History of the Crêpe
Crêpes, which are much like very thin pancakes, originated in the Northwest region of France and can be found all throughout France, Belgium and other neighboring parts of Europe. Crêpes can be sweet and served for breakfast, with powdered sugar or maple syrup, or for dessert, stuffed with various sweet fillings. Crêpes can also be savory, filled with a variety of meats or cheese and found in French cafés for lunch or even at street food vendors, known as Crêperies.
Versatility of the Crêpe
I grew up enjoying french crêpes for breakfast and have many fond memories of my Grandmother making these for me as a special treat on Saturday mornings. My aunt still makes them for her grandkids when they visit from college and my mom will often make them for my husband and I when we visit them in New Orleans. On one of those special visits, I watched as she made them for me, with love, and learned the easy steps so I could make them for my children.
It wasn’t until I travelled through France that I learned that crêpes make a wonderful dessert as well! There you can find them stuffed with fruit or cream, smothered in hot chocolate ganache and even flambéed. Because I like to incorporate my Italian roots into many of my kitchen creations, I also have a savory version that I use as Cannelloni Shells. Savory crêpes make for a light, melt-in-your mouth blanket for various fillings from sweet potato and goat cheese to chicken and butternut squash.
French Crêpes Made Simple
Below you will find the basic recipe for my grandmother’s delicious crêpes, as well as, the recipe I use for making Cannelloni, like sweet potato and goat cheese. You can make the savory version for cannelloni by omitting the vanilla extract. If you are serving them with chocolate or fruit for dessert you can also sweeten the batter with a teaspoon sugar or spice them up with cinnamon or cardamon. Regardless of how you plan to serve the crêpes, the basic steps are the same.
You first need to combine your ingredients in the blender. I don’t typically measure the flour, rather I scoop it in and blend until the batter reaches a thick and creamy consistency. Finally, pour the batter into an easy pour measuring glass or cup. You will need a small pan, butter and a hot stove. First, you will melt a dab of butter in your pan and swirl it around to cover the pan surface evenly. Next, slowly and carefully pour just enough batter into the hot pan to cover it with a thin, even layer. I like to make savory crêpes a little thicker so they don’t fall apart when I am stuffing them. The thin crêpes cook rather quickly, in under one minute, so you will need to use a fork to check the sides for doneness. When the edges of the crêpe begin to lift from the pan, it is almost time to flip it. When you can carefully work your fork all around the edges of your crêpe, it’s time to flip! The crêpe will just need a minute to finish cooking on the other side. If it’s not sticking to the pan, it is ready to come out. When it looks like your pan is drying out, add another dab of butter and proceed with the steps.
When I serve these for breakfast, I pour maple syrup all over the crêpe, roll it up like a jellyroll and enjoy. They are such a delicious alternative to pancakes! Because not all of us have a loving mother who is flipping crêpes as fast as we can eat them hot out of the pan, you can stack them in a low temperature oven to keep them warm until you are ready to serve them.
If I am making savory crêpes for a later use, I will stack them between parchment or wax paper and store in the refrigerator for a couple of days in an airtight container or freeze them. If you are chilling them for a later use, you will need to let them come to room temperature, otherwise they will crumble when you go to fold them into cannelloni.
For my incredibly rich, creamy and tangy Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Cannelloni that I serve at our Italian Thanksgiving and on a meatless Friday during lent, I stuff my savory crêpes with a mixture of spiced sweet potato puree and a tangy goat cheese bechamel sauce and smother them in shredded mozzarella or fontina cheese. Buon Appetito!
Suggested Wine Pairings
If enjoying crêpes for breakfast, they pair wonderfully with flavored coffee or hot chocolate. A sparkling mimosa would be a lovely compliment for brunch. If you are serving these with cream or chocolate as a dessert, look for a light and sweet Moscato d’Asti or a spakling Brachetto so as to not outshine the delicate crêpes.