Pancakes and crepes
Both of these are extremely popular at our house, although I should say that when we talk about crepes we are talking about the kind that is really a variant of the pancake since it is made with wheat flour not buckwheat. But the end result (despite plenty of opinions about the good, earthy, sour taste of buckwheat making all the difference in a true crepe) is not all that different and fresh buckwheat that hasn’t gone rancid is actually pretty hard to come by. So we make our crepes with wheat flour and we follow an ancient and simple recipe that is easy to learn and yet with practice changes every single time.
The basic recipe is as follows: Beat together one egg and one cup of milk. Now, using a whisk, beat in one cup of flour. Now beat in another tablespoon of milk. That should make crepes for two. For more people just double, triple or whatever the recipe.
Heat any one of the following on medium-high heat: a non-stick frying pan, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or an official crepe pan. Add about a teaspoon of butter and swirl it around. As soon as it starts to turn brown and smoke, turn the heat down to medium to medium-low and quickly pour about half a cup of the batter into the middle of the pan. Now rapidly swirl the batter in the pan so that it evenly covers all the bottom and turns up just a tiny bit on the sides. Leave on the heat until bubbles form and stay rather than immediately disappearing. Flip the crepe over. I usually use one of the new silicone spatulas that can’t burn for this. Cook for about the same time or a little less on the other side and then either serve immediately or put on a plate in a 150 degree oven to keep warm. The first crepe is often somewhat uneven since the pan temperature hasn’t stabilized. For subsequent crepes you will get better results and you can add less butter to start them off as well. Remember to whisk up the batter each time – the flour tries to separate out over time and sink to the bottom.
Several things can go wrong with this basically simple process, but in essence it can be mastered by anyone and my nine year old daughter has successfully made crepes for the family without any of the rest of us getting out of bed.
Things that go wrong include the batter being too thick – this is common and you will get to know it by experience – I often have to add another couple of tablespoons of milk to the batter. The batter can also be too thin – add more flour and whisk thoroughly. You can have difficulty adjusting the temperature and get some underdone and overdone crepes. You can add too much butter and get oily crepes. You can add too little butter and have the crepes start to stick.
The good news is that even a bad crepe is still a good eating experience.
Finally, a crepe is just a carrier for a filling and this is where you can let creativity run wild. At home we usually just put out all the jams, syrups, fresh fruit and cream products that we have plus butter, lemons and sugar and let everyone do what they want.
Classic sweet fillings include nutella; butter and sugar; butter, sugar and lemon; any kind of jam; any kind of fresh or cooked fruit; sauces made with liquers and sugar; etc.
Classic savory fillings include cheese; smoked salmon and cream cheese or sour cream; caviar and sour cream; sliced tomatoes; sauteed spinach; sauteed spinach and mushrooms; a poached egg; etc.
My favorite filling is a bit tricky to serve to more than one person at once but is great if people don’t mind getting theirs in turn. I make crepes and also on the side make a sauce of sauteed tomato, sweet corn, spring onion and garlic. After it has cooked and is cooling, I put in a little smoked salmon to warm up but not cook. Then I make a poached egg. I lay out a crepe on the plate, put a poached egg in the center, pour some sauce on top, add a little sour cream and then gently roll the crepe into a tube with the poached egg and filling inside.
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