Do you wish you could take a basic cooking class? Do you find yourself buying lots of pre-made ingredients, but suspect your food would taste even better from scratch? Periodically, Champagne Tastes will be featuring ‘Cooking 101’ recipes. These cooking staples will take your food to the next level, and will help you make more ingredients from scratch.
If you find yourself impersonating the fabulous Julia Child while declaring, “Bon Appétit!” before a meal, you aren’t alone. (Or maybe no one else does this? I’m sure I can’t be the only one. I also like to take selfies with cardboard Julia at the Smithsonian,* so maybe it really is just me.) Whether or not you’re a Julia-fan, you should at least be aware that, if you’re looking for a basic, go-to, will-not-fail French recipe– she’s your gal. Her recipes have never failed me, and are always delicious. Her recipe for basic French Crêpes is easy to follow, and is sure to leave you with a stack of delicious, ultra-thin French pancakes.
French crêpes are easy to prepare, use about five ingredients, and are perfect for absolutely any meal you can think of. Breakfast? But of course! Lunch? Pourquoi pas? Dinner? Bien sûr! Dessert? Mid-morning snack? Midnight munchies? The answer is always– ‘oui.’ (That’s French for ‘yes,’ just in case I lost you there. My language skills are très fabuleuse, I know).
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Confession time– depending on which Julia Child cookbook you look at, the measurements for her basic crêpes are a little different. In The French Chef Cookbook, she uses a little more flour than in Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, and the water ratio is slightly different. What does this mean? I took it to mean that you have a little wiggle room with your crêpe measurements, because it tastes delicious either way. If you use slightly more flour, your batter is going to be (no surprises here), a little bit thicker. Personally, I find it easier to swirl the batter around my hot crêpe pan when using slightly a thinner batter, so I prefer the recipe from the latter book.
Making French Crêpes
To make crêpes, start by mixing the ingredients together in a blender. If you’d rather mix it by hand, you can do that too, but I’ve found the smoothest batter comes from a blender. Next, stick the batter in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight, if you want to plan ahead. Letting the batter sit allows the flour to fully absorb the milk as well as possible. (My next confession– sometimes I don’t let it sit the whole 30 minutes, but don’t be like me. Be like Julia).
Next, get a crêpe pan** extremely hot, and spray with oil. If you want to check and see if it’s hot enough, you can splash a drop or two of water onto the pan, and the drops should roll off. Keep the burner on high heat, but hold the pan in the air, just off the heat. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the pan (the amount of batter needed is going to depend on how big your pan is), and swirl, swirl, swirl! The goal here is to cover the whole pan with a very thin layer of batter. You want these to be thinner than Mexican tortillas– they literally are supposed to be ‘paper thin.’ Set the pan back on the burner, and let it cook for about 90 seconds. The bottom should turn golden brown, and then you can flip. The crepe only needs to cook for a few seconds on the other side, then set it aside to cool while you repeat the whole process over and over again. If you have trouble getting the crêpes ‘just right,’ remember that, just like with flipping pancakes, it gets easier with practice.
When you’re finished, you’ll have a delicious, fragrant stack of golden French Crêpes. Serve them any way you want– with fruit, smeared with Nutella, or use them as wrapping for delicious savory fillings. As you’re getting ready to eat, make sure to say “Bon Appétit!”
*Note: The Julia Child exhibit, as of my last visit in 2015, is in the lower level of the American History Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. When you walk in the front door, you have to go down a level to find it.
**Also Note: If you don’t own a crêpe pan, you can use another flat-bottomed non-stick or stainless steel pan. If you’re planning on buying a crêpe pan, a standard size is 8 inches, but you can also find 5 inch and 10 inch pans. I find that the flat bottom and straight edges on a crêpe pan makes it easier to flip the crêpe without tearing, but it’s definitely possible to make gorgeous crêpes without one.
Want to try making stuffed crêpes? Try these!
- 1 cup flour
- 2/3 cup cold milk
- 2/3 cup cold water
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 TB melted butter OR melted coconut oil, plus more for brushing hot pan
Optional add-ins for savory crêpes:
- diced fresh herbs
Optional add-ins for sweet crêpes:
- dash sweet liqueur
- 2 tsp sugar
Blend together all ingredients for crêpes. If adding herbs, stir in after using the blender.
Let batter sit in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat crepe-pan on high heat, and brush with oil or butter. Oil should shimmer on the pan.
Holding pan just off heat, add 2-3 TB batter and swirl to coat pan. Place back on heat and cook for about 90 seconds, until the bottom of the crêpe is golden and slides off the pan easily. Flip and cook the other side for 5-10 seconds. Move crêpe to a wire rack or plate to cool, and repeat with remaining batter.
If not using immediately, stack with wax paper in between crêpes, and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3-4 months in an airtight container. Don't skip the wax paper-- the crêpes will stick together.