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When traveling through northwestern France — especially in Brittany, but also in Normandy — every town or village seems to have at least one crêperie. Not the sidewalk stands as found on the streets of Paris, but a real come-in-and-sit-down restaurant. And just as one walks into a pizzeria in other parts of France and orders a basic pizza with a multitude of possible combinations of toppings — the same is true with ordering a crêpe at one of these restaurants. Whether the menu lists the possible combinations generically or with fanciful names for each possibility, the customer can choose to have a crêpe as the center of a full meal, a simple snack, a luscious dessert, or a combination of the above.

In fancier restaurants in France, a crêpe may be used to package exotic fillings with the crêpe tied with a piece of chive or leek to form purse-like bags or folded to form faux ravioli. At the three-star Restaurant Georges Blanc in Vonnas, small blini-like crêpes made of potato are served as a side dish. The preparation is purported to originate with the chef’s grandmother. (They’re quite nice for sopping up sauce).

Crêpes come in both sweet and savory forms. A selection of each type is presented in this article. The savory crêpes can make a complete, simple meal when served with a simple salad on the side, or make great snacks. Some of the fancier savory preparations are suitable to serve as a first course in a larger meal.

The sweet crêpes are usually served for dessert, but they are often suitable for snacks.

Crêpes are usually made out of all-purpose wheat flour, buckwheat flour, or a combination of the two. Other flours are also used on occasion to achieve a certain taste or effect, but these crêpes are less common. On occasion, the term “crêpe” will be applied to other preparations served in the form of a crêpe.

Although each of the recipes presented in this article contains its own crêpe batter recipe, the preparation of the batter is essentially the same. The dry ingredients are mixed together. The egg is then thoroughly mixed, using a wooden spoon or spatula, with the dry ingredients. This creates a stiff paste. The liquid ingredients are then slowly added to this paste to first loosen it, and finally to dilute it to a batter consistency. At this point, I usually switch from a wooden spoon to a whisk to speed up the mixing. When mixed, the batter is allowed to rest so the flour swells completely. Before using, it may be necessary to dilute the batter further because sometimes it will thicken as it rests. This method of preparing a batter is in contrast to the manner of preparing a standard American pancake batter where the dry ingredients are added to the wet ingredients and everything is mixed together.

The crêpe batter recipe is only a guide. The consistency of the batter will vary with the weather, age of the flour used, and time allowed for resting. With a little experience, it is possible to judge the consistency after the batter has rested and to dilute it with a little water, milk, or cider, depending on the recipe. One way to judge the batter is to make a test crêpe to see how thick the cooked crêpe will be. This can also be helpful for the beginning crêpe chef to judge the proper heat to use for cooking the crêpe.

For the recipes presented, various size crêpes are required. These can easily be prepared in nonstick frying pans or with a pan designed specifically for crêpe preparation. These crêpe pans are available with a nonstick surface or with a plain surface that requires seasoning. If you’re lucky enough to have a real French, gas-fired crêpe stove — that’s even better. However, I would avoid the self-heating gadget-type crêpe pans popular in the 1960s because they are designed for making only one size of crêpe.

To turn a batch of batter into crêpes that are consistently the same size, I use a ladle for adding the batter to the crêpe pan. Restaurant supply stores sell inexpensive portion control ladles that make it easy to consistently create the same size crêpe. For a 6-inch diameter crêpe I use a 30 ml (1 oz) ladle; for a 7-inch diameter crêpe, a 60 ml (2 oz) ladle; for a 10-inch diameter crêpe, a 90 ml (3 oz) ladle; and for a 12-inch diameter crêpe, a 120 ml (4 oz) ladle.

If you’ve ever had a crêpe from one of the many sidewalk crêpe stands in Paris, you’ve seen the batter spread on the cooking surface with a wooden squeegee. For most home use, this device is too large. I’ve found that a plastic scraper can be used in a similar manner to produce the same effect. I use the narrow end of the scraper to spread the batter to the size of crêpe that I plan to make. This is especially helpful for larger crêpes. With small, thin crêpes it is often sufficient to tilt the pan to spread the batter. Thinner batters are easier to spread by tilting than thicker batters. The Paris vendors often use a wooden spatula for flipping the crêpe. I have found that when using a nonstick pan, it is only necessary to lift one edge of the crêpe with a plastic spatula so I can lift the whole crêpe with my fingers and flip it. The crêpe is hot, but not too hot to handle.

As I stated earlier, judging the proper heat to use for cooking the crêpes comes with experience. The telltale sign I use to know when to flip the crêpe from the first side to the second is when the edges start to crisp and brown slightly. When making a particular crêpe batter for the first time, it helps to prepare a little extra batter so the first one or two crêpes can be used for adjusting the heat.


If this article has made your mouth water too, then visit Peter's web site and look under the Archive section for this article where you will find the links to other egg recipes.

This article comes from the web site of Peter Hertzmann, called à la carte. This is one of the finest web sites I have come across.

Whilst most of us are keen amateurs who love to dabble, Peter is truly dedicated to the pursuit of his interest in and love of cooking. If his web site was to be published as a book I would be first in line to buy a copy!

What is à la carte about? This is best described in Peter's own words:

"I’m obsessive. All my life, when something interested me, I became obsessed with it. I learned all I could about it. I lived it! . . . I’ve been obsessive about food as long as I can remember. I am now obsessive with French cookery - its preparation, materials, history, politics, and culture".

To learn more why not visit the à la carte web site - click here

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