- Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Main Course
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Inexpensive
- Favorited: 12 Times
Can be made ahead of time.
In my classes, I always start the students off with crêpes, because it is one of the most basic of cooking processes and demonstrates very graphically the change that takes place when a mixture is baked. The element of participation also brings the students together and they gain confidence from their newly found ability to make the batter, handle the pan, and turn out a perfect crêpe.
Until a year or two ago I always used the traditional French iron crêpe pan. In many ways, this pan is unbeatable. If it is properly seasoned and cared for, it will maintain a nice patina. You must never sink an iron crêpe pan in a bath of detergent or put it into the dishwasher. Merely rub it out with a little coarse salt and a paper towel if it should chance to stick, and keep it for crêpes alone. It will do yeoman duty for many years.
However, other types of pan are equally good for crêpes. Teflon-lined frying pans, which have become a regular part of our cooking lives in the last decade so, work beautifully. They cannot take as intense a heat as iron and so do not heat or cook as fast, but I think they produce a tenderer, more supple crêpe. I find my Teflon-lined aluminum omelet pan is ideal. It matters not one whit how often you wash it, or how many other things you cook in it, so it saves adding yet another specialized utensil to your kitchen. I am also prone to turn a crêpe over by flipping it, and it will slide with the greatest of ease in a Teflon-lined pan. Of course, with Teflon you can’t use a metal spatula; it must be one wood or plastic. You should have no trouble with crêpes provided you use the right kind of pan, make a smooth batter, and practice until you have mastered the baking technique.
You need a pan about 8 to 9 inches in diameter with sides sloping to a bottom 6 inches in diameter, such as the French iron crêpe pan, the Teflon-lined omelet pan, or a heavy frying pan of similar shape and material. Other necessities are a medium-sized mixing bowl, a wire whisk (or an electric hand mixer blender), a 2-ounce ladle or a ¼-cup dry measure (the kind that looks like a little pan and has a handle), a pastry brush, a small pan to hold the melted butter, and either a thin-bladed, supple metal spatula with a blade about 1-inch wide and 8-inches long for turning the crêpes or, if you are using a Teflon-lined pan, a spatula of wood or plastic.
The first step is to make the crêpe batter. If you can, make it 2 or 3 hours ahead of time and let it rest, which enables the flour to expand and absorb the liquid. A batter that has rested will work better than one that is freshly made.
Break the eggs into the mixing bowl and beat until smooth with the wire whisk. Mix in the salt and 1 cup of the milk or beer. Beer gives a nice lightness to the crêpes and the taste goes well with savory fillings, but for dessert crêpes milk is preferable. Blend well. Stir in the flour with the whisk and, still stirring, add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Beat well until the batter is smooth, free of lumps, and has the consistency of heavy cream. Depending upon the dryness of the weather and, therefore, the flour, you may need to add the remaining ¼ cup liquid, but wait until the flour is thoroughly mixed in and then judge. It is better to underestimate the amount of liquid. You can always mix in more later if your batter seems too thick. Often you find that the batter thickens considerably after it has rested and needs to be thinned with a little more liquid.
If you are making dessert crêpes, add the sugar to the batter with the flour and stir in the cognac or vanilla when the batter is mixed.
A quicker and easier way of making the batter is to use an electric hand mixer instead of a whisk, or put all the ingredients in the blender or food processor at one time and blend until smooth and well mixed.
Cover the bowl of batter with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator if you wish to make the batter well ahead of time.
When you are ready to bake the crêpes, assemble your equipment: a small pan containing the remaining melted butter, the pastry brush for brushing the crêpe pan, the crêpe pan, the ladle and spatula, a plate to put the crêpes on, and some paper towels for wiping out the pan should it get too hot and the butter brown. Uncover the batter and beat with the whisk, as the flour will have settled. If the batter is thicker than heavy cream, add a little extra liquid.
Put a metal crêpe pan on medium-high heat, or a Teflon-lined pan on medium heat. Let the pan get good and hot, then brush it with melted butter. The butter should sizzle but not brown or burn. If it does, the pan is too hot. Wipe it out with paper towels and cool it off by putting it on a cold burner or waving it in the air a few times. Then start again, reheating the pan and brushing it with butter.
The secret of a perfectly thin and tender crêpe is to use just enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. When the butter sizzles, dip your ladle or measure into the batter and scoop up about 3 tablespoons, or a little less than ¼ cup.
Pour the batter into the pan with your left hand and, holding the handle of the pan with your right hand, raise the pan from the heat and tilt it so the batter quickly swirls around and runs over the bottom of the pan. If there is too much batter, pour the excess back into the bowl. If there is too little, and it does not completely cover the bottom of the pan, add a touch more.
Replace the pan on the heat and bake the crêpe for about 1 to 1½ minutes, until the surface is set and the crêpe moves slightly when you shake the pan. If you poured off excess batter, there will be a little tongue of crêpe on the side of the pan, which you should lop off with your spatula. Now turn the crêpe. There are various ways to do this.
You can run the spatula around the edges of the crêpe to loosen it, then slide the spatula underneath, and with a quick movement flip it over, using your hand if needed. Or, if you are a hardy soul, you can tip and shake the pan until the crêpe hangs over the front edge a bit, then pick it up with your fingers and turn it over (if you do this quickly, you won’t burn your fingers) or use a spatula and one hand. Or, if you can flip a pancake, shake the pan once or twice to loosen the crêpe and then give the pan a quick jerk so the crêpe flips over of its own accord. If the crêpe does not lie completely flat in the pan, pat it down with your fingers. I find the flipping or hand-turning methods are safer and more professional. With a spatula there is always the chance that you will break or cut the crêpe.
Return the pan to the heat bake the second side, which will take only about half a minute, then turn the crêpe out by quickly inverting the pan over the plate.
The second side will be less brown than the first side but that doesn’t matter. This is the side on which you put the filling.
Continue to heat the pan, brush it with butter, and make crêpes until all the batter is gone. If you are using the crêpes right away, simply stack them on the plate. Should you wish to make them ahead of time, put waxed paper between the crêpes as you stack them and, when they are cool, cover the stack and the plate with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature or in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. To store crêpes, put waxed paper between them, remove them from the plate when cool, wrap them in aluminum foil, and freeze them. If you have made batches of both sweet and savory crêpes, identify them by writing “sweet” or “savory” on the outside of the package so you don’t get them mixed up.
It’s a lot of fun to make crêpes. If you have never done it before, take some time to practice until you become deft at pouring in just the right amount of batter and turning the crêpes. Don’t overbake crêpes or they will be crisp and difficult to roll. A crêpe should be rather pale and supple. If you are going to fill, roll, and sauce the crêpes, don’t worry if every one is not impeccable, for they are still perfectly usable.
For a main course, allow 2 to 3 filled crêpes per serving. For a dessert or first course, allow 2 crêpes per serving.
Serving size is 1 crepe, for a total of 18 crepes. Nutritional information does not include ingredients for dessert crepes.