Crepes – Not Scary At All

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I have wanted to make crepes for years, but put it off because I thought they were hard to make. I’m not sure what magic skills I thought I needed to make what really are just egg-rich, very thin pancakes. If you can make pancakes, you can make crepes.

There is a crepe cart in the town in Colorado where we have vacationed with Rich’s parents. They have the crepe-making process down to a science, with special crepe griddles and a spatula to spread the batter out in an even layer. In the past we have tried their cheesecake crepes, s’mores crepes and simpler crepes filled with melted chocolate or sugar and butter. This year when we went for crepes, the line stretched halfway down the block and the wait was over an hour. We skipped the crepes and vowed to make our own when we got home.

Once I made the leap and decided to try my own crepes, I figured I needed a new skillet to make them in. We got rid of all our nonstick pans a few years ago, after wearing out several sets. We only have stainless steel pans and I thought we might have trouble with sticking. I picked up a 10-inch nonstick skillet at Marshall’s for $10 and we were ready to make some crepes.

Calvin and I mixed up the batter Friday afternoon, in less than ten minutes. We heated the pan while we mixed the batter and then started making our crepes. Once we figured out the swirling technique, we were fighting over who got to make the next crepe. In about half an hour we had 12 crepes stacked up, ready to fill. They weren’t all pretty, but even the most irregular and pale of the bunch still looked pretty good to us. And no matter what they looked like, each delicately thin crepe was deceptively rich, deliciously eggy and fragrant with vanilla.

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We used some of the batch for dessert that night ­– reheating them one at a time in a lightly buttered skillet. Calvin had a s’more crepe, with chocolate chips, marshmallows and crushed graham crackers. We covered half with the toppings and then folded the other half over. A few minutes in the hot pan for each side and the chocolate was melted and the marshmallows were warm and puffy. Rich and I brushed ours with melted butter and then sprinkled them with brown sugar and cinnamon before folding them in quarters.

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The rest of the batch we saved for Saturday’s breakfast. In the morning we sweetened ricotta with a little honey and vanilla and spread it over half of each crepe. A sprinkling of blueberries gilded the lily. We rolled them up and browned them in a little butter to make a decadent breakfast. What a way to start the weekend!

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Don’t let the mystique of crepes turn you off from trying these. They take minutes to whisk together and not much longer than that to make. Make a batch when you have a spare thirty minutes and then store them in the freezer for when you want a quick, elegant breakfast or dessert. Or sprinkle them with a few chocolate chips, heat them in a pan until the chocolate melts and eat them while you stand by the stove. I won’t tell.

Download or print the recipe here.

Basic Crepes
Adapted from Farm Journal’s “Homemade Breads”
by The Cook’s Life
Makes 10-12 crepes (8 inch)

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla (omit if making savory crepes)
1 tablespoon butter, melted, for pan

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat while mixing crepes.

Stir flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl with a whisk. In a separate bowl beat eggs until well combined. Add milk and vanilla and beat again. Add about half of the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining egg mixture and whisk again.

Lightly brush the hot skillet with melted butter. You don’t need much.

Pour slightly less than ¼ cup of batter in the middle of the pan. Quickly pick the pan up and swirl it in a circular motion until the batter forms a thin circle, about 8 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about any tentacles that form around the outside of the circle. You can trim them off later if they bother you. Every crepe will be closer to round as you get the hang of swirling the pan.

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Cook the crepe until the edges start to brown lightly and the top looks dry all over. Ease a spatula under the edge and use your fingers to help you turn the crepe over. If it folds up on itself, just spread it back out as you turn it over. Cook the second side until lightly browned.

Remove crepe to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter to make 10-12 crepes. As the crepes cool, you can stack them to keep them from drying out.

Use immediately, or cool them on the rack. Store crepes in a stack in an airtight container or ziplock bag at room temperature. If you are keeping them more than a day or two, freeze them. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours or in the fridge overnight, still in their container.

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Blueberry Pancakes to Soothe the Soul

Rich had a long, hard day at work yesterday and I decided to make a comfort food dinner. The original plans had been for broiled fish, which I knew wasn’t going to be the topper he needed on his day. We had blueberries and part of a package of bacon in the fridge, along with a wonderfully fragrant cantaloupe. Menu change – blueberry pancakes, bacon and fresh fruit coming up.

