You can do anything with crepes. These thin pancakes are not really a pancake in the traditional sense, because they do not rise and get fluffy. They have no leavening except eggs, which gives a very thin, flat batter cake. However, they are the vehicles for a great many dishes, both savory and sweet and are ridiculously easy to make. Unlike other dough-wraps such as tortillas, wonton skins or thin pasta, crepes have no gluten development and so are extremely tender.
Fortunately, you do not need any special equipment to make superb crepes. A French crepe pan is nice to have, as is an electric crepe maker but any small frying pan will work if it is thoroughly cleaned, rinsed and seasoned first. One way to season a pan for making crepes is to heat it until just hot to the touch, rub it with canola oil or spray with Pam and let it stand overnight. Once you have made crepes and discovered their simplicity and versatility, you may want to dedicate a small pan for this use only as you would a pan especially for omelets.
I actually own an electric crepe maker given to me by my mother-in-law years ago. I will always be grateful to her because at the time I thought it very frivolous and one more thing to find space to store, but because of my curiosity about cooking, I used it. Wow! It makes wonderful crepes very quickly and is so small it isn’t hard to store anyway. Mine is made by Oster, but I haven’t seen one in a store in years, so I don’t know if they are available any more or not.
The only warning on making crepes is—make extra dough the first time and give yourself some room to practice. You may make a few limp or misshapen crepes until you get the hang of it and they will taste as good as the perfectly shaped, perfectly browned crepes you will soon be making.
Crepes freeze beautifully. They take up very little space in your freezer and defrost in minutes, giving you the makings of an endless number of dishes including a great way to use leftovers creatively. To top off the list of qualities, the most delicate and delicious crepes have only 20 calories apiece.
Basic Crepe Recipe
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. sugar
One-fourth tsp. salt
1½ cups milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled or oil
Mixing by hand:
Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Break the eggs into another bowl and mix until yolks and whites are blended. Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in beaten eggs. Stir the flour mixture into the eggs little by little. Add liquid a spoonful at a time and mix it in thoroughly before adding more. When the mixture becomes easy to work (when about half of the liquid has been used) the remainder can be added in two portions. Add melted butter. Mix again; cover and set aside for at least an hour. Mixture can be held in the refrigerator overnight.
Mixing with electric mixer:
Beat eggs about a minute at medium speed. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until smooth, then add the remaining dry ingredients. Add melted butter or oil and beat again. Cover and set aside from 1 to 6 hours. Can be held overnight in the refrigerator.
Mixing with a Blender (this is the fastest, easiest way):
The liquids and eggs should go into the blender first, including butter or oil; then the dry ingredients. Blend for 1 minute, then turn off motor and with a rubber spatula, push down flour that has not been blended and blend again for a minute. If necessary repeat until the mixture is well blended. Cover and set aside for 1 to 6 hours at room temperature; can be held overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat pan and brush with melted butter. Stir batter and make sure it is the consistency of heavy cream. If too thick, add a little more liquid. Use a measure that gives you 1-1/2 Tbsp. batter for a 5-inch pan and 2 Tbsp for a 6-inch pan. When the butter is hot and bubbling but not brown, lift pan off heat and pour in the batter. Quickly tilt the pan so that the batter swirls around and covers the bottom of the pan. If you haven’t used enough and there are holes, pour in more. If you pour in too much the excess can be poured back. The batter that clings to the side of the pan as a result can be cut off after the crepe is cooked. Return pan to heat. If the burner is hot enough and the right amount of batter has been used, the crepe will take about one minute to brown. Using a round-ended table knife or your fingers, pick up the edge of the crepe and check for browning. Turn the heat up or down if the crepe is cooking too slow or too fast. Shake the pan to be sure the crepe does not stick and then lift up an edge and turn it over. The reverse side will take about a half minute to cook. It will not be as evenly brown as the first side and is always turned inside for the filling.
Immediately pour in more batter and continue cooking until all the batter is used. Add butter or oil only when pan looks dry, perhaps every second or third crepe. As each crepe is cooked, turn out on a clean dish towel or paper towel. If crepes are to be used immediately, stack them on a warm plate and keep them in warm oven until all are made. If they are to be kept awhile, stack them after they have cooled with waxed paper between each and keep covered so they do not dry out. If they are to be frozen, wrap the stacked layers in freezer wrap, aluminum foil or plastic bags and freeze immediately.
Your first crepe may stick to the pan and tear when you try to turn it. It may be because the pan is not well seasoned. Heat takes time to settle and the first crepes may not be as perfect as later ones. Be patient. If your crepes have a scrambled appearance on the first side, the heat was too high when they were poured in. If they do not brown in a minute or so, the heat is too low. If they are not yet set on top when they are browned on the bottom, too much batter was used. If crepes are too thin on the edges, the batter was swirled too thinly there. However you can clip or snip the edges.
Here are two wonderful and easy crepe recipes to start you off:
Crepes with Chicken and Mushrooms
2-1/2 cups cooked chicken or turkey
4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp sherry
3 cups Mornay sauce
Salt and pepper
14-16 5-inch crepes
½ cup grated cheese for topping
Cut the chicken or turkey into bite-size pieces. Heat butter in large skillet and sauté onion until clear. Add mushrooms and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then add chicken or turkey and sherry and stir to combine with butter and juices. Add one cup of Mornay sauce and stir and cook over low heat until sauce thickens. Cool slightly.
Put a spoonful or two of filling down the center of each crepe. Roll and turn seam side down and place in a buttered baking dish. Pour the other two cups of Mornay sauce over the filled crepes and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 deg. This freezes well. Defrost completely then bake the same as freshly made.
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk or stock
1½ cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. white wine
3 egg yolks
3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
Melt butter, add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed and bubbly, but do not let mixture brown. Heat milk or stock and half and half to simmer point (can use microwave). Remove bubbling flour and butter from heat, pour in all the boiling liquid at once and stir vigorously. Return to heat and simmer for ten or fifteen minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. Add wine and then add one-fourth cup hot mixture to egg yolks, stirring while adding. Add egg yolk mixture back to sauce, then add cheese. Cook until thick and bubbly.
12 6-inch crepes
3 cups dried apricots, chopped and soaked overnight
One-third cup sugar
2 egg whites
One-fourth cup sugar
1 Tbsp. slivered almonds
Keep crepes warm while preparing filling. In a medium-size saucepan, combine apricots with just enough water to cover. Add sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft. Puree in food processor or blender. Grate zest from lemon; squeeze lemon juice. Add zest and juice to apricot puree.
Preheat oven to 375 deg. Spoon a little of the puree on each crepe. Fold crepes in quarters and arrange in a single layer in a shallow heatproof dish. Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Beat egg whites until stiff; gradually beat in sugar. Remove crepes from oven and discard foil. Preheat broiler. Spoon meringue over crepes; sprinkle with almonds. Broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Serves 4.