La Chandeleur (on Feb 2nd), is a French tradition where most French households will eat crepes at dinner time. This tradition finds its origins in an old Roman ritual of harvest & fertility. The crêpe is round and golden, reminding us of the sun to come, whose warmth will make the harvest possible…
It’s pretty basic batter, for a ‘universal’ crêpe that you can eat both in a savory and sweet variation use these:
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 2 ¼ cups of milk
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter
- pinch of salt
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- 2 tablespoon of sugar
- vanilla extract
- some orange blossom water (“fleur d’oranger”)
- any booze (rum works very well)
Making the batter (“la pâte à crêpes”)
Put all the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl and using a hand mixer, mix everything until smooth. The consistency of the batter should be like that of a thick syrup. Ideally, you should let the batter rest for 30 minutes or so but if you are in a hurry or if it’s sunday morning and the whole family is starving, then it’s ok to start them right away.
This is the perfect recipe to make with your kids, here’s Leyla “la main à la pâte” (literally the “hand to the batter” which is very appropriate for this recipe)
Unless you are by yourself or have plenty of time to spare, it’s much easier to have 2 or 3 (or 4!!) pans going on although start with one pan at a time until you are comfortable with all the “moves”. Your pan HAS to be a non-stick pan, don’t even bother with any other kind. You’ll also need to turn on you oven to the lowest setting and get a flat heat resistant plate or pan with a clean kitchen towel ready. Last but not least, you’ll need:
- a ladle (“une louche”) or a large measuring spoon
- some melted butter in a small container
- either a brush (“un pinceau”) or a fork tightly wrapped with some kitchen paper
Put the pan on a medium heat.
Brush your pan with a little bit of the melted butter (you’ll only need to do this once every 5-6 crêpes depending on your pan)
Using the ladle, pour enough batter into your pan while turning your wrist so that the batter flows & covers the whole surface of the pan. Take care to not making it too thick, these are not pancakes!. Watch the video for the swirling wrist action, it’s a lot easier to see than to explain :)
Once the edges of the batter start lifting and the crêpe does not stick to the pan anymore, it’s probably time to flip it. The dreaded crêpe flip feared by all and the basis of SO many jokes and ruined ceilings… Don’t worry, most French people just use a spatula to do it, just slide it under the crêpes, lift and in one swoop motion, turn the crêpe (again, watch the video for the precise motion and to see me showing off with my pan flip mastery ;) Of course, like sabering a bottle of champagne, the real crêpe flip is a very good tool in the impress-your-partner/date arsenal
Let the crêpe cook for a minute more, then slide it to your warn plate/pan. Cover it with the kitchen towel and put the pan back in the oven to keep the crêpes warn (I also tend to sprinkle some water on the bottom of my oven to reduce the dryness of the heat).
Usually, you make crêpes a whole meal starting with 1 or 2 savory crêpes and then the rest as desert crêpes… To make it easier on you, first finish all your crêpes and keep them warm. Then you can get started on the savory preparation, the most famous and basic being the “œuf, jambon, fromage”.
- Crack some eggs and make some lightly cooked sunny side up eggs in a pan (are you counting the number of pans!?)
- Take one of the cooked crêpe and put it in a pan on low heat
- Put the shredded cheese first
- then put the slice of ham on top
- let the cheese melt for a minute of so
- take one sunny side egg, put it delicately on the ham
- close two of the crêpes flaps to make a nicer presentation
(By the way, do you know why the French only use 1 egg per crêpe? Because one egg is un oeuf… get it? (sounds like ‘enough’) ;–)
Usually a French family will set up their whole sweet pantry on the table and let everyone make their own preparations. Popular ingredients are of course jams, butter, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce (or the famous Nutella), fruits, nuts and booze…
My favorite is sprinkling some powdered sugar, a little rum and a squeeze of lemon juice. YUM!
- DO NOT make crêpes for more than 5-6 people! Trust me, I once invited 12 hungry people for a crêpe dinner and I almost had a heart attack. The savory crêpes are usually made one at a time and the logistics does not follow
- Throw away the first crêpe from each pan (or at least eat it). The first one is what I call the “Chef’s Crêpe” because it will look terrible and not be any good. After 20+ years of making crêpes, it’s always the case.
- Count about 2 savory crêpes per person and depending on the # of people at the table, cook the last x number of crêpes less because they’ll have to go back into the pan. This way, you can avoid them being overcooked or dry.
- Make sure everyone at the table knows NOT to wait for the cook before they eat (against proper French table etiquette). Savory crêpes are ‘made to order’ and they will get cold by the time you are done serving everyone.