On a journey through my personal pancake history, yesterday I wrote about my mum’s fabulous, sweet “Eierkuchen”, that lay in our tummies like lead. Moving on, here is Part 2 :
Young and chic with Crêpes in France
My first experiences with French Crêpes were during the 80s: I was off to my first school exchanges to France, and we also saw the appearance of Crêpes in Germany, in the form of snack shop Takeaways – very different to the traditional ‘Crêperies’, which are actual restaurants in the country of Origin, especially in Brittany. Either way, I loved them with chocolate sauce and almonds or simple, with sugar and cinnamon.
But it wasn’t until the 90s, now migrated to France, that I learnt the three essential rules of Crêpe making :
1. – Get yourself a proper ‘poêle à crêpes ‘– a special Crêpes pan – treat it right and stick to it!
Every French household has to have their special pan, used only for Crêpes, ideally made from cast iron, but a quality teflon coated pan will do. Most French cook on gas stoves and nothing is more annoying than a pan that is uneven after a few runs. Minimum diameter 26 cm, get a wooden or plastic long flat spatula too, it’s the best way to turn or move those thin pancakes on your plate. It is generally considered a deathly sin to wash the pan with dishwasher liquid or the like – only wipe thoroughly with an oiled sheet of kitchen tissue – or bring on the rage and contempt of the French housewife! And you don’t want that, you want her Crêpes.
So how does she make them ?
This brings us to rule number two – there is no rule. Ah, que Non!
2. – There is no such thing as the one French Crêpes recipe. While obviously you should aim for the super-thin, golden lightness, every family has their own ‘best recipe’ for Crêpes. So over a decade I have tried out everything from very liquid to cream-based recipes, had crispy edges or ate Crêpes that were barely cooked, I have experimented with spices and tasty double-cooked sugar beet sugar (vergeoise), and also made savoury buckwheat crepes (galettes). Just don’t forget : add some yummy booze !
3. – If you don’t make a minimum of 20 Crêpes, forget about it.
It’s not that the individual Crêpe takes long to make but most recipes are made out to supply for a big and hungry family, and if you want just a crepe or two as a snack for yourself, you might as well buy one at a stand in the street or wait to be invited somewhere. Crêpe making is serious business, so you’re expected to make loads of them or don’t even bother to try.
And : never ever buy ready-made Crêpes in plastic from supermarkets, they taste like rubber sheets with sugar. Yuck!
Here is one of the many basic recipes for French Crêpes :
half a litre of milk,
500 g flour,
2 tbsp oil,
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar (or not),
popular optional ingredients – to taste :
orange/lemon zest , Cognac (!), Armagnac or Rum, vanilla sugar, cinnamon.. Oh! It seems incredibly important to let your dough rest a while.
Laissez reposer la pâte !
Note : Crêpes don’t need to be baked from both sides, but if you manage to tumble them, you earn lots of extra points from the natives!
Jean-Pierre Foucault, the presenter of the French “Who wants to be a millionaire” looks sheepish over a question on how many eggs to how much flour should be in a Crêpe dough. There is no answer, really.
wiki on French Crêpes
Y esterday : Eierkuchen – mum’s pancakes in Germany.
Tomorrow : K.I.S.S. for Pancakes – Part 3, Australia.