I discovered a few years ago that it was easier to make blueberry pancakes if I added the blueberries to the pancakes while they were on the griddle instead of stirring them into the batter. They don’t make blue streaks in the batter, even when you are using frozen berries, which tend to bleed their color. Side note – I made bright green pancakes once when I experimented with cornmeal pancakes and then decided to throw frozen blueberries into the batter. Not repeatable.

Rich was happily surprised to come home to the aromas of cooking bacon and pancakes instead of fish. “Comfort food” is an over-rated phrase these days, but it has its place. Here’s to comfort food at its finest.

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes
from The Cook’s Life
Makes 8-12 pancakes, easy to double

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (see note)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
Milk or water

Start heating a lightly greased griddle or skillet over medium heat. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once and stir gently, but thoroughly. Don’t try to get all the lumps out, but make sure there aren’t any dry pockets of flour. If batter is too thick to pour, add milk or water, a tablespoon at a time until batter is thinner.

Drop batter onto the hot, greased pan or griddle with a spoon, ladle or measuring cup. Or use a mixing bowl with a spout and pour the batter onto the griddle. Scatter blueberries over the top of each pancake. Leave the pancakes alone until the edges look dry and there are bubbles over the whole surface. Flip over and cook about the same length of time, or a little less, on the other side. Serve as they are cooked or keep hot in a 250 degree oven or toaster oven.

If you have any left over, they can be cooled on racks and then kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two, or frozen for several months. Warm in a toaster oven or toaster just until hot, not crunchy.

Note: Buttermilk comes in 1-cup cartons at the grocery store, and really makes a wonderful pancake. It also keeps for weeks in the fridge. But, if you don’t want to buy buttermilk, you can use about ½ cup plain yogurt and ½ cup regular milk in place of the buttermilk. Or you can measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and fill it the rest of the way with milk. Stir and let sit for 10-15 minutes to let the milk sour.  

Download recipe here.

Skip the Mix: Pancakes

You really can make a cake, pancakes or biscuits without a mix. Try making just one thing from scratch and see how you like the results. Once you have a few skills and ingredients, it doesn’t take much more time than using a mix and the results are worth it. When you bake from scratch you control exactly what you put in your mixing bowl and on your family’s plates. You can tailor a recipe to suit your family’s tastes and dietary needs. Make the recipe once as written, but then you can adapt is as you like. You can change recipes to include whole grain flours, to reduce the fat, salt or sugar or substitute for ingredients that you don’t like or can’t eat for whatever reason.

Most things like pancakes and cakes are not as hard as you would think. And they are so much better when you make them from scratch. One trip to the grocery store will get you the ingredients you need for so many recipes. And the time you spend with your family trying something new is worth a little extra time.

I am including our favorite recipe for pancakes, which can be adapted as I have noted. Try them just once and I think you will be surprised at your results. Please post comments and let me know how the recipe worked for you.

Buttermilk Pancakes
12 four-inch pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour (see notes)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (see notes)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional, but really tasty)
Milk or water

Start heating a lightly greased griddle or skillet over medium heat. Stir together in a large bowl the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla, if using. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once and stir gently, but thoroughly. Don’t try to get all the lumps out, but make sure there aren’t any dry pockets of flour. If batter is too thick to pour, add milk or water, a tablespoon at a time until batter is thinner. Drop batter onto the hot, greased pan or griddle with a spoon, ladle or measuring cup. Or use a mixing bowl with a spout and pour them onto the griddle. Aim for pancakes that are about 4 inches across. Leave the pancakes alone until the edges look dry and there are bubbles over the whole surface. Flip over and cook about the same length of time, or a little less, on the other side. Serve as they are cooked or keep hot in a 250 degree oven or toaster oven. If you have any left over, they can be cooled on racks and then kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two, or frozen for several months. Warm in a toaster oven or toaster just until hot, not crunchy.

Note: I make these whole wheat pancakes by substituting ¾-1 cup white whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose flour. If you are starting out with whole wheat, use ¼ cup to start and increase it next time if you like the flavor. You can branch out to other flours like barley and rye, if you feel like being adventurous.

Buttermilk comes in 1-cup cartons at the grocery store, and really makes a wonderful pancake. It also keeps for weeks in the fridge. But, if you don’t want to buy buttermilk, you can use about ½ cup plain yogurt and ½ cup regular milk in place of the buttermilk. Or you can measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar into your measuring cup and fill it the rest of the way with milk. Stir and let sit for 10-15 minutes to let the milk sour.

Download the recipe here.