Crepes

crepesCrepes… the thought of these used to strike fear in me, and even after making them many times now, I get a little nervous.  But then I get going and realize that they’re quite easy.  Just accept that the first one (or two) will be throw-aways, and you’ll be fine.  My mother taught me to make crepes using Julia Child’s recipe.  In fact, the photo of me in my profile is of me flipping one!  Since this recipe is tried and true, it’s the one I always use.  The fillings are mine (and mom’s), and the possibilities are endless – just use your imagination and try new combinations.  The crepes can be made one day, the fillings another, the tomato sauce yet another (we had some in the freezer) and then you can assemble and bake everything the day you eat them.  I did most of this in one day, aside from the tomato sauce, since I have all day here to do things like this.  I made spinach & ricotta, and ham & cheese.  And since we had so many crepes, I had to make dessert crepes also, so we did dulce de leche.  Another good one would be nutella and banana.

First, the crepes, from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One. This is supposed to make 12 crepes, but I always get more.  This time, I got 25.  No idea why.
Crepe Batter:
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk (I used lowfat – she does not specify)
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (make sure you sift, as unsifted will measure differently)
4 tbsp melted butter

  • Put the liquids, eggs, and salt into the blender jar.  Add the flour, then the butter. Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute. If bits of flour adhere to sides of jar, dislodge with a rubber scraper and blend for 2 to 3 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • The batter should be a very light cream, just thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. If, after making your first crepe, it seems too heavy, beat in a bit of water, a spoonful at a time. Your cooked crepe should be about 1/16 inch thick.

Method for making the crepes:
The first crepe is a trial one to test out the consistency of your batter, the exact amount you need for the pan, and the heat.  You’ll need an iron skillet or a crepe pan with a 6 1/2 to 7 inch bottom diameter and a piece of fat bacon or pork-rind; or 2-3 tbsp cooking oil and a pastry brush. (I always use melted butter with a brush, and I use a regular small saute pan – I just measured and it is, in fact, 6 1/2″).

  • Rub the skillet with the rind or brush it lightly with oil. Set over moderately high heat until the pan is just beginning to smoke.
  • Immediately remove from heat and, holding handle of pan in your right hand, pour with your left hand a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan. (ok, I don’t think which hand matters… in fact, I use the opposite)  Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to run the batter all over the bottom of the pan in a thin film. Pour any batter that does not adhere to the pan back into your bowl; judge the amount for your next crepe accordingly. This whole operation takes but 2 or 3 seconds.
  • Return the pan to heat for 60 to 80 seconds. Then jerk and toss pan sharply back and forth and up and down to loosen the crepe. (I generally use non-stick, so there is less jerking to do, but I can just see Julia saying this) Lift its edges with a spatula and if the under side is a nice light brown, the crepe is ready for turning.
  • Turn the crepe by using 2 spatulas; or grasp the edges nearest you in your fingers and sweep it up toward you and over again into the pan in a reverse circle; or toss it over by a flip of the pan. (this is what I usually do, and it works great, until someone watches me)
  • Brown lightly for about 1/2 minute on the other side. This second side is rarely ore than a spotty brown, and is always kept as the underneath or nonpublic aspect of the crepe.
  • Slide crepe onto a plate. Grease the skillet again, heat to just smoking, and proceed with the rest of the crepes. Crepes may be kept warm by covering them with a dish and setting them over simmering water or in a slow oven. Or they ay be made several hours in advance and reheated when needed. (I have found that they also keep in the fridge for a day or two, with a piece of wax paper between each one, or in the freezer in the same way)
  • As soon as you are used to the procedure, you can keep 2 pans going at once, and make 24 crepes in less than half an hour. (right… Julia can – I never have).
Spinach and ricotta filling:
1 package frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well
1 small container ricotta
about 1 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
salt
nutmeg
  • Mix first 3 ingredients together.  Add salt to taste, and a tiny grating of nutmeg.
Ham and cheese filling:
6-9 slices of ham (depending on how many crepes you will make)
6-9 slices of cheese (fontina, or swiss)
Assembling the crepes:
  • Preheat oven to 400 (380 convection)

rolling crepes

  • Martha’s method: Spread the spinach filling in a thin layer all over one side of the crepe and roll it up.  My method: put some of the filling about one third of the way down in kind of a log shape, then roll from short edge over the filling (like making an enchilada). Both seem to work equally well.  If you’re making ham and cheese, lay down one piece of ham, one piece of cheese, and roll up.
  • Place rolled crepes, seam side down, in a shallow baking pan.  Top with either tomato sauce (we used that for the spinach) or bechamel (we used that for the ham and cheese) and sprinkle a little parmigiano on top.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, till the tomato sauce is bubbling a bit, and the bechamel has just begun to brown.
Dessert!
  • Spread one side of each crepe with a couple of tablespoons of dulce de leche. Place in baking dish. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Place under broiler for about 2 minutes – watch very carefully, as they can burn quickly. The sugar should start to caramelize – that’s when they are done.  The edges will get a little crispy. Drizzle and dulce de leche that has seeped out, over the top of the crepes.  Serve immediately.

dessert crepes

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