Crêpes (Savory and Sweet Pancakes)
A Sweet or Savory Meal
Brittany is famous for its crêpes (thin pancakes), and crêperies can be found all over the region. Stuffed with savories like ham, spinach, or egg, crêpes make a filling meal (think of them as a French version of tortillas). Our children love "crêpes night." The anticipation of the sweet dessert crêpes puts them in a good mood, and I find that they're more willing to try the new fillings in the savory dinner crêpes served first.
Once you get the trick of crêpes, they are fast, easy, and fun to make. The batter is usually foolproof, but the art of cooking the thin crêpes (with the right flick of the wrist at the right time) is something you learn with practice; I'd recommend watching an online video or two first, if this is your first time.
For more information on the book, "French Kids Eat Everything", click here.
For the crepe batter:
Place the flour in a large bowl, make a well, and add the eggs. Slowly pour in the milk, and then the water, stirring gently but constantly. Don't over mix. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream (if not, add more milk to thin the mixture). If you can, let the batter sit for at least 1 hour on the counter or, preferably, overnight in the fridge (your crêpes will have a nice smooth texture).
In a separate bowl, set aside some of the batter (approximately one- third to one-half) for the dessert crêpes; into this dessert mixture, stir the sugar and vanilla.
Cooking the crêpes
The trick is to cook the crêpe in the right way, so that the filling can heat up and the crêpe can be crispy without being burnt. Here's the method I use, taught to me by my mother-in-law.
Preheat a medium nonstick skillet to a medium-high temperature (just hot enough to make a drop of water "sputter"). Melt the butter (or vegetable oil) smoothly over the cooking surface (I use a bit of paper towel to spread it evenly). Pour in the batter (approximately ¼ to ¹/³ cup per crêpe, depending on how thick you like them), while moving your wrist in a circular motion so that the batter forms a large circle (covering the entire surface of the frying pan). Do this quickly (as the batter dries almost instantly), using something from which it is easy to pour. The crêpe should be thin, so it will become crispy at the edges when cooked.
The crêpe should start turning golden around the edges within 30 to 40 seconds. When browned on the bottom, carefully loosen and lift the edges with a spatula, and flip. While the second side is browning, place the filling in half of the crêpe, smoothing it out evenly. By the time the underside is done, the filling should be perfectly warm. Fold in half over the filling, and serve immediately by sliding the crêpe onto a plate (or a warming pan placed in the oven).
For the suggested savory spinach filling
The traditional filling in Brittany is fairly rich: a slice of ham, one egg (like a sunny-side- up egg, inside the crêpe), and grated cheese. But I like this lighter alternative:
To prepare the spinach filling, gently wash the baby spinach, then place in a small pot (no added water!), and stir over high heat until wilted and tender (a minute or less). Stir in the butter and sprinkle with salt and nutmeg, if desired. Spoon the spinach mixture in a line down the middle of each crêpe, roll it up, and tuck the ends underneath like a wrap. Repeat with the rest of the crêpes. Pop the crêpes into a baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese (optional), broil for 2 to 4 minutes, and serve hot.
Suggested dessert fillings
Now that you have enjoyed your dinner crêpes, it's time for dessert! The classic filling for dessert crêpes is beurre-
sucre: a teaspoon of butter and a sprinkling of sugar. Here are some classic French fillings:
Lemon-honey: A spoonful of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice.
Chocolate: Melt a square of dark chocolate over the crêpe surface.
Berries: Fresh blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
Jam: Any kind will do, but we love blackberry jam the best.
Note: If you want to serve everyone at the same time, place crêpes on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the rest. Repeat until you have the desired number of crêpes (usually one per child or two per adult as a main dish, plus one per person for dessert).
Tip: For some reason known only to the gods of French cooking, the first crêpe is almost always a disaster. Set it aside, add a little butter if you need grease on your cooking surface, and just keep going!
Recipes from: FRENCH KIDS EAT EVERYTHING by Karen Le Billon; Published by William Morrow, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Main Ingredients: butter, eggs, flour
Course: Dessert, Snack, Breakfast
More Info: Kid Friendly