So today I decided to make and fill a few crepes. Now, the thing about crepes is they’re easy – easier than pancakes, even – and yet have this reputation of being special.
The special is the filling. And the next nice thing about the crepe (in my opinion) is that it’s as thin and soft and flexible as a flour tortilla but (again) a whole lot easier to make.
The final nice thing about the crepe is that it works in small batches – meaning you can make it for one large or two small appetites with little to no waste.
One egg in a small to medium bowl. Whisk or beat it till it’s all one (yellowish) color. Get a half cup of flour and a cup of water-milk mix. (What mix depends on your taste – I follow Julia Childs and go about 2/3 milk to 1/3 cup water, common on the internets is half and half, Alton Brown is 3/4 milk and 1/4 water. They all work.) Add half the flour and stir it in. Add half the liquid and stir till it’s smooth. Repeat till it’s all smooth. Now stir in 1 tablespoon of melted butter and you’re done.
Now put that in the refrigerator and start getting the rest of your ingredients ready. Yep, that’s one of the big bonuses; you don’t have to prep everything up front because you want the batter to rest a bit. You want it to rest at least 15 minutes. If you’ll cover it so it won’t form a skin you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a day. (I’ve been told 2 days, I’ve never tried it so won’t promise.) This means you can prep the batter the night before which in turn is less mess in the morning. Or in the morning so you can make dinner crepes faster. There’s another time saving point I’ll get to, but this is the first.
Oh, the reason for resting is so the bubbles you formed by whisking have a chance to leave. You’ve developed the gluten in this by stirring so thoroughly. If you leave in the bubbles you’ll get something that’s light, fluffy, and weak. The first two are good, the latter – with one exception case – is bad.
So you let it rest and it’s cooking time. Preheat a skillet – 8 or 10 or 12 inch depending on how large you want your crepes. You want it hot. The droplet test is good here. Sprinkle a little water on the skillet. If the drops skitter about it’s ready. If they just stick and boil it’s not hot enough, and if they flash to steam you’re a little too hot – though this is less of a problem than it is for pancakes.
Lightly oil your pan (a dollop of butter tastes better, a spray of no-stick is healthier). Pour a small ladleful of batter into the middle and tilt your pan in circles till the batter’s filled the bottom and/or no longer flowing. How much si a ladleful? I use my 12 inch cast iron and get about a half inch gap around it when I use about 1/3 cup. If you’re filling an 8 inch a scant quarter cup will fill it.
Now that you’ve poured and spread, let it sit for a minute, maybe a minute and a half. You’re going to turn this while the middle is still moist but the edges are firm. If you’re really good you can flip it by tossing. me, I’m not so good so I use a spatula and maybe my fingers to help. Turn it over, let it cook for 30 seconds or so. Pull it out onto a plate, give your pan a few seconds to recover its heat (if you’re using cast iron don’t bother), and pour the next. When it’s done just stack it on the previous and keep going till you’re done.
The recipe I have makes two to four depending on the size of your pan and how heavily you pour the batter. If you’re making more, though, we’re off to the next nice thing about crepes – they keep. For a short wait, make the plate you put them on heat-proof. Put the stack in a warm (200 or so) oven and they’ll stay warm and ready for up to an hour — plenty for preparing for guest(s). Alternately you can put the stack in the refrigerator for a day or two. If you do, cover them so they don’t pick up funky odors. Just a quick reheat (oven, microwave, or even a toss into the skillet for a few seconds) and they’re ready to go. Finally, they freeze well. Meaning they lose very little quality when you thaw and reheat them. Yeah, I like crepes.
But let’s come back to filling the crepes. The basic principle is easy. Take a spreadable sort of filling and spread it on the crepe, then roll it into a tube like a burrito or, well, like a crepe. Pour a little sauce of some sort over the rolled tube if you wish.
You can get as fancy or as simple as you wish. Spread some cream cheese and your favorite jam. Or just the fresh fruit of your choice. If you’re feeling a little fancy fill with some marscapone and whipped cream, roll, then drizzle a little espresso and dust with cocoa powder. (Marsala is optional).
And don’t forget savory. Layers of thinly sliced meats and many vegetables, with or without cheese, work well. I’ve got a quasi-fancy recipe (not sharing) that amounts to a crab thermidor filling. It’s topped with a little extra sauce and cheese and baked long enough to melt the cheese.
Cold, they work fine for wraps. Well, some people think they’re a little gummy (due mostly to the developed gluten), so your mileage may vary.
Before I go, a couple of variations. First the easy one, the reason I mentioned the bubbles way back near the beginning.
Start making your crepes right away. Lay it flat on the plate, pour the next, and while you’re waiting spread your filling on the first but do not roll it. Just for reference a really easy thing here is just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but you can spread chocolate or nutella or jam or even a layer of fruit (slices of banana, for example). Repeat till you’ve finished making crepes, and you’ll have this stack of crepes and fillings. Oh – just so you have an idea, I’ve made this with bananas foster as my filling and topped it with the ice cream and final drizzle. Share. (or not, if that’s your pleasure. It /is/ really good.)
Final variation. Way back in the pan, while it was on the first side, beat one egg till it’s smooth. As soon as you flip the crepe pour the egg on top and spread it so it covers the whole crepe. Immediately add thinly sliced cheese to one half of the crepe. Once the cheese softens and if you wish add some thinly sliced meat or veggies (mushrooms, my favorite) over the cheese. Wait till the egg has firmed, and fold it over the top like a quesadilla. If you want, fold it once more into a quarter-circle. (If you’re doing this and you want to gild the lily, put a thin slice of cheese on top of the ‘bottom’ quarter before folding.) Let it sit for a moment both to let the egg finish cooking and to avoid burning your tongue while you eat. fork, or just tuck it into some paper towels and treat it like a sandwich.
Obviously you can skip the egg and/or use other fillings, but you get the idea.
Yeah, I like crepes. Easy, work for a small and large group cookings, and very flexible. (sorry for the pun).