French crepes
FoodEasier to make than pancakes

French crepes

Sweet or savory, this versatile recipe will come in handy for any meal.

French crepes (Photo by Jessica Grann)
French crepes (Photo by Jessica Grann)

I love crepes because they are so versatile. You can make the fillings sweet or savory, and they can be served for any meal of the day.

Crepes take minimal effort to prepare, and you can offer a variety of fillings. I set up a bar of fillings like those you see sometimes for omelets or tacos, and everyone chooses their favorites.

If you’ve ever seen a crepe stand on the street, you have witnessed how quickly they are cooked. I think people shy away from making them because they’ve seen fancy crepe pans, spatulas and batter spreaders and assume they are just too complicated to attempt. You don’t need any of those items to make a good crepe. I have used round cast-iron griddles, as well as frying pans with a lip, and the results are great either way.

I find crepes easier to make than pancakes. You can make them a day ahead and store them in the fridge until it’s time to use them — just quickly warm them one by one in a frying pan.

My favorite savory version is sautéed mushrooms and gruyere cheese. You can make a caprese version with mozzarella cheese, basil and fresh tomatoes, or you can use ricotta cheese and drizzle honey over the top. Kids love crepes with jam or maple syrup for breakfast, and also with Nutella spread inside — those are more in the dessert category in my house.

You can use them as a wrap for eggs, and a few weeks ago I filled one with goat cheese and salmon roe, and it was delicious. The possibilities truly are endless, and the base recipe never changes. Some people have separate recipes for sweet or savory crepes. I find that the sweet fillings have enough sugar and use the same recipe for both kinds.

French crepes
Makes about 4 cups of batter and about 8 large crepes. Prep time is less than 5 minutes and total cooking time is about 15 minutes. There are minimal dishes to clean up with 1 mixing jar and 1 sauté pan/griddle.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided
2 cups of milk, whole or 2%
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt

I use a blender for easy cleanup, but you also can mix crepe batter by hand with a whisk.

Add the eggs, flour, milk, sugar, salt and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into the blender jar. Put on the lid, and blend on medium for about 30 seconds. If you see any flour sticking to the side of the jar, remove the lid, push a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar and blend for another 10 seconds.

Put the lid back on and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight if that works better for your schedule. Since blender jars typically have pour spouts, you can pour the batter directly into the pan from the jar when it’s time to cook the crepes; it’s a thin batter and will pour easily into the pan.

Here are a few tips:
• Don’t use salted butter. It burns more quickly and will leave you with a less desirable-looking and tasting crepe.

• You don’t need special accessories for crepes, but you do need a rubber spatula — the kind used to clean bowls and mix cake batter, not the kind used to flip pancakes. I have a wooden crepe spatula to aid in flipping them. I’m not one of the magical cooks that can flip pancakes and omelets with the flick of their wrist. This tool is only to aid in turning them. You can use a wooden spoon with a long handle and hold the bowl in your hand, using only the handle to support the crepe as you flip it over — this will give you the same result.

• Lightly butter the pan between every crepe. The butter will help the crepes turn better and also keeps them from sticking together once cooked. As with pancakes, the first one may not come out as nicely as you’d like it. That’s OK — just keep buttering the pan and cooking.

To cook, set a griddle or frying pan over medium-low heat, and warm the pan for a minute or two. On my stovetop, I use a setting between 2 and 3 for the flame and adjust accordingly if the batter is browning too quickly or not quickly enough.

French crepes (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Lightly brush the pan with some of the remaining melted butter and pour about half a cup of the batter into the pan. Pour the batter in a spiral pattern starting from the middle of the pan so that the batter spreads thinly across the pan.

Cook on the first side from 90 seconds to 2 minutes. The batter will start to firm up around the edges, and then it will turn more solid in the middle.

Using a spatula, gently lift the crepe up in the pan, like you’re going to turn it. With your other hand, hold the crepe spatula or spoon handle and flip the crepe over it, gently allowing the crepe to settle back into the pan.

Cook for another minute or so, and remove from the pan to a plate.

Lightly butter the pan again and repeat.

There are two ways to serve crepes. For jam, Nutella and smooth fillings like ricotta cheese, spoon a tablespoon or two of filling across one edge of the crepe, and roll it up. You can also do this if they have no filling and you’re adding a syrup to the top. For chunkier fillings like hunks of cheese and sautéed vegetables, spoon about ⅓ cup of filling and spread it evenly over half of the crepe before folding it over to make a half circle. Then fold it again, making a more triangular shape.

A single crepe with veggies and cheese is truly filling — I rarely eat more than one.

To store overnight, stack the crepes on a plate and put the plate into a large Ziploc bag before refrigerating.

I hope that you love this recipe and add it to your list of simple meals to serve. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

read more: