On weekends I think that I have to have toast and jam with my coffee. If there isn’t anything toastable around things can get a little tense. Happened last weekend and I goaded myself into finally making crepes. I needed something to wrap around my apple butter and blackberry jam and I needed it bad.
In Italy crepes are street food, France too, tender wraps that embrace and enhance almost anything you can imagine: steamed asparagus and Gruyère – just a few more weeks for local asparagus; sauteed mushrooms with fresh thyme and chives; whipped cream with rhubarb or fresh strawberries; finely chopped or grated chocolate will graciously melt inside a freshly made warm crepe. Wrap a savory herb crepe around your lightly dressed salad greens and a little cheese.
Not sure if you like it? Roll it up in a crepe. Kids might not try it . . . roll it up in a crepe. Perhaps I exaggerate, but at the moment I’m a believer. Almost anything tastes better rolled up in a crepe. I guess I thought it was so very French and pinky-fingered, beyond my capabilities. Well . . . I so misjudged this one. This is down home food, yes, street food, easy to make. Once you have a basic recipe you can play around with the batter and the myriad possibilities for fillings.
I made the batter in three minutes at 7:30 in the morning, seriously, on a whim, because there was nothing toastable around. I let the batter sit for an hour and then made my first-ever crepes, powder sugared and jam-filled, took their picture and they were still warm and perfect with coffee and the paper. Couple of hours later I added chives, salt & pepper to that same batter and stuffed the savory crepes with softly scrambled eggs and Beecher’s cheddar. Rhubarb is coming on like gangbusters and you know it will end up in a crepe before long.
Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook has two slightly different recipes for a sweet and a savory crepe. Keeping it simple, I used the basic recipe for both, added salt & pepper and chives for a savory crepe, added 1 T sugar to the basic mix for dessert crepes. Many dessert crepe recipes, including Julia’s, call for 3 T liqueur, rum or cognac, which means using 3/4 C instead of a full cup each of water and milk. Embellish the basic batter, or not, with the sweet or savory ingredients of your choice.
Julia’s Basic Crepe Recipe
Ingredients: 1 C cold water/ 1 C cold milk/ 4 large eggs/ 1/2 t salt/ 2 C all-purpose flour/ 4 T melted butter. Whole grain emmer flour, Bluebird Grain Farms, could be substituted for wheat flour.
Directions: Mix everything together in a blender, or whisk together by hand. Refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours which, “allows the flour particles to swell and soften so that crepes will be light in texture.” Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan (6 – 8″ is ideal, larger than that crepes are a little tricky to flip) to moderately high heat, melt 2 t butter in the pan and add 1/4 C crepe batter, immediately and quickly tipping and turning the pan so that batter evenly covers the entire bottom of the pan. This is an important step in making crepes, the quick distribution of a small amount of batter. It takes a couple of tries to get the hang of this. Let it cook for 1 minute, gently flip over and cook for approximately half a minute longer. Place parchment paper between cooked crepes.
When you’re ready fill them with jam or eggs or asparagus, cheese . . . or, stack crepes in a buttered baking dish and spread each layer with applesauce or roasted apples and a sprinkle of crumbled macaroons, cognac, sugar and melted butter, 8, 10, 12 layers, ending with a crepe on top. Sprinkle the top with melted butter and sugar. Best eaten freshly baked, wait until you’re nearly ready for dessert and then bake at 375º for 20 – 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. This is a nutshell description of Julia’s Gateau de Crepes a la Normande, a crepe cake, sort of.
I used walnuts instead of macaroons, a little cognac, and made the basic batter using Bluebird Farms emmer flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sugar caramelizes in the oven and the top becomes crisp and lovely, a frosting for the crepes and roasted applesauce beneath. The pinky finger is getting excited.