For a lazy-day breakfast (maybe after opening a mountain of presents), it’s hard to beat a stack of homemade crêpes. Lay them out with a veritable smörgåsbord of toppings for browsing or compose plates of them for a simple but high-class sit-down breakfast. As easy (easier?) than pancakes and infinitely customizable, they’re perfect for a holiday brunch with family.
Crêpe-pan temperature: 400°F (204°C)
Here we’ll go over what crêpes are, how they differ from pancakes, and how to cook them perfectly using temperature.
What are crêpes?
Crêpe is a French word that comes from Old French crespe, meaning curled or frizzly. This name was given to them because of their wrinkly appearance, as well as the fact the at their edges can be somewhat curly. Not that it matters, but to be entirely correct, it is pronounced more like (Krep) and not like (Krayp).
Crêpes are very thin pancakes, made without leavening like baking soda or baking powder. They often have a larger proportion of eggs in them and are most often cooking in a flat, round pan with low sides. They are usually served folded into quarters or rolled up. In either case, they are topped or filled with numerous delicious inclusions.
Because they are filled and folded, crêpes need to be able to bend and fold without breaking. Try to fold a pancake into quarters and you’ll see the problem. Crêpes gain this stretching-folding ability from the method we use to mix them. Rather than stirring the batter until just combined, as for pancakes, crêpe batter is beaten vigorously, well past the point of homogeneity. This develops the gluten in the batter which will give the crêpe some tensile strength. In fact, for this recipe, we used a blender for the batter.
How hot a pan for crêpes?
Though crêpes have no leavening per se, they do end up with a slight airiness that is part of their appeal. And that texture is due to a properly heated pan. We used an IR-gun thermometer to temp our pan to 400°F (204°C), and you should too! Why such a high temp? When the crêpe batter hits the hot pan, we want it to start cooking immediately. We pour the batter just off of center in the pan and tilt the pan, swirling the batter around using gravity to cover the pan evenly. The hot pan grabs the batter as it swirls by. But there’s more! That texture we want comes from the hot pan instantly turning some of the water in the crêpe to steam. The eggy batter holds onto the little steam packets and then solidifies in place, giving the crêpe a lighter, more tender texture.
And what about that pan? There are wonderful black-steel pans that are specifically made for crêpes, but a nonstick pan will do just fine. Generally, go for something about 8″ in diameter.
America has, in the last 15 or so years, been through a bit of a fascination with crêpes. Crêperies have opened and closed, crêpe machines have been mass-marketed. Nutella has become a household word where it was once only known to the friend s and family of European-travelling cognoscenti. Merguez sausage went from being a complete unknown to something you can occasionally find at the right supermarket. This profusion of crêpes and crêpe toppings is distinctly American and is wonderful. Nutella and bananas and/or strawberries! Bacon, Gruyere, and eggs! Blueberries and sweet, whipped ricotta! All. Delicious.
But there is something to be said for simplicity—both in preparation and in serving—and as you sit down to your Christmas Crêpes, you may want to consider one of the most classic ways of eating crêpes: with a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of granulated sugar. The lemon is fresh and light, and the sugar gives the crêpes a little bit of a crunch. Slice a few lemons into wedges, put them in a saucer on the table, put a spoon in a bowl of sugar, and off you go. Fresh whipped cream? Welcome, but by no means necessary. Give it a try.
Simple Crêpe Recipe
Based on the basic crêpes from Time Life’s Classic Desserts, edited by Richard Olney. This is a wonderful all-purpose crêpe recipe that works with both savory and sweet applications.
- 2 eggs
- 1 to 1-1/4 C milk
- 2Tbsp melted butter
- 1 C flour
- pinch of salt
- Pour the liquid ingredients into a blender and mix on low for a few seconds.
- Add in the flour and salt and mix, starting on low speed, increasing the speed until the batter is very well mixed and smooth. Check the consistency, it should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, it will not spread well. Add more milk to the batter a tablespoonful at a time, mixing, until it is thin enough.
- Pour the batter into a bowl you can ladle from and preheat your crêpe pan over medium to medium-high heat.
- Barely slick the surface of the pan with oil and check the temperature of the surface with an infrared thermometer like the Industrial IR Gun. When you reach 400°F (204°C), start cooking.
- Pour a ladleful of batter (about 1/4 C) into the pan and immediately tilt the pan and rotate the tilt, moving the batter all over the surface of the pan. You want just enough batter to cover the pan in a thin layer and no more.
- Let the crêpe cook for 15–30 seconds until it releases from the surface easily. Flip it over and cook for another 10–15 seconds. Slide the crêpe out of the pan onto a plate. Re-slick the surface with oil or butter, re-check the temperature, and adjust the heat as necessary.
- Pour another crêpe, and continue. This one will probably turn out better than the first.
- Once your crêpes are all cooked, you can either serve them immediately or refrigerate or freeze them (with wax paper or parchment between each crêpe) for later use.
- Top as desired, and enjoy!
Crêpes are perfect food for a gathering on a slow, snowy morning. They seem festive and celebratory yet are super easy to make. By using an IR thermometer to heat your pan properly, you’re much more likely to have success, even on the first crêpe! Make them for your family and start a new tradition that everyone will love.
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