You know how you can get a song stuck in your head, and you can not let it go. Have you ever had that happen with food? I had that happen recently with crêpes. Then I went on a cruise that had a crêpe station every evening. I planned my day to have a crêpe for my evening dessert.
A crêpe, sometimes called a French pancake, is a very versatile dish to know. It can be served as a breakfast item, a nice snack, dinner entrée, or an elegant dessert. The recipe starts out the same for each. Possible a pinch of something to make it a little sweeter for a dessert or pinch of something else for an entrée. Most of the time, the paper-thin crêpes is served with a filling and maybe whipped cream or sauce as a topping. My all-time favorite is a banana and Nutella filling with a line of chocolate sauce over the top.
The place I really discovered crêpes was Munich, Germany. I was attending some training for a few weeks at the Siemens Institute. Walking back to my hotel after dinner one night, I passed a food stand making them. That cart was pulled up into the cover entrance of a department store after it closed. There were a few people in line waiting, so I stood by and watched for a few minutes. They only took a minute or so to make, so the line moved fast. I got what became my favorite. The stand became a nightly stop. Another rememberable crêpe was in a small restaurant in France. It was a savory one filled with a spinach/cheese/ mushroom filling. A great lunch.
Crêpes Are Easier Than You Think
Like many dishes with a reputation for elegance, crêpes are easier to make than you have been led to believe. In commercial kitchens, they will be made with a special pan, maybe even with a dedicated machine. A batter spreader makes it look difficult, too. I have enjoyed them in up-scaled restaurants where they prepared them table side, with a portable maker.
Reality check: You do not need fancy pans or special tools. Learning the technique to cook the perfect crêpe is not that difficult. Just keep in mind, the first one always seems to be a failure.
While this is my blog and I do have some outside guest bloggers, this time I am going to refer you to an Alton Brown webpage. It really shows how simple it can be.
Crêpes Cheat 101
If you look at the batter of the food network recipe or for that matter any other you find online, you see it has fairly simple ingredients. If you compare them to a pancake recipe, you will see they are very similar. In fact, the basic difference is that pancakes include baking powder. This is to help the pancake become fluffy, which we do not want with the super-thin crêpes. The crêpe has egg.
Many food blogs will tell you, you can not use a pancake mix. I disagree! The Mrs. Butterworth pancake mix even has instructions to make a crêpe batter. I often use that. Traditionally, some areas of France use buckwheat. So give it a try.
If you are making a number of crêpes, like for a party, part of the fun will be making them to order. Make your batter ahead of time and let it rest. Have a choice of a few fillings. A great shortcut is to use canned pie filling. You only need a few spoons full for each one. Then drizzle the finished product with some chocolate sauce, or top with a scoop of ice cream.
Elegance on a Budget
A cup of pancake mix or flour, a little butter or oil, some water, and your favorite filling. Things you likely have on hand and all inexpensive. The result is something you will find in upscale restaurants. It might take a little practice with a pan to get it right, but it is not hard.