Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Messing about with crêpes

The first time I made crêpes, after I got the hang of it, I found them to be remarkably easy to make and store and versatile enough to go with most any ingredients you'd want to pair them with. And so, of course, I went nearly a year without making them again. Don't read that sarcastically; I'm serious. The blog demands kitchen drama and crêpes just don't deliver.

It was only this weekend, when I said screw the blog and cooked a bunch of basics to stock up the freezer, that I came back to them. I'm talking about them now so, obviously, I found something of interest, but you've seen the last few posts--it's not much.

That first time I made crêpes I used the Good Eats recipe: mix 2 large eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup flour and 3 tablespoons melted butter, blend for 10 seconds, add salt and herbs or sugar and liqueur, let hydrate for an hour and then cook.

The blending at least is clearly non-traditional so I did a little research to see if there were other versions distinct enough for a post of their own. I didn't find much--a crêpe's a crêpe all across Europe.
Vietnamese crêpes are interesting, and pretty tasty too, but it's too soon to go shopping again and I haven't got the necessary bean sprouts on hand. They're on the to-do list, though, so you'll be seeing a banh xeo post at some point.

I did find something interesting in a guest post on the Bitten blog, though. Edward Schneider suggested mixing the flour and eggs together and then adding milk until getting to the right texture. He says that this magically eliminates lumps from the batter, which is a nice plus, and I like the idea of being able to judge the amount of milk to compensate for how packed and/or humid your flour is. There was something else of interest in the comments. It seems that the necessity of letting the batter sit for an hour was a point of contention between Julia Child and Jacque Pépin. She said to do it; he said it was unnecessary. When experts disagree, it's best to see for yourself.

So I gave it a shot. Here's the mixed eggs and flour: 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup all purpose.

Once the flour was fully incorporated, I added a cup of milk, whipping away to break up that doughball, and then switched to another quarter cup or so of water. (I don't use a lot of milk so I buy those 1 cup shelf-stabilized boxes and didn't want to open another one.) Lump-free it wasn't, but they were doughy lumps, not floury lumps. I could imagine them falling apart if I had let the batter hydrate. But I didn't so they didn't.

Oh, one other suggestion from that post, melt the butter for the batter in the frying pan to save cleaning one more bowl and to get the pan nicely coated for the first crêpe. If nothing else, that's a trick worth keeping.

Here's the first, lumpy crêpe.

No good obviously (although it tasted fine), so I blended the batter and the crêpes turned out nicely thin, light and tender after that. They're a little on the eggy side, though, since I'm using extra-large eggs instead of the called for large. I should add a little extra of the other ingredients to compensate next time. I'm not getting the crisped browned edges I want, but with a non-stick pan, that's difficult to achieve. It's a trade-off.

For the filling, I fried up some cabbage, scallions, ham and added a little chicken stock to moisten and melted in some Havarti cheese for a binder.

Notice how the crêpes are paper thin, but rolled up easily without any tearing. I filled some more with apricot preserves for dessert. It looked about the same except a little lumpier. Both were pretty good. The crêpes themselves were pretty neutral, but that was my choice. I wanted to leave them open to possibilities so I didn't mix any of the accoutrements I mentioned up top into the batter. If I were making them for some specific dish, I would certainly do so.

As for the hour's rest issue, I let the second half of the batch sit while I ate dinner before making the extra crêpes for storage. I can't say I noticed any difference before and after so I'm going to say the rest isn't necessary. Myth busted!

I'm getting a bit tired of all this basic cooking. I should have something more substantive to post about soon.


kat said...

Yeah crepes are really easier than a lot of people think once you get the hang of it. I guess the interest is in doing creative fillings

billjac said...

I don't know if there's all that much interest in creative fillings either. Masterfully recreating a classic recipe, like making crepes suzette might win you some points, but otherwise, so far as I can tell, it's something to hold together whatever sweet or savory scraps you've got lying around that you want to throw together.