Though a close relative of the British pancake, the French crêpe has evolved into a thinner, more elegant, more luxurious offering altogether with its fine frilly edges. But without one of those special hot plates (billig) and a tiny wooden paddle (rozell), how do you make crêpes to rival those dispensed from traditional crêperies or the tiny, cramped stands at French fairs and markets? Crêpes are easier to make than you might think. Here are our tips to ensure things go smoothly...
- Plain wheat flour is the most popular choice, although buckwheat flour is also used, especially in Brittany, the home of the savoury galette Bretonne. It’s also a gluten free option.
Most crepe batters use eggs and melted butter with a variety of liquids.
Milk mixed with water produces light, moist, lacey crepes.
Replace all the milk with lukewarm water for extra thin, extra-light crêpes.
A mixture of French beer with milk produces a crepe that’s light and lacey and slightly malty which is perfect for savoury fillings.
Sugar is a must in a sweet crepe, balanced with just a pinch of salt.
Add a splash of Rum or Grand Marnier for a traditional flavouring.
Other liqueurs and eaux-de-vie will work well too.
Try vanilla extract, grated lemon or lime zest or orange-blossom water.
Don’t bother with mixers and blenders, just give the batter a good and thorough whisk. Don’t overdo it, though – once it’s smooth, leave it, or you’ll encourage gluten to form, which will make the crepes tough. The batter should have the consistency of single rather than double cream. The batter can be used straight away but can be left, covered, for an hour or so.
Cook the crepes in a hot even pan – butter is the norm for greasing, but you could use oil (or clarified butter) if you’re making a lot and are worried about the butter burning.
Test with a little batter – it should sizzle as it hits the pan. Once it does, pour in a half ladleful of batter and quickly tilt the pan to cover the base, tipping any excess batter back into the bowl. Cut away the lip of cooked batter that will have formed on the side of the pan. Remember, the first crepe is always a test. Keep going.
Leave to cook until you can see the edges turning brown and crisping, then loosen with a palette knife or spatula and flip. Cook until spottily golden on the other side.
Crepes are always at their best when eaten fresh out of the pan but, if you want to make a batch in advance either: Set a plate over a pan of simmering water, pile the crepes up and cover them with another plate or place them in on a foil-lined baking sheet, covered with foil, in a low oven. Crepes will keep for two days in the fridge or two months in the freezer.
Toppings are up to you – from savoury Traditionelle with sweet fig conserve, goat’s cheese, ham and pickle salad to luscious Crepes Suzette with its rich orange liqueur sauce, or simply a generous filling of fruity conserve and a dusting of icing sugar, it’s all a matter of taste.
We hope this helps you create the perfect crêpe for Pancake Day this year.