Crêpes satisfy the part in my heart that is obsessed with paper. So soft, thin, and light, you could almost send a crêpe as a wedding invitation, layered with vellum and scrolled up with a silk ribbon. Their forgiving, slightly stretchy quality makes them easy to fill and roll up, too. They even open back up for do-overs if you aren’t pleased with the shape you folded, unlike wrapping paper, once its creased. Flipping crêpes also feels amazing. Each time I lift a delicate round from the pan, I feel grateful and amazed that it neatly responds to my spatula, being stronger than it looks. The only thing more wonderful than making them—and of course, eating them—is that they are incredibly versatile. A crêpe can be a snack wrapped in a napkin, a flambéed finale for a dinner party, or a morning cure for too much weekend. So it might seem odd, now that I think about it, how long it took me to start making them. Here’s the deal.
About 10 years ago on a Saturday morning at 7 a.m., the phone rang. Was it an emergency? Yes. Sort of. It was a crêpe emergency. Actually, a crêpe party emergency. The party-thrower, our usually unflappable friend Adam, had a couple of flaps in his voice. “I need some help. Can you come over?” We were on our way.
The crêpe party was to start in a few hours, and it was going to be a doozy that would later go down in friend history reminisced about for years to come. Adam had undertaken this crêpe extravaganza singlehandedly, and he took weeks to prepare for it. He would come home after work and start flipping crêpes, then packing, labeling, and freezing them in airtight containers, ready to be filled with innumerable sweets and savories. But here it was, the day of the party, and many people would be coming, ready for a feast. It was down to the wire.
We walked in without knocking, to find Adam at his usual spot, flipping crêpes. Like I said, Adam is generally cool as a cucumber, but he looked relieved to see us. He didn’t need help with the crêpes themselves; it was the rest of the house that needed attention. So for several hours we made his home party-ready while he continued to flip and flip, fill and fill. There must have been a dozen different types of fillings. I can’t even remember them all, but I remember once the party started, we had the pleasant problem of not knowing where to begin, because there were so many flavors spread out before us.
It was a fabulous party, an extravagance fit for the turn of the century, which it was. I can’t believe this was almost 10 years ago. The memory of this morning burned so strongly in my mind that I avoided even trying to make crêpes. What, did I think it would be difficult? Drudgery? I’m not even sure. Apparently, though, it left a powerful subliminal impression that Making Crêpes Would Make You Lose Your Cool. If Adam was a little ruffled, where would that leave me, a more ruffle-y person? Did I want to make myself that stressed out on purpose?
Now I realize. Now that I’ve bitten the bullet and tried my hand at crêpes, I see that the problem with crêpes is neither drudgery nor difficulty. The problem is that crêpes could possibly drive you to real obsession. They are so pleasant and satisfying to make. Next thing you know, you're trying to come up with more reasons and ways to make them, possibly even resulting in making hundreds and hundreds of them for hordes of friends, like Adam did. In the course of a week I brought crêpes to a barbeque, a brunch, and a baby shower. Today I made some crêpe batter, “just because.” Just because what? Why in the world did I do that? Well, that’s the cool part. As soon as they are made, they will be welcome in just about any situation, on any doorstep, and in any hand. Might as well make ‘em.
If this is your first or second time making crêpes, I recommend making a double batch so you’ll have enough to practice. You can easily freeze the extras you make, or you can distribute them to friends and neighbors. They won’t mind. A first-time double recipe relieves the pressure to make perfect ones every time, and you can learn from any problems that arise. I’ve made a troubleshooting guide below this recipe for your reference.
- 4 eggs
- ¼ t salt
- 1 T plus 1 tsp sugar
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup melted butter
Directions: Making the Batter
- In a medium-large bowl, beat eggs with salt and sugar with a whisk*.
- Add milk and flour alternately, starting with some of the milk (the flour seems to make less lumps this way), and blending well after each addition. You will need to whisk somewhat briskly to get rid of flour-lumps. When the batter is well-blended, beat in the melted butter.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter chill and rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably several hours. Even better would be overnight, but don’t store it for more than 24 hours.
