I do believe there are few things more pleasurable than walking around Paris on a chilly day and stopping at one of the crêpe stands for a toasty snack. One of my first memories of Paris is ordering a crêpe au sucre while walking through the latin quarter one damp and bone-chilling day in November a few streets from the Sorbonne.
I watch as the vendor ladles batter on a large hot round griddle and quickly swirls it around to fill the circle with a handled wooden spreader. Just a moment to set, then a quick flip to the other side. A nut of butter is spread around the warm crepe and finished with a generous sprinkle of sugar. He folds it in half, then half again, now in thirds, and nestles it in a cone of parchment paper. I pay and he hands me my warm little package wafting tendrils of steam against the brisk fall air.
I continue on my way, nibbling at my treat, peeling back the paper wrapping as I go. For the last couple bites, however, I stop and proceed with full attention. You see, the remaining sugar and butter have melted together and pooled in the base of the crepe cone so one must be careful not to end up with dribbles and squirts of crepe filling on one’s coat and chin.
Though, worse than a butter stain on my wool coat would be to lose the precious elixir. So I gather the top of the last bite in my fingers and lean my head back to take the slightly larger-than-is-prudent mouthful. I bite down on the folded crepe and am rewarded with a burst of buttery sugary heaven.
Suddenly, the chilly damp weather is not all bad. And is that a tiny shaft of winter sun I see peeking through that cloud?
Put on a little Charles Trenet and warm up your winter day with this recipe…
Classic Crêpe Batter – yields about 15 crêpes
- 200 grams all purpose flour
- 40 grams granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 pint whole milk
- grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 100 grams beurre noisette (melted butter cooked until milk solids take on a nutty color and aroma – delicious!)
- extra butter and sugar for finishing
- 15 – 12” (approximately) parchment squares, pre-folded in quarters, for holding the finished crêpes
Make the batter:
- – Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
- – Whisk together the eggs, yolks and milk in a separate bowl.
- – Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually whisk in the milk and egg mixture taking care to avoid lumps.
- – Add lemon and orange zests and vanilla seeds.
- – Cover and refrigerate the batter to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes or as long as overnight.
- – About a half-hour before you’re ready to cook the crêpes, bring the batter out and let it come to room temperature.
- – Gently whisk in the beurre noisette.
- – Strain batter through a fine sieve.
You are now ready to start cooking your crêpes! You’ll need a small ladle to dispense the batter and you may find it helpful to have a pair of tongs and/or heat proof spatula handy for flipping. Have your parchment squares ready to receive the crepes.
– Preheat a non-stick crepe pan or sauté pan.
– Pour 1 small ladleful of crepe batter in the pan and immediately swirl around to evenly coat the flat surface of the pan.
– When you start to see bubbles in the surface of the crepe and the edges start to slightly colour and pull away a tiny bit from the pan, flip it over and quickly cook the other side, about 10 – 30 seconds.
* If your first crepe does not come out picture perfect, do not fret. The first crêpe out of the pan is usually a tad unsightly and it’s an ideal time for the chef to have a trial taste;-) Don’t be intimidated; it often takes a couple tries to get the hang of it and get the heat just right. Carry on brave soul…
– As soon as a crêpe is finished, flip it one more time (the first side, which usually looks nicer, will then end up on the outside), spread with a little butter, sprinkle with sugar, fold in half, then in half twice more. Nestle in a folded parchment and enjoy!
– Continue making crêpes until the batter is finished.
Tip: Crêpes keep quite well. If you choose to make them ahead, layer them with parchment between each crêpe. Wrapped well, you can either refrigerate them overnight or freeze them up to a month well sealed in a freezer bag, taking out just what you need (beware, this is a dangerously addictive thing to keep in your freezer!).
© Veronica Wirth and The Buttery Fig, 2011.