Folded, rolled, or stacked, crepes transition effortlessly from humble to haute cuisine. They're the French version of a wrap; vendors offer myriad crepe creations in the streets of Paris. They're equally prevalent in the finest French restaurants. Throughout northwestern France, casual dining establishments known as crêperies specialize in them. They can just as easily become a staple at your dinner table, too.
This superthin pancake can be one of the most versatile building blocks in the kitchen. A simple combination of flour, sugar, eggs, milk, water, and just a touch of butter, crepes are delicious in both savory and sweet recipes. Once you master the basic techniques for making the batter and cooking the crepes, variations abound with the simple addition of spices or herbs, and the possibilities for fillings are almost endless.
Making crepe batter is quick and easy. Simply combine all of the wet ingredients in a blender, add the dry ingredients, and blend briefly. Then cover the batter and let it rest, chilled, for one hour. Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, explains that this allows "the proteins and damaged starch to absorb water," ensuring the crepes will be tender. The air incorporated into the batter will also dissipate, so the crepes will be paper-thin. After the crepe batter rests, stir it with a whisk to make sure the flour is evenly dispersed, and stir occasionally throughout the cooking process for the same reason.
Batter Consistency It's important for the batter to reach the right consistency―similar to that of heavy whipping cream. This produces a thin, even crepe with enough structure to hold together. Different flours or types of milk, the amount of fat, and other factors have a subtle impact on the final consistency.
The trickiest part of the process is swirling just the right amount of batter in the pan. It's not difficult, but it takes practice. Even seasoned cooks use the first crepe as practice, so don't be discouraged if it takes a couple of times to get the hang of it. The crepes don't have to be uniform or perfectly round.
Success lies in preheating the pan to the correct temperature and mastering the swirl. You want to distribute a thin layer of batter quickly over the base of the hot pan so the crepe will have uniform thickness and cook evenly. Start by adding the batter to the center of the pan. Gently tilt the pan in a circular motion so the batter runs to, but not up, the sides of the pan.
Our crepe recipes only call for about three tablespoons of batter per crepe. Because timing is critical to producing a smooth, even crepe, we recommend scooping the batter with a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup. Fill it just three-quarters full, and then add the batter to the pan all at once.
Cook Quickly Because it's so thin, a crepe cooks very quickly. Check to see if it's done after about one minute. Simply lift one edge of the crepe with a spatula, and gently shake the pan. If the edges of the crepe appear to be crisp, the underside is brown, and it shakes loose from the pan, it's time to turn. It will need to cook only briefly―about 30 seconds―on the other side, just long enough to set the center of the crepe.
Make Extras Crepes are a choice make-ahead food. You can cook them up to four or five days in advance, stack them between layers of wax paper, slip them in a large zip-top plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate. They will also keep in the freezer for up to two months. If freezing, make sure to stack the crepes between layers of wax paper and wrap them securely with a double layer of plastic wrap. Be sure to allow the frozen crepes to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Crepes pair well with a wide variety of flavors. For breakfast, fill the crepes with sausage and cheese. Try Cherry and Orange Blintzes for brunch. Fill lunch crepes with chicken, pork, or vegetables. Dinner crepes can take center stage, or try our Herbed Wild Mushroom Bundles as a side dish for a special meal.
Though it is strictly optional, saucing the crepes introduces another flavor dimension and brings polish to a finished crepe. Make a sauce to complement the desired filling, such as the asiago sauce we paired with Crepes with Ratatouille. For an easy option, use store-bought condiments, such as hoisin sauce with Asian-inspired filling, or bottled barbecue sauce with chicken or pork filling.
Stack, roll, or fold crepes for a variety of presentation options. Many of our recipes call to fold ends and sides over to completely cover the filling.
Four Easy Variations Different flours, such as buckwheat or chickpea, vary the flavor and texture of crepes. Seasonings, such as fresh chopped herbs, citrus rind, spices, chopped nuts, grated cheese, or cocoa powder lend distinct flavor to the finished dish. Be creative with crepe batter, or use one of our favorite variations.
Herbed Crepes: Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives to the Basic Crepe batter.
Espresso Crepes: Add 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder to the Basic Crepe batter.
Buckwheat Crepes: Omit 2/3 cup all-purpose flour and add 2/3 cup buckwheat flour to the Basic Crepe recipe.
Cinnamon Crepes: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the Basic Crepe batter.