Dine Together on Crêpes for Two This Pancake Day
by Maurice Alexander
Courtesy of Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash
This year’s Pancake Day is delightfully close to Valentine’s Day. A perfect way to enjoy a blended celebration of the arrival of Spring and the love for the person we hold close to our hearts would be finishing a lavish meal or spending the morning-after with crêpes for two.
Ingredients – Serves 5
For the batter:
150ml cold, whole milk
150ml chilled water
150g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp rum/brandy/champagne/any flavoured liqueur
75g melted unsalted butter
Miniscule dots of butter for frying
Kitchen Paper Towels
Place all the ingredients into the body of a food processor equipped with the bladed attachment and incessantly blend on the highest speed for 2 minutes. The result will be a thin, fawn batter without a single blemish of unincorporated flour particles. This is impossible to achieve manually with a hand whisk and a large bowl. I predict your sigh of disappointment and all I can reply is that I agree with you that this is very unfortunate, but look at this as an opportunity to invest in a new piece of kitchen equipment.
Full-fat milk substantiates the batter, with the water lightening it considerably. Egg yolks contributes to the crêpes’ colour and helps the batter develop the aesthetic browning when it sits in in the hot pan, omitting the egg-white which toughens crêpes. The melted, unsalted butter gifts the crêpes with richness, just weigh it out cold on some scales and then melt in a butter melting pan or a microwave, and do not substitute as butter possesses a complex flavour that can’t be replicated. Only use plain flour, as this type is without a rising agent; crêpes are meant to be totally flat with no height to their posture. This recipe is for dessert crêpes, so a tablespoon of caster sugar is added for sweetening and 3 tablespoons of a flavourful alcohol.
I’ve listed 4 different examples since each adds their own background notes to the crêpes’ flavour profile. Crêpes are so easy to make, you can just add three tablespoons of a different alcohol each time, experimenting until you find your preferred choice. I personally choose an orange liqueur to flavour the batter as I find it kisses the crêpes with a light, floral taste. I have also added fine cognac to crêpe batter before and found that the resulting crêpes had pronounced notes of fruit to their taste and aroma.
Pour the blended batter into a bowl, cover with clingfilm or aluminium foil and place into the fridge to chill overnight. This rests the crêpe batter, allowing the ingredients to mingle together developing flavour and provides sufficient time for the flour particles to absorb the flavoursome liquids.
Crêpes can be fried in any type of frying pan, but there is such a thing as a crêpe pan, whose creation is fully dedicated to the creation of these golden, heat-kissed tender disks. I have never used one. Instead, I prefer a small, heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel frying pan with a six-inch diameter. The diameter measurement is essential in predicting what size of crêpe you’ll make and how far this recipe till go. I’ve written ‘serves 5’, as this recipe typically makes 12 6-inch crêpes, tossing two since you always need to get used to frying them, and serving 2 per person, each crêpe enwrapping several tablespoons of gently whipped, sweetened cream. However, since you can use any frying pan, you might have one that’s 8-inches or 12-inches and this difference in diameter reduces the number of crêpes the batter makes.
Assuming that you are using a heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel 6-inch diameter frying pan, place the dry pan (nothing in it) onto a small burner on a medium flame/heat. Whilst the surface of the pan is heating up, withdraw the bowl with the crêpe batter from the fridge and collect a large plate and a few sheafs of kitchen paper, setting them besides the stovetop close to the pan on the burner. You’ll need the plate to set the crêpes on one-by-one and you’ll use the kitchen paper to quickly clean the pan after the frying of each individual crêpe. Being brave, tap the centre of the frying pan. If you receive a jolt of sharp, blistering pain, then the pan is sufficiently hot.
Frying crêpe batter takes some technique, so study the following lines closely. Position the batter bowl beside the burner with the frying pan, set a medium heat remember as anything higher will result in the butter/batter burning, to minimise distance and place the receptable of a serving spoon/ladle into it. For lubrication, take a dot of unsalted butter, literally like the tip of a teaspoon, and toss it into the pan. It will quickly bubble upon touching the hot steel and you must try and get it to flow reasonably across the pan’s surface through rotating it with your wrist. Accomplished, take the serving spoon/ladle filled with crêpe batter and pour it into the frying pan. Like the butter, it will bubble upon contact and, like you did with the butter, you need to manipulate the flow of the batter to cover the surface of the frying pan and very slightly touching its sides. As the crêpe batter passes over the hot surface, it will adhere to the metal to form a thin layer. This why crêpes are so thin. Once fully covered, I usually flow the crêpe batter around the pan twice only, pour the unadhered batter back into the batter bowl. This step should only take about 10 to 15 seconds from adding the dot of butter to the returning of the excess batter. Practice makes perfect.
You should now have a pan with a layer of crêpe batter stuck to its surface, frying gently on a medium heat on a small burner. Watch the pan carefully for the next 10-15 seconds and you will notice that the edges of the crêpe begin to turn up. This indicates that it is close to being ready to flip. Unlike Scottish pancakes, erroneously labelled American, that are thick and pliable enough to flip with a spatula, crêpes are extremely fragile. You need to simply grab the edge of the crêpe with your fingertips, peel it off (it will release itself easily when the contact side is properly browned) and turn it on its other side to fry for a few seconds, before turning it onto the waiting countertop plate.
Yes, I know it all seems dangerous, as your fingertips will be tender after this, but these are the realities of a kitchen. With the pan empty, dry the frying pan with a sheet of kitchen paper, before repeating the entire process. At the end of this arduous culinary journey, you’ll have a pile of crêpes on a plate and you’ll notice that they are not crisp like they were in the pan. You haven’t done anything wrong. This is natural and is what gives crêpes their tenderness. Considering the pain and the technical requirements, always make crepes in advance. Once all on the plate, cover them and use later that day.
Between you and your lover, ideally after a Valentine’s Night of otherworldly passion, give yourselves two crêpes each. These are generous portions, since they should be filled with a variety of dessert fillings, ranging from gently whipped cream, lashings of chocolate sauce, tender orange segments, slivered gold-leaf, indulgent caramel sauce, cut ripe strawberries, bathed in maple syrup- anything you like! Options are impossible to list, truly limitless, like all the things you love about the cherished person you share your life with.