Monday, September 12, 2011

Making Crêpes

Jessica and I lived in Paris for a year, and one night we accidentally embarked on an epic walk across the city. At midnight, we passed a neglected-looking Église Saint-Augustin; at 12:30, we walked under the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli. At 1am, we rested on the steps of the Louvre, and at 1:30, still only halfway home, we crossed the Pont du Carrousel, and wished out loud for a place to buy a crêpe. And - as if from a mirage - there, in front of us, at the end of the bridge, appeared a small crêpe stand, open in the middle of the night.

Crêpes were something I was determined to make at home when we came back to Atlanta, and for a while I made them all the time. As Allen and I will be visiting Paris in just over a month, and there's suddenly a fall chill in the air here in Atlanta, I woke up on Saturday with a craving for apple crêpes.

I did a lot of research a few years ago when I looked for a crêpe pan. Crêpe stands in Paris usually have a big, circular, electric griddle with no sides at all. The cook uses a small rake-like tool to spread the thin batter all over the pan, and then a flat, wooden spatula to flip it. Although there are plenty of crêpe pans available where you're meant to swirl the batter around the pan, I don't have the fancy wrist dexterity for this method, and I wanted to employ the wooden tool method.

Fante's has a great selection of crêpe tools - including some very fancy griddles - so I ordered a wooden spatula and spreader - called a rateau. Now I needed a griddle.

This set from Le Creuset was basically what I was looking for, but I wasn't about to pay $100 for it. I did a lot of searching on eBay, and finally won a Griswold #9 griddle - a round, flat pan with no sides, which we use several times a week regardless of crêpe consumption. I'm a huge devotee of cast-iron pans - they heat evenly, retain heat well, and only get better over time. No matter how much I love making crêpes, our tiny kitchen doesn't have room to spare for a big electric griddle meant to do only one thing. The griddle is an ideal crêpe pan, but it's also good for about a million other things.

Here's the recipe I devised on Saturday - the crêpe recipe is from Allrecipes. This really has the flavors of fall, and it makes your kitchen smell delicious. (You could also make the crêpes and just add jam, or bananas and Nutella - or Jessica's favorite, raspberry jam and Nutella.)

Apple-Pecan Crêpes with Caramel
serves 8

8 crepes (see below)
apple filling (see below)
1 pint vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Apple filling:
1 tablespoon butter
3 apples, peeled and cut into 1/4"-1/2" cubes
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/4 cup caramel sauce (see recipe below, or use store-bought)

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apples, and saute 5 minutes. Add cinnamon, brown sugar, pecans, and lemon juice, reduce heat to low, and saute until apples are tender. Deglaze pan with bourbon, and remove from heat. Stir in caramel sauce.

2 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process 10 seconds or until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for one hour, if possible (it's not a big deal if you can't).

Heat 11" griddle over medium-high heat. Spray a little oil onto the pan. Ladle 1/3 cup batter onto the pan, and immediately use a wooden rateau to spread the batter over the surface of the pan, moving the rateau in a circular motion around the edges of the pan. The batter should be spread thin - use only enough to barely spread it all across the pan.

There is actually a little too much batter on this pan - I was trying to use up the last of it.

When the edges of the batter start to crisp and turn golden, slide the wooden spatula underneath and flip it over. Leave about 30 seconds or 1 minute, long enough for the crêpe to puff up from the pan a little as steam builds up underneath. When you remove the crêpe from the pan, this side should have little golden-brown circles scattered across it.

Just like pancakes, you probably won't get the hang of it until you've made (and eaten or thrown away) one or two crêpes.

Microwave Caramel Sauce (adapted from Cook's Illustrated):
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 tablespoon butter

Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and lemon juice in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 4-7 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave. Watch the mixture closely, and remove it carefully as soon as it begins to turn golden. Let sit for five minutes as the mixture cools and darkens. Add the warmed cream 1-2 tablespoons at a time, stirring until blended with each addition. (When you add the cream, the mixture will grow, sputter, and steam, so be very careful.) After the cream, add the butter and stir until blended. Refrigerate until using.

To assemble the crepes:
Spread 1/3 cup of apple filling onto the crêpes, roll them up, and spoon a little ice cream or whipped cream on top. Drizzle on a little extra caramel sauce if you like.


  1. Happy birthday, Jessica! If I could, I'd buy you a crepe.

  2. Aw!! Thank you! You're my favorite person to be lost in foreign cities with!

  3. That looks delicious. I've only been making crespelles as of late, but will try this, too.

  4. Hmm. You are a strong advocate for the purchase of a crepe pan. But if I were to buy one, I would only eat crepes -- a plan that sounds delightful in the short run, but disastrous in the long. Decisions, decisions.

  5. I really am going to try this. I can do a good normal flat pancake, and a decent thick, Scotch pancake, but thin crepes are beyond my skills. Perhaps having the right tools would help. *crosses fingers*.

  6. That is a new technology for me; I have been raised on "wrist rotation" method. As oyu say, the more one practice, the easier it becomes.

    Also, my crepes (or rather bliny, in Russian) are usually filled with something more substantial than apple spread: ground meat+onions filler, or mushrooms+sour cream filler, or cottage cheese+fruit filler; ah, there are so many options.

    A small change in techno-process when these fillers: do not brown the crepe on the flip side; instead stuck the ready ones on a wooden board, putting tiny bits of butter in between. Then flip the top one to the 2nd board, so the browned side is on top and put the filler on it, fold the sides to form the "envelope", then brown on a 2nd (not "crepe") pan.

    Love them, they are my favorite fall/winter food

  7. Oh wow, I did not know that Le Creuset made a crepe kit. I have attempted to make crepes at home and every time I have failed. I can never make them thin enough so usually I end up nibbling on bananas with nutella sans crepe. I really do need that kit. Must put it on my to-buy-one-day list. Thanks.