Time saver: Phil whips up a tasty weekend brunch…
Crêpes are a traditional thin French pancake. They’re very versatile, and can be filled with just about anything for a variety of different effects. You can make them ahead of time and stack them up, or serve them hot out of the pan (my preference).
When I was growing up we probably had crêpes for lunch about once every two weeks. Mum or Dad would whip up a batch of batter, then spend the next hour frying up delicious pancakes for the starving hordes (there are lots of kids in my family). We’d eat them with a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of lemon juice, or with maple syrup, rolled up and cut into segments. When we were younger Dad would help us put them together, but it always came at a cost, because then he’d yell “Tax!” and steal one of the crispy end pieces. (In some ways I guess that represented an important life lesson.)
For that reason, I’ve always been pretty familiar with crêpes, so I was a bit surprised to find that some people consider them tricky to make. The recipe itself is very straightforward and requires relatively few ingredients and not much skill to prepare. There’s a bit of a knack to getting the batter to spread while you’re cooking them, but once you get the hang of it and get used to the idea that the first crêpe is always going to be a disaster, they’re really pretty easy.
I think the Edmonds Cook Book has had the basic recipe nailed for the past 100 years. They use a little less milk than my parents did – adding more helps you spread the batter and get a nice thin pancake. I’ve modified my parents’ basic recipe to scale it better for cooking for two hungry adults. The recipe can very easily be doubled or tripled etc depending on how many pancakes you’re wanting to make. I use a standard 9″ diameter frying pan to cook these in, you don’t need a special crêpe pan, and it doesn’t need to be non-stick. (Feel free to use a different pan size, just adjust the amount of batter you pour in to match.)
Crêpes – makes around 8 pancakes of 9″ diameter
- 1½ c plain flour
- 1½ c milk
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt
- 30 g melted butter (optional)
- 8 small cubes of butter for frying
- Sift flour and salt into a large bowl.
- Add the eggs and milk, then beat with an electric beater till smooth. If you don’t have an electric beater, you can use a whisk or wooden spoon and a bit of arm power. In that case, you’ll want to add the milk gradually as you mix to help you avoid lumps (with the electric beater these really aren’t much of a problem).
- Add the melted butter and mix to combine. This is optional, particularly if you use a bit of butter to fry the pancakes in, and my parents never added it. I’m a fan of butter, and it improves the taste a bit.
- Put the bowl of batter in the fridge to chill for an hour (or more). This stops the crêpes from shrinking when you cook them. You can prepare the batter up to a day before you actually want to use it. If you’re in a big hurry (e.g. my parents cooking Sunday lunch) you can skip this step and cook the batter immediately, but the pancakes will contract as they cook and be slightly thicker than they otherwise would be.
- Take the batter out of the fridge and give it a stir. If it’s too thick add another splash of milk and stir it through.
- Heat a 9″ frying pan on a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-high, and leave to settle for a couple of minutes. (My elements go from 1-6, I normally have it set to 4 when cooking these.)
- Put one of the small butter cubes into the pan, then lift the pan and swirl it around to spread the butter evenly over the base. (The butter will hiss and rapidly melt, this sound evokes a lot of delicious memories for me.)
- Pour some of the batter into the pan. I use a ladle that holds 1/3 of a cup, you could also use a 1/3 cup measure, or just pour it out of the bowl (you get a feel for how much you need). Don’t pour it directly into the middle – pour to one of the sides as it makes it much easier to spread.
- After adding the batter to the pan quickly lift it and tilt the pan around to spread the batter evenly. If the pan is too cold, the batter will slip and be hard to spread. If the pan is too hot the batter will cook too quickly, before you’re able to spread it. If the batter is too thick it will also be hard to spread (in that case add a bit more milk to the bowl of batter and stir it through). If you’ve used too much butter to grease the pan it will run up the sides and onto the top of the pancake – although that’s not really a problem because it just makes the edges a delicious crispy golden brown. Don’t worry if the first one turns out wrong or doesn’t spread evenly. This is your chance to thin the batter, adjust how much butter you’re using to grease the pan, or adjust the heat of the element.
- Cook on that side for around 1-2 minutes until the top is no longer wet. If you lift the pan and shake it slightly, the pancake should slide around. At that point, flip the pancake using a fish slice (wide spatula). If your pan has curved sides you can flip the pancake just by rapidly lifting the pan and moving it forward, up and then back towards you. It takes a bit of practice but is achievable.
- Cook on the remaining side for another 30-60 seconds.
- At this point you can serve immediately, or stack on a plate in a warm oven (90°C/200°F) to serve in one go.
- Return the pan to the heat for around 10-15 seconds, then add another cube of butter and repeat…
I’d then eat the crêpes, sprinkling some sugar (2-3 tsp) and a dash of lemon juice (1-2 tsp), then rolling them up tightly. Alternatively, use maple or vanilla syrup, a fresh fruit compote, vanilla ice cream etc. You can also fill them with savoury fillings, or roll them up and bake them like enchiladas.
(This morning we had them with chopped bananas and a hot vanilla-caramel sauce.)