- Right before cooking crêpes, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and stir to reincorporate the ingredients into a smooth batter. Batter should be thin--considerably thinner than pancake batter, for example.
*When making the batter you can also use an electric mixer, but use it judiciously. If you beat at too high a speed for too long, your batter will have too many bubbles and might come out “lacy” when it cooks—which will cause a problem if you fill the crêpe later. If, when beating, you wind up making quite a few bubbles in order to get rid of flour lumps, just make sure you give the batter more time to rest in the fridge.
Directions: Cooking Crêpes
These directions are for crêpe pans over a stove. If you have a crêpe maker, follow the instruction manual for your model.
A note before you begin: Because the pouring/swirling process is so quick, I like to use a ¼ measuring cup with a handle for ease of pouring in the proper amount. I don’t quite fill it, and I only pour/use the amount needed to evenly coat the bottom, but then there’s a tiny bit left in the cup if I need to finish off a small gap where the pan didn’t get covered in time while swirling.
- Prepare your station. Next to the stovetop, place a plate or platter lined with a piece of wax paper —for the finished crêpes. Position the batter bowl on the other side of the pan, and put a small plate next to the bowl for the pouring cup to rest on when not in use (this helps cut down on drips and cup-sized circles all over your counter and stove). Crêpe making is a quick process, so it’s nice to have everything set up how you want it before you start.
- Pre-heat pan over medium-high. No butter is necessary if the pan is non-stick. If you use butter, you won’t need to use very much. Too much will make the crêpe greasy, and it also might interfere with the proper cooking of the crêpe (see Troubleshooting Guide below).
- Once pan is hot, lift up the back edge at an angle. Pour about 3 T of batter all at once onto the back/highest end of the pan, letting the batter flow down and around one side.* Immediately tilt pan in different directions to thinly coat the entire bottom of the pan in a smooth circle. The batter should be so thin that the crêpe already starts cooking all the way through as you finish swirling. Set pan back down on burner.
- When the top seems nearly completely cooked—in only one or two minutes—and the bottom is golden brown (you can peek by lifting up an edge with the spatula), slide the spatula under the crêpe and move it around underneath the crêpe to make sure that it is not sticking. Flip and cook for one or two seconds longer.
- Slide crêpe out onto the plate.
*Most recipes say to pour batter in the middle of the pan in an outward spiral pattern, then start swirling. I also found that the method described above works well for me. It seems to give me a better idea of how little batter I can get away with.
Note: This is not a traditional crêpe pan. It's possible, though not always as easy, to use a regular skillet, such as this one.
Right after making your stack of crêpes, cover the plate with a larger bowl or a large pan lid to retain moisture until you are ready to wrap with or serve them. They can also be stored in a large ziplock bag in the refrigerator for about 4 days. They will last even longer in the freezer; just make sure you separate each crêpe with wax paper.
In the next post, I will share some ideas and techniques for filling and folding crêpes.
Crêpe Troubleshooting Guide
Crêpe batter can be very forgiving if you know some basic tricks and principles about the batter. I’ve seen some troubleshooting guides out on the Internet and in books, and I’ve also made crêpes “wrong” on purpose (I swear!) and can confirm that the following troubleshooting tips all seem to be true; the fixes worked for me.
|Crêpe is lacy||Too many bubbles in the batter||Let batter rest longer|
|Batter is too thin||Add 1 or 2 T of flour|
|Edges of crêpe crack easily because they are dry and thin||Batter is too thin||Add 1 or 2 T of flour|
|Heat is too high||Bring heat down slightly and wait a moment before starting next crêpe|
|Crêpe does not swirl properly||Not enough batter added to pan||Finish this crêpe and add more batter next time|
|Batter is too thick||Add 1 or 2 T milk, testing to see if problem is solved|
|Batter sticks to pan||Heat is too low||Wash and dry pan thoroughly; re-season with a bit of butter and bring heat up a bit, making sure pan is fully heated before adding batter|
|Batter does not stick to pan when swirling, or begins to bubble or curdle||Too much butter in the pan||Finish this crêpe and wipe out pan with paper towel before starting next crêpe|