Foolproof Perfect French Crepes

This is a recipe I discovered during my year in Rennes, France.  Rennes is the capital of “La Bretagne” (Brittany), the region of France just south of Normandy.  Crepes and galettes (galetts are savory crepes usually filled with egg/cheese/meats/veggies/etc.) are considered a regional specialty.

Now there is, in fact, a trick to making awesome crepes that never fall apart.  But it’s not what you’re thinking.  It has nothing to do with any crazy wrist skills or even the type of pan you’re using to make the crepe.  I actually discovered it in the U.S., by making my own crepes often, and then read about it in France.  The trick is just to let the batter sit for at least thirty minutes after you make it.  Yup, it sounds weird but during my middle and high school years I noticed that the first few crepes of any batch never really held up as well as the later ones.  Then in France I read the answer:  The batter has to sit so that the flour and eggs and all that can “coagulate.”  It sounds really medical and a little bit gooey-gross, but it just means that the stuff has to sort of get itself together and stick.

This recipe is SO easy.  The hardest part is sifting the flour, but you could probably get away with just stirring it with a whisk.  (If you have the right sifter, sifting flour takes two seconds – I like the OXO one-handed flour sifter for $13).  Also, if you have time, you can let the eggs and milk get to room temp before you start the recipe.  This actually makes any recipe better, but isn’t necessary.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp superfine sugar (regular sugar also works fine)
Large pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sifted flour

All you do is place the eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter in a blender.  Add the sugar and salt, whiz until smooth.  Add the flour and whiz again, then set aside for thirty minutes.

Stir the batter again immediately before making the crepes (separation is normal; get it back to a unified texture).

Heat a nonstick pan to somewhere between low and medium heat.  Spray with PAM.  If you’re feeling really decadent you can actually melt butter on the pan (sooooo good), but since we’re trying to be heart-healthy we use PAM.   Once heated, pour about 1/3 cup of crepe batter on the pan.  Start tilting the pan until the batter runs over the entire surface.  It’s okay to dip back into your batter for more; just use however much it takes to coat the pan.  It’s also okay to have holes that you fill with a little extra batter.  It’ll all work out in the end, because you let your batter coagulate 😉

My pan is specifically for crepes; it’s very shallow and the surface is nonstick.  I got it in France but you could probably find it online, maybe Amazon.com.  The shallow edges do make it easier to slide the crepe off onto a plate, but really aren’t necessary.

Eventually your crepe will start to bubble up and pull away from the nonstick surface.  Ideally you want it to get to the point where it just slips right off onto your plate, with a little help from a spatula to unstick any stuck parts.  But even if you have to turn the entire pan upside down, it’s not a problem – just wait for the crepe to cool on the plate a little and then spread it back out for toppings.

Sometimes people ask me about cooking both sides.  I’ve never found that necessary.  Crepes are very thin and are they cook through quite easily.  Cooking both sides just isn’t worth the hassle, in my book.  (I also tend to like a wetter, chewier crepe – sometimes when creperies in the U.S. cook both sides they just get dry and boring).

We’ve experimented a lot with toppings over the years.  To be heart-healthy, our favorite remains fresh strawberries, blueberries, and/or bananas with brown sugar and maybe a little whipped cream (well, a lot of whipped cream for me; a little for him).  But if you’re on a chocolate fix (and really, who isn’t?) you can place chocolate chips on the crepe while it’s still cooking on the pan, and watch them melt before you slide the crepe off onto your plate.  Top that with whipped cream… and maybe some powdered sugar … mmmm.

And of course there’s nutella.  But here’s a tip on that:  In France, only the street vendors sell crepes with nutella.  It’s sort of more for the tourists and the children; you won’t find it in the self-respecting creperies (at least not when I was there, in 2000).  Nutella came to be during WWII when chocolate was scare due to rations and children still needed a treat.  It’s made from hazelnuts… it’s sort of like the French version of peanut butter in that way, though for some reason Europeans really think peanut butter is disgusting.  Anyway, if you’re at an authentic local creperie and you order any sort of crepe with chocolate, they don’t use nutella.  Instead, they throw a spoon full of butter on your crepe and douse that in chocolate powder… and it is SO GOOD.  I’ve been able to replicate it at home with melted butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt to taste – just in the microwave.  It’s amazing and goes well with on a crepe with just whipped cream or with any other type of fruit, too.

Anyway, if you’ve ever been interested in crepes, give this recipe a try!  It makes about 6 crepes and usually people want at least two apiece.  It can be a real crowd-pleaser with decadent toppings or, if you stick to mainly strawberries and a little sugar, it can be a pretty healthy, fairly light breakfast.