The classic French crepe is a food item that needs little introduction. In fact, I’m not ashamed to say that the all-purpose crepe recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a recipe I return to so often, the cookbook often opens to that specific page when I set it down on the table!
Believe it or not, crepes are incredibly simple to make. If you can make a good pancake, you can make a good crepe. The ingredients are almost the same, and an elegant stack of crepes looks and tastes super impressive. Bonus? You don’t feel like a dense blob after you’ve eaten just one (you know that pancake feeling I’m talking about).
More than anything I’ve ever made, the key to a successful crepe is just as much about the tools as it is about the recipe. I remember trying to make crepes on a cheap, tiny frying pan back in my residence room in France and almost pulled my hair out trying to get them to cooperate. You want to know which French brand happens to make amazing French crepe pans? If you’re guessing Le Creuset, you would be right!
The Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Crepe Pan is the latest and greatest addition to my kitchen. To be clear, this is a different product from their classic cast iron crepe pan. That one works well too, but this new forged hard anodized one is just about as clean and slick as they come. The smooth surface of the crepe pan helps the batter spread very thinly, and more importantly, has a low edge, which makes the crepes easier to flip. It’s dishwasher and oven safe, and can be used with virtually any cooktop. The crepe pan also comes with a wooden rateau (the little T-bar thing) which makes you feel super professional and zen at the same time.
Other than using a high quality pan, here are a few other tips that I’ve learned from my own mistakes along the way:
1. The first crepe will always look terrible. You need to figure out the perfect temperature and the only way to really figure that out is by sacrificing one first. The good thing about this guarantee is that you can snack on that first crepe with no guilt as you continue on cooking.
2. You will need to add water. Depending on how much you sifted (or didn’t sift) the flour, your altitude, how long the batter has been sitting out on the counter, and many other factors, you may need to add a tiny bit more water than what feels natural. It’s okay, don’t be afraid.
3. One side is supposed to be the “ugly” side. According to French tradition, the first side you put down is supposed to be the “show” side of the crepe, while the brown spotty side is supposed to be the side you hide. I do not think that the speckled side is actually ugly at all, but knowing the proper French crepe etiquette will help if you’re actually trying to impress someone.
4. Resist the urge to add sugar and/or vanilla to your crepe batter. There are a lot of other recipes that may call for the addition of these ingredients to make sweet crepes (or crêpes de froment), but I find that it takes away from the nice balanced taste when you use a sweet filling. Plus, the best thing about making all-purpose crepes is that you can use them for your savoury ingredients as well, all in the same day (or even the same meal).
Classic French Crepes
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup cold milk (2% or homogenized)
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 tbsp melted butter plus more for cooking
Put the liquids, eggs and salt into a blender or food processor, followed by the flour and butter.
Cover and blend at high speed for one minute, pausing if needed to scrape the sides down with a rubber spatula.
Pour batter into a bowl and let sit covered in refrigerator for at least one hour (two hours or overnight is ideal).
When ready to cook, heat your crepe pan on medium heat (no higher) for a few minutes or until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates immediately.
Rub your crepe pan with the slightest touch of butter (although the Le Creuset Toughened Nonstick Crepe Pan does not actually require any oil, the butter will add a nice flavour).
Holding the wooden rateau in your dominant hand, pour one soup ladle full of batter with your non-dominant hand into the center of the pan. Slowly move the rateau in a circular motion to distribute the batter evenly around the pan, paying particular attention not to catch the edges.
Once the edges of your crepe start curling (after about one minute of cooking), flip the crepe with a spatula or delicately with your hands (I prefer this method, but be careful not to burn yourself).
Cook lightly for about 30 seconds on the other side or until small light brown speckles form.
Slide the finished crepes onto a plate and keep warm by covering them with a clean dishtowel until ready to serve. Alternatively, you can keep them warm in a warm oven (no hotter than 200 degrees F).
Fill with your favourite ingredients (or set some out for guests to choose their own) and serve immediately.