Whether crêpes sucrée or salée, these sweet and savory delicacies are perfect anytime.
Born in Brittany in the Middle Ages, the original recipe calls for buckwheat, AP flour's gluten free cousin. An early record of the recipe from the 14th century writing, Le Menagier de Paris, cites a mixture of flour, eggs, water to moisten, salt and alcohol. The batter should be streamed from a small hole into a buttered, heated pan and evenly distributed across the surface to cook. Once plated, it's dusted with powdered sugar.
Even six hundred years ago, they got it right.
My recipe for classic crêpes, adapted and tested from my mother and grandmother, also includes eggs, flour, a little salt, sugar and liqueur. I use whole milk instead of water.
Step 1: Sift
In a large mixing bowl, sift 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (or buckwheat, if you're into keeping it authentic). Add and whisk until blended pinch of salt and 2-3 tbsp of cane or granulated sugar.
Make a well in the center of the dry mix, and add three eggs. Break the eggs and start whisking together, incorporating flour from the sides as you go.
After the egg mixture starts to thicken, while whisking, stream slowly into the batter about 2 cups of milk. Whisk until fully blended and the batter is quite runny and smooth. There shouldn't be any flour lumps.
Although optional, you can add a splash of rum, grand marnier or cognac at this time, along with any citrus zest, flavorings or infusions.*
Lastly, a small saucepan on low heat, warm 3 tbsp butter until melted. Pour the melted butter into the batter and whisk to combine.
Step 2: Sit
To avoid a floury taste, let the batter relax for at least 30 minutes, but ideally an hour or more. You can even let it rest overnight, covered in the fridge. Note: you may need to re-hydrate and thin the batter by adding water or milk to the batter to regain the silky, almost runny consistency.
Step 3: Spread
In a skillet or griddle on medium heat, add 1 tbsp clarified butter to the pan and spread.
Add anywhere from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup into the pan, moving it around to spread the batter quickly and thinly over the surface in the shape of a circle. Ensuring it is an even coat of batter is more important than trying to attain the requisite thinness with the first few crêpes. Likely, some or all of the oil or butter will be quickly absorbed in the first three, which can inhibit the crispy lace you're trying to achieve.
The sides will start to curl and detach from the pan. You can use a spatula to loosen, and after 30 seconds on each side, remove from the pan.
It's okay. This recipe makes on average 15- 9" crêpes. You've got plenty of time to practice. Try spreading the crêpes using different tools, like a butter knife or icing knife with a bit of a foot. And try different pours and swirling methods. Practice lowering or increasing the temperature. Or, even shift your pan type: non-stick v. cast iron v. carbon steel can make a difference!
Serve stuffed or simply, with butter and a dusting of powdered sugar.
*If I am adding zest to this recipe, I'll add the zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/3 orange. If I am adding flavorings like extracts, I'll add 1 tsp almond and 1 tsp vanilla extract. For herbal infusions like chopped chives or tarragon, 2 tbsp will do.