Crêpes (sort of French thin pancake) are a very common food in France and are not only easy to make but can be served any way you want. This allows the whole family to eat exactly the crêpes that they want…
1 – What is “la Chandeleur”?
La Chandeleur (on Feb 2nd), is a French holy day 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…
2 – What is the Difference Between “Une Crêpe” and “Une Galette”?
“Ma Doué !!” (Oh My God) would say a Breton (a native of Brittany where crêpes and galettes come from)…
Answering this question opens up a can of worms.
For the common French folks:
- une crêpe = (white) wheat dough = very easy French pancake to make at home: can be garnished with savory or sweet toppings – see the recipe below.
- une galette – buckwheat dough = usually much larger, thin and crispy kind of French pancake which is made with a special baking tool and request a bit of training.
But of course, most Bretons won’t agree on that, since for them, the name depends mostly where in Brittany you are from… And the size and thickness of the French pancake.
In lower Brittany, they say :
- une crêpe froment, ou une froment, for a thin, white wheat (usually) sweet pancake
- une crêpe blé noir, ou une blé noir, for a thin, dark buckwheat savory pancake
In upper Brittany and Rennes region, we say:
- une crêpe, for a thin, white wheat sweet pancake
- une galette, for a thicker, larger, crispier brown buckwheat savory pancake (see picture above)
Note also that the word “des galettes” can refer to cookies, especially in… Brittany!! “Les galettes de Pont-Aven” are quite famous. And then, there is also “la galette des rois”, the French King Pie.
Finally, in Quimper, another place in Brittany, one of the many specialties is “des crêpes dentelles”: a dried crêpes with sugar folded up and sold like crispy and delicate cookies.
Quite confusing indeed!!
3 – The Ingredients Necessary to Make French Crêpes
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
If you are only making dessert crêpes, then feel free to add one (or more) of the following:
- 2 tablespoon of sugar
- vanilla extract
- some orange blossom water (“fleur d’oranger”)
- any booze (rum works very well)
4 – Making the French Pancake 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)
5 – The French Crêpes Setup
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/paper towels
6 – How To Cook The Crêpes?
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- 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 make 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 warm plate/pan.
- Cover it with the kitchen towel and put the pan back in the oven to keep the crêpes warm (I also tend to sprinkle some water on the bottom of my oven to reduce the dryness of the heat).
7 – Savory French Crêpes
Usually, you make crêpes a whole meal starting with 1 or 2 savory crêpes and then the rest as dessert 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 or 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’) ;–)
8 – Sweet French Crêpes
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 “flambé”…
My favorite is sprinkling some powdered sugar, a little rum, flambé it and then a squeeze of lemon juice. YUM!
9 – Olivier’s Five Rules About French Crêpes
- 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 do 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.
- Depending on the number 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.
10 – French Pancake Techniques Video
Plus de photos de Leyla faisant des crêpes sur Facebook/FrenchToday
Aha… we had some questions… Olivier did the crêpes following his recipe again, and here are more tips in the video:
11 – Flipping a French Pancake is so Easy a Kid Can do it!
And finally, some slow-mo flips, just for the fun of it! We told you it was so easy even Leyla could do it!
So now it’s your turn… let us know how they turned out! Bon ap’ :-)
French Pancake Vocabulary
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- Une crêpe – sort of a thin pancake, not to be mistaken with “un cêpe” which is a portobello mushroom
- Une crêpe sucrée – sweet French pancake
- Une crêpe salée – savory French pancake
- Une galette – a savory French pancake (usually made with buckwheat, but see below)
- La pâte à crêpes – dough
- le froment – wheat
- le sarrasin, le blé noir – buckwheat
- La Bretagne – Brittany (where crêpes and galettes are the main specialty)
- Du cidre – fermented apple cider, so with a bit of alcohol and usually not very sweet, which is the typical drink to go with des crêpes
- Une poêle – frying pan (pronounce it “pwal”)
- Une louche – ladle
- Un pinceau – brush
- Du lait – milk
- De la farine – flour
- Des oeufs – eggs (say “dé zeu”)
- Du beurre – butter
- Du sel – salt
- Retourner la crêpe – to turn over the French pancake
- Faire sauter la crêpe – to flip the French pancake
- Une garniture – topping
- Tu veux une crêpe à quoi ? – Familiar way to ask what toppings you want on your French pancake
- Alternate versions: “tu veux quoi sur ta crêpe”, “je te mets quoi sur ta crêpe”…
- Une saucisse – a sausage
- Du jambon – ham
- Un oeuf au plat – sunny side egg (we typically don’t do eggs over easy in France)
- Du fromage – cheese
- Des lardons – diced lard (like bacon)
- Du bacon – American sliced bacon (pronounced more or less the American way)
- Des champignons – mushrooms
- Une complète – a French savory pancake with a sunny side up egg, ham and cheese.
- Du chocolat – chocolate (t silent in French)
- Du sucre – sugar
- Du miel – honey
- Du citron – lemon
- Des amandes – almonds
- De la glace – ice cream
- De la (crême) chantilly – whipped cream
- List the toppings without articles to order: “je voudrais une galette oeuf, fromage, et puis une crêpe chocolat chantilly s’il vous plaît”