What’s the difference between fluffy American pancakes and e thin French crepes (besides the obvious difference in thickness, of course)?
Pancakes are familiar. You can make them with your eyes closed. They are quick and easy. They’re our regular weekend breakfast. Crepes are… well, fancy. When you eat them, you think of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, you imagine Versailles and Marie Antoinette. They’re French!
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Making Skinny French Pancakes
Being fancy doesn’t mean that crepes are not as easy to make as pancakes. In fact, they are even easier! Firstly, crepes are made with fewer ingredients than pancakes (for instance, they don’t need buttermilk). Hence, they require fewer kitchen tools and produce less mess in the kitchen. So far so good.
Secondly, crepes are more neutral in taste than American pancakes and allow you to combine them with both sweet and savory fillings. And the best of all, they won’t spoil or alter the taste if you make them ahead and keep them in the fridge. Well, what more could you wish for from your pancakes?
So, what’s the downside? It’s not a downside per se, let’s call it a skill that should be perfected. In order to make your crepes perfect (read: super-skinny), you need to spread the batter thin enough in the pan. For that, you’ll need some practice and lots of destroyed crepes at the beginning. But don’t worry. Even if your early crepes are not super-thin or contain strange-looking lumps, they’re still edible (just make sure they don’t tear).
Making the Batter for Your Skinny French Pancakes
Here is the list of basic ingredients needed to make crepes:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted melted butter
Simpler French pancake recipes are made of three ingredients only: flour, eggs, and milk. Sugar is left out in case you’re planning to fill them with savory ingredients.
I add butter to make the crepes a bit softer and some salt for flavoring (whether sugar is involved or not). In addition, when making savory crepes, I add some fresh herbs to the batter.
Mixing the batter
So, what’s the best way of mixing the ingredients together? If you follow the method used for American pancakes, i.e. whisking the ingredients by hand in a large bowl, you’ll get denser and smoother crepes.
This method is OK, but there is another, simpler way to mix the ingredients together – using a blender. Just throw all the ingredients together and mix for about 15 seconds, until everything is smooth and well combined. Crepes made in the blender have tiny bubbles throughout their surface. I love these bubbles. In fact, some crepe recipes (or Balkan-style palachinke pancakes) even call for soda water in order to get more of those tiny bubbles. Awesome!
Resting the batter
Should you let the crepe batter rest or not? Some cooks claim that resting the batter for at least 30 minutes (or better yet, overnight) can improve its taste and texture. But considering that crepes are cooked only for a short time and are served with flavorful fillings, resting is not of crucial importance, so feel free to skip this step if you’re in a rush.
Cooking Your Skinny French Pancakes
Which pan is best for cooking super-thin pancakes? There are two options to choose from:
– Carbon steel crepe pan is shallow and has highly tapered edges, which facilitates flipping. However, if crepes are not something you make on a regular basis, I don’t recommend investing in such a pan.
– Regular nonstick pan, the one used for standard pancake recipes is the next best thing. To make sure it heats evenly, try copper, aluminum, or a tri-ply clad pan.
Oil or butter for the pan?
I find butter to be better than vegetable oil because it produces golden-brown crepes with lacy surface. Be careful not to use too much, though – rub a thin layer of butter into the preheated pan, then wipe the excess out with a paper towel.
Pouring the batter onto the pan
As mentioned before, this is the trickiest part. How to pour and spread the batter perfectly? You surely can’t use the wooden spreader used in creperies.
Try pouring batter directly from the blender onto the pan (an amount that equals a few tablespoons). Pour the batter in the center of the pan and immediately start swirling so that the batter covers the bottom evenly in a thin layer.
Pour more batter than you actually need in the center of the pan, then swirl the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Immediately tip the pan to remove the excess batter by pouring it back into the blender. I find this method easier than the first.
Cooking time and temperature & flipping
Heat the pan on high heat, then lower the temperature to medium heat after pouring the batter. Cook the crepe for about 15 seconds, until the top has set and looks dry.
Crepes are very thin and delicate so, using a spatula to flip them is not recommendable. Use the spatula only to release the edges of the pancake, then pick it up using your fingers and slowly turn it over. Cook until the other side is light brown, for about 15 seconds more.
Stack the cooked crepes on a plate and serve immediately or store covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for a few days.
Stuffing Your Skinny French Pancakes
There’s nothing easier than stuffing your crepes with a sweet filling – simply smear some Nutella and roll or fold. Other sweet fillings to consider sugar and lemon juice, jams, butter and maple syrup, fruit slices.
Traditionally, classic stuffed crepes are folded into quarters. When it comes to savory fillings, think omelets. This means that anything that goes into omelets, works for crepes as well. For my favorite savory crepe filling, I combine sautéed spinach, cheese, and onions. Other savory fillings you can use are Gruyère cheese, ham, but again, bacon, sautéed peppers, sunny-side-up eggs, etc.
Spread the ingredients over half of the crepe, then fold it over twice. To take the taste to another level, heat the stuffed and filled crepes with a little butter in a pan/skillet. Cook them shortly, just until they become crispy and brown. Flip and cook the other side.
Eat crepes for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, or even in the middle of the night as a midnight snack! Bon Appetite!
I believe that food should not only taste good, but make you feel good as well and that is why I am so interested in exploring ingredients, preparing meals, and finding ways to make the whole cooking experience fun and exciting! Being a blogger for MyGreatRecipes unites my two passions – food and writing, and I am enjoying every second of it!