How To Make French Crepes, Understanding the Basics

It’s still that time of year when the French break out their thick bottomed skillets or crepe makers and spend their afternoons flipping flimsy versions of American flapjacks for meals and pate a crepe,

Crepes are excellent on windy March days because they have to be eaten hot, usually asking for a designated chef to stand in front of the stove turning out crepe orders like a true short-order cook.

Crepes have a few things going for them. First of all they are cheap and everyone likes them; secondly, they can be eaten sweet or savory; thirdly, they transform into great leftovers. Simply stuff, cover and bake.

So being of American origin with some French flare, I decided that it’s not too late to share with you the classic French crepe recipe.

Usually when crepes are for dinner in France (they’re not pancakes and aren’t eaten for breakfast) they’re served for the main course and dessert. As you can imagine, this is the kind of meal that is a huge success among minors.

The made-to-order versions can be filled with anything really. The most popular fillings are grated cheese, sliced ham and eggs or any combo of that. Other great options are crumbled bleu cheese, walnuts and garnished with salad; smoked salmon, sour cream, lemon zest. The sky’s the limit here.

In any case, crepes have to be eaten hot or at least warm or they lose their specialness. This is probably why party crepe-makers are on sale here in France in wintertime because their warmth at the dinner table is enthusiastically welcomed.

As for the sweet versions, a drizzle of rum can be added to the batter or zest of orange for added flavor. Stuff them with sliced strawberries and sugar, garnish with whipped or ice cream for a hearty dessert or simply spread with Nutella and roll up and eat like a fajita.

Some crepe techniques for Success:

  • make the crepes in advance and reheat at serving time, adding fillings as orders come in then warm it up in the skillet
  • use a thick-bottomed, non-stick skillet when making the crepes
  • preheat skillet before adding batter. Skillet must be hot. To check, flick a bit of water onto skillet, if water droplets dance on skillet, it’s hot enough
  • use vegetable oil not butter or margarine which will burn
  • spread oil around skillet with paper towel after each crepe to avoid sticking
  • use spatula and go around edges of crepe when it’s cooked and edges have turned crispy, then more towards the center of the crepe. This will help detach and make it easier to flip
  • if you can’t flip the crepe without it folding over on itself, it means the batter is too thick; thin it out with some milk
  • serve sparkling apple cider (non-alcoholic) or a dry white wine

-wrap in plastic wrap and store leftovers in the refrigerator. They will keep for a week.

Basic French Crepe Recipe

For twelve crepes

1 cup flour
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk, any type
vegetable oil for skillet + paper towel
pinch of salt
In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Add eggs and stir with wooden spoon until you obtain and homogeneous, pasty mixture; add milk slowly mixing well until you have a smooth, runny batter.

Heat skillet on medium-high. Add no more than a 1/8 teaspoon of oil to skillet; spread around with paper towel.

Using a soup ladle, add batter to skillet, swirl around to cover whole skillet surface immediately. Batter should form a thin layer.

Slide spatula around edges working inwards to separate crepe from skillet bottom. When edges are dry and batter changes color, it’s cooked on one side and needs to be flipped. Crepe should slide around easily in skillet.

Using your fingers, peel back edges at top end crepe then flip remaining half over and back down in skillet. Stack on plate Cover with paper towel or cloth to keep warm. Repeat procedure. Note, if you can’t handle crepe because of heat, turn heat down a notch.

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