As candlemas is approaching. February 2 means having crepes in France. Thin pancakes eaten with just sugar or garnished with all kind of sweet or savory toppings and flavorful fillings.
Candlemas or not, at home and for most of the French, there are no seasons to eat crepes (but I do admit that Candlemas is a good excuse!). Kids love them for their afternoon snack.
Do you know how to get a smooth, homogeneous and easy to cook batter? And get both light and fluffy crepes? Here are some advices, tips and tricks:
- How to avoid lumps? Sift flour and incorporate milk little by little, constantly stirring. First mix flour (with sugar and salt) and eggs. Then add melted butter. Finally, pour in milk in small quantities little by little, while stirring. Stir with a whisk or possibly a fork. A blender also works (but then the resting time is longer and you should add ingredients in a different order: first eggs, sugar and salt, mix, then butter, mix, milk, mix, and then flour little by little while mixing). Using room temperature milk and eggs should help. I haven’t checked.
If there are lumps: mix with a blender (or “hand blender” as we often use in France), or drain the batter through a drainer and remove or crush lumps.
- Melted butter or browned butter? Browned butter is called hazelnut butter in French due to its color and flavor. Ideally use browned butter because it gives a little flavor to the batter and mixes much better. If however you don’t have enough time or if afraid to prepare browned butter, melt butter works. Then make sure to add it in the middle of the preparation process (before milk being the best) and not at the end because otherwise butter may freezes, go to the surface of the batter and harden. Make sure that the butter (melted or browned) is not too hot when incorporated.
- How to flavor crepes? Several options: vanilla (extract, powder or pod ideally previously brewed in warm milk), orange blossom, orange or lemon zests, alcohol (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Calvados, Rum …).
- How do you know batter have the right consistency? Take a ladle, dip it into the dough, remove and flip it. Touch it with your finger. The finger trace should remain. If it quickly closes this mean the dough is too runny.
- How to get lighter crepes? Replace 1/5th milk with the same amount of beer or cider. Do not worry, this won’t alter crepe taste. Some add water. I don’t think it’s a good option (semi-skimmed or whole milk is better).
Note on beer: beer contains carbon dioxide which, trapped in batter, brings lightness. Unpasteurized, the beer yeasts produce bubbles that gives softness to the dough.
- How long should the dough rest for? Ideally for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature. The more you have mixed the dough, the longer the resting time should be. Resting time have a specific reason: it allows the flour proteins (which will form gluten), hydrated upon contact with milk’s moisture, modifying their properties to give elasticity to the dough. More flexible, crepes are easier to cook and won’t retract. I admit that it is rare that I messed up crepes with an express resting time (30 min in the refrigerator) or even none. A little trick from the great French Chef Joël Robuchon: using warm milk, you can avoid to let the batter rest. Note that resting time is important when you have flavored batter.
- At what temperature should the stove be? The frying pan needs to be at the right temperature: too cold the dough won’t cook and will be difficult to flip, too hot dough coagulates before being spread properly and may be quickly overcooked. Even if you use a non-stick pan, regularly put a small knob of butter and spread the melting butter all over the pan using paper towel to grease the pan and remove impurities or remainings from the previous crepe. Some use a potato (raw, peeled) soaked with oil. I’ve never tested.
- How to keep crepes warm? Several solutions as you go: In a plate in the oven at 30 °C, in a plate placed over simmering water or in a plate wrapped in a cloth (or covered with aluminum foil). If you intend do a quick warming before eating them (or if you want to garnish them) make sure when preparing crepe to have them cooked less than they are suppose to.
- How to keep and store batter? Batter can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. However don’t hesitate to put batter, in a plastic bottle in the freezer and take it out a few hours before using it.
And you, you little tricks?
You can garnish crepes with : sugar and butter, jam, fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, caramel or mapple syrup…
Préparation time : 10 min
Cooking time: A few minutes for each crepe
Quantity: about 20 crepes of medium size
Spécific equipment: none
500 gr flour
100 gr caster sugar
10 gr salt
50 gr unsalted butter
1 liter milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
Mix dry ingredients. Then with eggs. Prepare a browned butter (optional). Add butter in the batter, then slowly and gradually milk. Rest for 1 hour before cooking them in a frying pan.
Prepare browned butter (optional, otherwise just melt butter): Cut butter into small cubes and let it melt in a large saucepan over medium heat. It will first crackle (butter moisture evaporates). Then when it stops bubbling, butter will gradually take a nice amber color with a nutty smell. Stop before it blackens. Filter using a drainer and let cool.
In a large bowl, mix flour (ideally previously sifted), sugar and salt. Add eggs and stir with a whisk or a fork. Add butter (melted or browned) and mix.
Finally pour the milk very slowly while stirring constantly.
Set aside to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat a 23-cm (9-inch) non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, brush with butter.
For each crepe, pour about 1 ladle (about 3/4 tablespoons) of batter in the centre. Tilt frying pan to spread batter evenly until it covers the entire bottom of the frying pan. When the edge peels off easily and begins to brown, flip the crepe. Continue cooking until it brons a bit. Then set aside in a plate (see advices to keep them warm as you go).