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Classic French Crepes

Updated on August 20, 2007

Crepes are a classic of French cuisine, a specialty of northern France, in particular the region of Brittany.  With a little practice, they are easy to make and can be used to prepare dishes in endless variety.  Appropriate for any time of day and any level of sophistication, from a casual lunch to a gourmet dessert, crepes are a delicious and practical dish to add to your culinary repertoire. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Crepes can be made in a crepe pan over the stove, or with an electric crepe maker. If you have neither, you can make crepes in a frying pan, but the high sides will make it more difficult for you to turn the crepe without damaging it. Usually, when first making crepes you will end up ruining the first three or four, but once you have the temperature of your crepe pan or maker just right, and have mastered the trick of spreading the batter and turning the delicate crepe, you can turn out a batch of crepes quickly and easily.

Crepe Pans

Crepe pans have low, gently sloping sides to enable you to easily turn and remove the crepe from the pan. They come in diameters from about 5” for blini up to 12”. If using a crepe pan, heat the pan over medium-high heat then oil to the pan. There should be just enough oil to lightly but evenly coat the surface of the pan. A pastry brush works well for this. The amount of crepe batter to add to the pan will necessarily depend on the size of the pan, but an 8” crepe pan or frying pan will require a scant ¼ cup of batter. Pour the batter into the hot pan and immediately swirl the pan around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Pour out any excess batter. The coating of batter should be very thin, about 1/16” thick. Return the pan to the fire. It should take about a minute and half for the crepe to cook. It is ready to turn over when the batter has set and is dry around the edges. Turn the crepe with your fingers or a thin, flexible spatula. The second side will cook in under a minute.

Crepe Makers

An electric crepe maker is a large round griddle with a heating element and is quite a bit larger than a crepe pan; from 12” to 18” in diameter. With no rim on the heating element, it’s very easy to turn and remove the crepe. An electric crepe maker is the tool to use if you want to duplicate the large and perfect crepes found in Parisian street side crepe stands. To use the crepe maker, heat it to the appropriate temperature and apply butter or oil with a pastry brush. Using the amount of batter recommended by the manufacturer for your size crepe maker, spread the batter in a circular motion with the included tool known as a crepe rake or crepe spreader. To turn the crepe, use the long thin crepe spatula that is perfect for handling a delicate crepe that could be up to 18” in diameter. Depending on the make and model of the crepe maker, you can make a crepe in as little as 30 seconds.

Classic Savory Crepe Recipes

Traditional Buckwheat Crepes for Savory Fillings

1-1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1-1/4 cup milk

1-1/4 cup water

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients into a blender carafe and blend briefly at medium speed. Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender jar; then blend for another 5 seconds. Pour out the batter into a mixing bowl, cover and let rest for 1 hour before using. Makes about 20 8" crepes.

Fillings for savory crepes are as varied as there are ingredients. You can use any combination of sliced or chopped meat, sauce, cooked vegetables and shredded cheese. Here is one of my favorites.

Ham and Asparagus Crepes

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter

1-1/4 cups milk

2-1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese, divided

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 buckwheat crepes, 8" to 10" in diameter

16 slices black forest ham

16 asparagus spears, cooked until crisp tender

Pre-heat oven to 400 F and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk and stir until mixture is homogenous and no lumps remain. Continue to stir until mixture thickens. Stir in 1 cup grated Swiss cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

To assemble, take a buckwheat crepe and top it with two slices black forest ham and two asparagus spears. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of grated Swiss cheese, roll up and place in prepared baking dish. Repeat until all 8 crepes are made. Pour sauce over crepes and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place in oven and bake until top is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Pass under the broiler for the last few minutes to lightly brown. Serves 4.

Classic Sweet Crepe Recipes

Basic Crepes for Sweet Fillings

2 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 cups milk

4 large eggs

1/4 cup melted butter

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Put all ingredients into a blender carafe and blend briefly at medium speed. Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender jar; then blend for another 5 seconds. Pour out the batter into a mixing bowl, cover and let rest for 1 hour before using. Makes 24 8” crepes.

Sweet crepes are delicious topped with nothing more than butter and sugar, or can be filled with Nutella or pie filling and topped with whipped cream or ice cream. Below is a recipe for classic French dessert, Crepes Suzette.

Crepes Suzette

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

12 crepes for sweet fillings

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

In a 10-inch skillet over low heat, heat orange juice, butter, sugar and zest until butter melts. Fold crepes into quarters and arrange overlapping in the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Pour Grand Marnier into the center of the pan, but do not stir. Heat for 1 minute, then flambé by touching it with a flame from a long-handled lighter. Serve as soon as the flame dies down. Serves 4.

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