Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lemony Crepes: Perking Up A Winter Weekend

 After indulging in Peef's rich & savory cassoulet this week, I've apparently gotten caught up in all things French. My mind is now drawn to pondering rich creamy cheeses, delightfully earthy wines, and creamy sauces.  Since French cooking is delightfully tied to the changing seasons, it seems all the more appropriate that I've been dedicating my time to dreaming en Francais.

That said, I'm also fully conscious that, as the Milwaukee winter turns snowier and more blustery, my mind also has a tendency to wander to thoughts of more tropical climes where inhabitants sip limey drinks in the warm sun. The increasing presence of citrus fruits (including one of my very favorites -- the satsuma tangerine -- a fruit whose candy sweet flesh is surrounded by an inexplicably easy-to-peel skin that makes it easy to consume multiples in one sitting) has me craving bright, sunny dishes

Fortunately for me, I've just returned to the grind from a delightfully long weekend during which we had a little bit of time to poke around the kitchen and create some delicious new dishes.  One of the highlights was a plate of deliciously tender lemon crepes strewn with beautiful seasonal pomegranate seeds, a perfectly welcome brunch dish that would also double as a light evening dessert.

To make my favorite lemony crepes, spread the pale side of a warm homemade crepe with a bit of butter, sprinkle with sugar, and embellish with a generous squeeze of lemon before rolling up into a loose cigar shape.  Top with powdered sugar or a generous sprinkling of pomegranate seeds or other fresh fruit.
Now crepes may sound fancy and complicated to the uninitiated.  But, for anyone who knows a few basic secrets, these deliciously light pancakes are one of the easiest (and most versatile) French dishes to master. They were one of the first dishes I learned how to make in my high school home economics class, and I've made the recipe so many times I quite nearly have it memorized.

Secret #1:  There really are no secrets.  Most information about successfully making crepes can be found right on the miraculous Internet... so don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Secret #2:  The crepe batter is actually best made ahead. After mixing, the batter needs a rest so that it can relax and absorb the flour, ensuring that the finished product is supple and tender.  Rather than being a nuisance, this is actually an advantage to the home cook with less than scads of time.  Be sure to make the batter at least 1/2 hour ahead of time... but you can also make it the night before and allow it to rest in the refrigerator until you're ready for it in the morning.  Your crepes will thank you by being deliciously tender & easy to deal with.

Secret #3:  You don't need a special crepe pan to make crepes. And don't let the so-called experts try to fool you. Any old 8-10 inch non-stick skillet will do.  I used any number of pans for my crepes before I finally broke down, in a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, and procured a 10-inch non-stick crepe pan from Amazon.com.

Secret #4:  You'll probably mess up a couple of the crepes when you make a batch. So what? I've made lots of crepes, and I still mess up at least one per batch. Sprinkle some sugar on it and enjoy it as a snack. It will taste just as good as the rest, even if it's not quite as gorgeous.

Secret #5:  Crepes are the perfect playing field for getting creative with more interesting flours.  Try substituting half of the wheat flour with buckwheat, quinoa or corn flour.  If you're gluten-free, crepes can also be made with a wheat-free blend, such as Bob's Red Mill.

I tend to make an entire batch of crepes at once, stacking them on a warm plate.  The residual heat from the crepes will keep them warm enough while you're working that you shouldn't have to reheat them before filling and serving.

Once you've got your crepes made, it's up to you to let your imagination run wild.  Crepes are delicious with as little as a sprinkling of cheese or a drizzle of honey. But, they can be fancied up with any number of either sweet or savory fillings.  

Of course, I'd recommend a smattering of sugar and a drizzle of lemon juice... it's a sure cure for just about any winter funk.

Basic Crepes

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  1. I made crepes LAST weekend! We spread Nutella and lemon curd on them. Divine.

    Every once in a while, if time permits, I'll make a batch, to save for later. I place wax paper in between each crepe to prevent sticking later on.

    I used to have a fancy crepe maker, but I wore that sucker out. Never replaced it and now I just use my 10 inch nonstick pan. It works fine.

  2. My mom taught me to make crepes & I was always so surprised at how easy they actually were.

  3. I have to say, crepes are my weakness in the kitchen. No matter what I do, they turn out like pancakes. Sigh. i think I need to study your tips. Way more fun than studying the GI system. Which is what I SHOULD be doing...

  4. I have't had crepes in forever! Back home we enjoyed them on Sunday morning. Peach or blueberry were my favorites. AND Thanks to your fabulous post, I'm craving them :)

    BTW, thanks for the secret#2 never considered making them the night before and LOL you are soooo right on #3

  5. I made crepes last week too, but I almost always have them savory... unless Sasa is around. It's one of the only sweet things she devours! She and I ate the last of them "re-fried" like quesadillas with the poblano chile sauce that I burnt my arm making and cheese. That was pretty good, but I may have to make another batch to do the lemony thing - I have some lemons leftover!

  6. I had a friend who loved making a 3-fold crepe so it left a little triangle at the bottom where all of the butter and sugar dripped down. She liked eating that part first as a child.

    My crepes have often been too dense, although I'm getting better at them. Seeing this post makes me think of Paris where crepe booths were as common as hot dog carts in NY.

  7. I love crepes...yours sure look great, very thin and light...great photos :-)

  8. Great looking recipe! My wife and I have tried to make crepes in the past without much luck... we got hooked when we visited Paris. We may have to experiment again tomorrow...

    Jason L.
    Northern Virginia Hypnotherapist

  9. These sound great. I always shy away from crepes because they seem finicky, but you're right, they're not that hard.

    Thanks for the inspiration -- maybe something with nutella and satsumas will be in my crepe.

    If you're ever in Madison, you should stop by Bradbury's, a lovely little downtown spot with great coffee, and sweet and savory crepes stuffed with local Wisconsin goodness.


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