No fancy, exotic or unique recipes today. Today I'm interested in technique. Can I successfully make crepes? I've done it once before but that was fifteen years ago and I had both a proper crepe pan--the fancy domed sort--and someone who knew what she was doing guiding me. Today I've just got my small non-stick frying pan, but I understand that that should suffice.
My first choice when I'm trying something new is to use an Alton Brown recipe. He's got one for crepes, happily:
Good Eats Crepes
* 2 large eggs
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 cup flour
* 3 tablespoons melted butter
* Butter, for coating the pan
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.
*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.
*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.
You might have noticed that he doesn't specify a type of flour. Given the short mix time it probably doesn't matter much, but just to be on the safe side I decided to use low-gluten pastry flour, whole wheat specifically for a bit of extra flavor.
He doesn't say how much butter either. I just rubbed the end of a stick of butter around the pan a bit; it is a non-stick after all.
Here's my first attempt with a carefully measured 1 ounce of batter. It looks a little skimpy for my pan so I'll go up to a full 1/8 cup next time, which is easier to measure out anyway. The bubbling means the pan's too hot--easily fixed. And some trouble with the flip.
Maybe if I use tongs?
A long wooden spatula?
Two spatulas together?
What if I add more batter. Would the extra thickness improve the structural integrity?
How does Brown say to do it? "and flip." Lots of help there. No time to check the video so I'll just pile them up.
In between each pile of crepe is the filling: baby spinach, scallions and finely chopped ham, a bit of salt, a bit of pepper, Parisien Bonnes Herbes mix, pan deglazed with a dry white wine. Plus some finely grated havarti cheese. Not the most attractive dish, but not bad. The texture of the crepes is spongier than I expected and maybe they should be crispy around the edges? Eh, still tasty.
That episode on Good Eats is on YouTube (You'd think the Food Channel would complain about that.) so I can see how the flip is supposed to be done. Huh, tossed like a pancake. My pan isn't very new; maybe the non-stick is getting a bit less non- in its old age.
Let's see if I have better luck using the second half for dessert. I want to add a Tablespoon of sugar so I decant the batter into a bowl and I notice a whole lot of sludge on the bottom. The batter separated during the hour in the refrigerator and all the flour was on the bottom. Those weren't crepes before; they were omelets! No more of that. Now I can mix it up between scooping out portions to cook.
There's a noticeable difference in texture right away. The batter is denser, but it spreads thinner. The heat's too high again but the crepe isn't sticking. I don't want to risk picking it up and I'm not the best flapjack flipper out there so I dump it out onto a plate and then slide it back into the pan. Here it is:
Much better looking, whole for one thing, translucently thin and crispy around the edges. And it's not a fluke either. Next one comes out thin too and I can even flip it in the pan. And it keeps on that way as they pile up.
There are three changes here:
1. The higher flour/liquid ratio
2. The Tablespoon of sugar
3. A substantially lower cooking temperature (I lowered the heat to medium low and increased the cooking time by 15 seconds.)
I think #1 is the reason for the improved texture. #3 is why I didn't get any more crispy edges after that first one. I don't know which fixed the sticking problem. My guess is #1 but verification will have to wait for the next time I make this.
The filling for dessert is an apple, sliced thin with my mandolin, fried up with a little butter and a generous dollop of leftover caramel sauce from my last ice cream. [link] I had envisioned tidy layers of apple slices but I have an unerring ability to pick the mealiest apples on offer--organic or industrial, farmer's market or supermarket, no matter the varietal it never fails--so it began falling apart while I was slicing and disintegrated the second it hit the pan. No matter, at least the cooking is bringing out what little flavor it has.
Here's the result:
The crepes are thin, light, tender and tasty. No longer crispy on the edges though. The apple/caramel sauce matches well too. I wonder if there's some way to get the full stack hot without overcooking the crepes? I found that everything cooled to room temperature quite rapidly as I made the next crepe.
But temperature aside, these are pretty good crepes and really not hard at all once I got over the initial difficulties. I wonder how crepes got their reputation for trickiness. I have more trouble with pancakes and I've been trying to figure those out for years.