Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to Make Crepes (for those of us who aren't Julia Child)

Making crepes at home shouldn't be as hard as all that, Ms. Julia Child! I couldn't get her crepes to stay round for the life of me. Dear Pink Manhattan friends: I've simplified crepe-making for you, so that almost anyone with a skillet and a stove top can make if not lace-thin and delicate crepes, still lovely, satisfying crepes without going through the agonizing process of trying to master the impossible Julia Child's Crepe Recipe.

Here's the Julia Child crepe recipe that went around the internets during the celebration of what would have been her 100th birthday. I tried it and decided to modify it, so here goes the Pink Manhattan version:

What you'll need:
A skillet
A metal tablespoon
A metal fork
A measuring cup: or, I use an 8.5 fl. oz. styrofoam cup
A large bowl for mixing
A metal spatula

For the batter (which you will *NOT* need to chill for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge like with Julia Child's recipe):
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
A pinch of salt (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Unsalted butter, for cooking
Powdered (confectioners) sugar, for serving
Lemon (optional, for serving)

Here's what I do: First, put 2 tbsp. of butter in the skillet on very low heat (as low as it goes) to melt it. Then, while the butter is melting, crack 2 eggs in the bowl, add 1 tbsp sugar (with an optional pinch of salt), then beat the eggs and sugar together with the fork. When you get a pale yellow mixture, add 1 c. flour. Just use your standard 8.5 fl. oz. styrofoam coffee cup to roughly measure: fill it with flour up to the top, flattened with your spoon (or scoop it straight from the bag of flour - whatever works), put that in the bowl. Now for the milk: Fill it up almost to the top with milk (about 3/4 of the way up to the very top), fill the rest up to the top with water (The water helps the crepe rise off the hot skillet without sticking to the bottom) and pour the milk+water into the bowl a little at a time while mixing the batter. Beat them all together lightly - it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, just well-blended enough that the batter is kind of thick and creamy, not quite doughy. The batter now should feel thicker against the spoon than, say, melted ice cream. To recap, my basic "rule" is to use equal amounts of flour (1 c.) and milk+water (3/4 c. + 1/4 c. = 1 cup).

Now, add the melted butter from the skillet into the bowl. Put the skillet back on low heat; you'll need it again soon. Finish mixing the batter in the bowl with the tablespoon (more like folding, which is to say, gently blend without burning yourself with the hot butter). The batter when mixed should be a lighter consistency than before, but still creamy and smooth (a few flour chunks are OK, but you could mash them against the sides of the bowl with a spoon if they bother you). You'll know at the next step how to adjust the rest of your batter. If it's too thick, you can add liquid; if it's too runny, you can add more flour. Remember every stove is different; adjust as you go, but try to remember my "rule".

Put the heated buttered skillet on the side burner (the cold one) and pour a nice dollop of batter in the middle of it, which will turn into a circle about the size of a silver dollar pancake. Tilt the skillet up, down and a little sideways to get the batter to run a little around the perimeter, making the crepe larger and thin around the sides but still nice and round-shaped. If it doesn't run a little when you tilt it, the batter needs to be thinned out with more water (start by adding a smidge - maybe 1/8 fl. oz. (= 2 tablespoons)). Put the skillet back on the hot burner and raise the heat up to medium (about a 3/4" - 1" high flame as seen by the naked eye, and don't go testing it literally with a ruler). I use a metal spatula because I don't like to eat burned plastic, but use whatever spatula you have to flip the crepe over, just not yet. Wait until you see the crepe start to lift off the skillet around the perimeter (it will start to "wave" around the sides). If the crepe starts to wave hello incessantly, turn the flame down a notch, to about 1/4" - 1/2" high, until it still waves but has calmed down to a friendly finger wave - metaphorically speaking, of course.

Use the spatula to check the underside; if it has a few brown spots like the surface of a pancake or pita bread, it's ready to flip. Do it gently - it's not pizza, you don't need to throw it. Just slide the spatula under the crepe (the whole thing should lift off the skillet easily if 1. there's enough butter coating on the bottom, and 2. if there's enough water in the batter - but too much water and the crepe will break apart, so add more flour to the batter if this happens); with the spatula, go in underneath as far towards the middle of the crepe as you can, and flip the end that the spatula doesn't reach, then lay the rest down with the spatula by letting the crepe slowly slide down from it, nice and easy. If the process freaks you out, or if the oil is jumping out at you, take the skillet off the flame. Put it on the side burner, wait till it calms down, then flip it. No drama.

Put the skillet back on the hot burner, but you can lower the heat to about 1/8" - 1/4" flame at this point, since the skillet's gotten hotter over time, and we're near the end of the cooking process. It won't take long before you'll need to check the underside of the crepe again with the spatula; if it starts to show brown spots, you're done! Transfer the crepe to a plate; you can use the skillet to fold it in half as you're laying it down, but you can also just slide the round crepe onto a plate and arrange it later. You can use a spatula to fold it into quarters; voila, you're a crepe-making chef. Sprinkle some confectioners sugar on top, add a squeeze of lemon if you like, and bon appetit! If the first one didn't turn out perfectly, I promise the next one will be better if you follow my tips. Prepare the skillet for the next crepe: keep the flame on low, add a pat of butter to melt it, repeat. Makes 3-4 crepes.

This and many other tips on easy peasy metro living will be in my upcoming book, The Pink Manhattan Handbook by Sali Oguri, which I am writing in hopes of finishing, oh, eventually. In the book, I'll share a converted crepe recipe to serve a few more people, in case you want to invite a friend over for brunch.