come out well.  (It may be uneven as the pan needs one crêpe before it gets properly heated.  Sometimes I throw the first crêpe away, though I have been known to gobble it up before I move on to make better looking ones.) 

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Our 10" crepe pan.

If you’re going to make proper crêpes, you really need an authentic crêpe pan.

It has straight, low sides that allow you to get a knife, spatula or other implement under the crêpe to flip it over.  You could try to use a regular pan with low sides in a pinch, though it’s not ideal.  We got our crêpe pan at Target when I got back from France all excited about making crêpes.  I checked Amazon just now and found reasonable crepe pans 9-10” in diameter (the size I use) for $20-$25.  Trust me, it’s worth the investment.  

Also, as cheesy as it may sound, have fun! I had a great time once I became confident in my crêpe-making skills. You should too.

Buckwheat crêpes from Epicurious

  • 1 ¼ cups buckwheat flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil plus additional for skillet
  • ¾ cup nonfat milk
  • 1 ¼ cups (or more) water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 

Put the flour in a medium size bowl.  Whisk in eggs, ¼ cup oil, milk, 1 ¼ cups water, and salt. Pre-heat the pan over medium-high heat.  If the pan does not have non-stick coating, you may need to put a little canola or similar oil on a paper towel and wipe the pan to give it a very light coating so the crêpes won’t stick.  Add ¼ cupful of batter to the pan; tilt the pan to coat the bottom.

Cook the crêpe until golden on the bottom, adjusting heat to prevent burning, 30 to 45 seconds.  Using a knife, spatula, or similar tool, turn the crêpe over and cook another 30 seconds.  Transfer the crêpe to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter, stacking crêpes as you finish them. 

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Eleanor slides a thin wooden spatula under the crepe to turn it. Patience and practice have rewards.

Sweet crêpes

  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 ⅕ cups flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil

Beat eggs in medium bowl.  Add milk, vanilla, sugar and oil and beat well.  Add flour gradually, mixing well until all lumps are gone. The batter should be fairly thin.  Refrigerate it for at least a half hour.  For making crêpes, follow directions above. 

If you make batter the day before you make crêpes and fill them, put plastic wrap over the bowl of batter and stick it in the fridge.  When you take it out, mix the batter (as it will separate) and you’re ready to go!  You can also make crêpes one day, and fill them the next, as long as you cover the stack of crêpes in plastic wrap and refrigerate them.  

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You don't need to put anything between the crepes - stack them like this.

If you really can’t wait until next week, try making the sweet crêpes, sprinkle sugar on one, roll or fold it and enjoy.  Or spread jam or Nutella on the crêpe, then roll it up or fold it for easy eating.  

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Just a bit of sugar inside - yum!

See you next Friday.  Look what's in store for you!

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This crepe is dressed to kill.

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