Planet of the crêpes

Photo by JasperYue

Andreae Prozesky cuts through the crêpes.

It seemed like a great idea at the time: in honour of the RPM challenge, I would do a column on crêpes. You know, like in the early part of the film Amélie, in which the young Amélie imagines that records are made like crêpes… By a guy in a crêperie… With one of those crêpe-making tools that looks like a Zen-garden rake with the teeth taken off… Remember?

I figured plenty of Scope readers would know exactly how records are made, but crêpes, well, crêpes are a little more mysterious.

I have a lovely crêpe recipe, one that I’ve tweaked and fiddled with from time to time, until the flavor and texture are just where I like them to be. But I hardly ever make crêpes. It’s not that they’re terribly difficult, because they’re not, or that the people in my house don’t like them, because they do.

It’s because I don’t have a crêpe pan.

Somehow, I always forget that crêpe pans matter. I think that, because I can make crêpes in my head, having the right equipment is just a silly detail.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a regular frying pan and a crêpe pan, it’s all about the sides. Frying pans have nice deep sides, so that whatever you’re frying doesn’t spatter all over your stove (and all over you.) A crêpe pan has very low sides, sometimes as low as a quarter inch. This is so you can easily get in there with your implement of choice and flip over your crêpe without having to try to sneak around the sides of the pan.

If you happen to have a frying pan with amazing non-stick powers, and if you have the kind of precise wrist action that will allow you to shake the crêpe out of the pan, up into the air, and over onto its uncooked side, then you don’t need a crêpe pan to make crêpes. But if you’re like me, and you stock your house with honkin’ big cast iron monsters, then you’re out of luck.

Finally, I’ve found something my cast iron pans can’t do.

In the crêpe stands of Paris, mind you, they don’t use pans at all. The crêpe-makers hang out in front of special crêpe-making hot-plates and swirl batter about effortlessly. Then they slide a long, flat spatula—like a very thin paint-stirrer—under the crêpe and flip the whole thing over with the grace of a figure skater flipping his pairs partner. I’ve even seen a guy use his bare fingertips to centre the flipped crêpe on the burner.

I could do all of this, if only I had the right gear… and fingertips made of asbestos. Instead, I spent an afternoon standing over my stove, armed with a silicone spatula (for loosening edges), a metal spatula (for flipping), and an expression of exasperation. The problem wasn’t that the crêpes were sticking, but that getting them out of the pan was well-nigh impossible without either folding them over by a third, or poking holes in them with the metal spatula. The first crêpe is always a throwaway, there’s no way around that, but, to be honest, the other eleven didn’t fare much better.
Not that I did throw them away—heavens forfend! They may have been freakishly misshapen, but they were still good crêpes. Delicious, even. It would be a crime to throw them away.

I decided to go one better and turn a few of them into cheese blintzes, because I figure that if something is good fried in butter once, it’ll be even better fried in butter twice (cheese blintzes, if you don’t know, are a Jewish delicacy, wherein eggy crêpes are wrapped, burrito-like, around a sweetened cream-cheese-cottage-cheese filling, and then fried and served with sour cream and preserves.)

As for the rest of my hole-y crêpes, I see no reason not to do what cooks and food stylists around the world do every day: fold them over some fruit, throw some more fruit and some whipped cream on top, and shake some icing sugar over the whole thing.

Instant perfection.

Crêpes

Makes 12 (potentially misshapen, but delicious) crêpes

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
additional butter for pan

1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs well. Add milk, butter, and vanilla.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ones, and beat well to combine. It will be very thin batter, and you may still have wee small lumps of flour. Don’t worry about that.
4. Let the batter sit for about 30 minutes. This helps take the “raw” taste off the flour, and it also improves the texture. While you’re waiting, you might as well get together whatever it is you’re going to be filling your crêpes with: fruit, whipped cream, Nutella (totally traditional), whatever.
5. Heat your pan slowly to medium-high, adding a bit of butter. Stir the batter and, using a ladle, swirl about 1/3 cup of it around the pan, tilting the pan to spread the batter out. Allow it too cook a minute or two, peeking to see when it is a pale golden colour. Then, using whatever means you have devised, flip the crêpe over and cook on the other side a couple of minutes.
6. Remove crêpe from pan and set on a plate. Stack crêpes as they cook, and cover with a dry tea towel until you are ready to serve them.

Note: for savory crêpes (think cheese, ham, spinach), just leave out the sugar and vanilla.

Send your questions, comments, and
well-rounded suggestions to dreae@thescope.ca

6 comments

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  1. Leisha · April 1, 2012

    A good crepe pan is key…. my Slovak grandmother used to have 2 frying pans on the go each summer morning, making crepe after crepe with such ease. She used a simple butter knife to turn them over (a trick I still use). We used the crepes to make palachinka – a slovakian crepe where you spread a bit of jam in the crepe, roll them up, and then sprinkle cinammon-sugar over lines of rolled up crepes. They make the yummmiest breakfast, and are so much fun for kids to eat!! Another version of palachinka calls for them to be baked in the oven as well, but its more fun to just roll and eat :)

  2. dreae · April 1, 2012

    Mmmmm… that sounds awesome. I am currently dreaming of a a very expensive Le Creuset crepe pan I saw on the internet, but in the mean time there are nonstick Starfrit ones on sale at Dominion for ten bucks… tempted to pick one up just for the pleasure of having crepes that look like crepes. They roll much better when they’re in circles!

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