Monday, April 28, 2008

Making Crêpes for a Weekend Breakfast

Crêpes get a bad rap for being difficult. Heck, I basically agree. My family eats such a quantity of them that whoever is on cooking detail is stapled to the stove while the rest of the family languishes about eating and barking out orders: One cinnamon! Two raspberry!

That can be difficult.

Kitchen equipment purveyors exacerbate the perception by selling crêpe pans. You don't need one. I just use nonstick omelet pans.

The truly difficult thing about crêpes is waiting. Once the batter is mixed it must sit in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes. This gives the gluten time to relax after whisking the heck out of the batter. Gluten is a protein in flours. Different flours have different amounts of gluten. Cake and pastry flours, which go into more delicate bakery items, have less protein. Bread flour has higher protein, giving breads and bagels a dense and chewy bite. All purpose flour is right in the middle. If you cooked a crêpe right after mixing it would be rubbery and unpleasant.

When I cut butter from my diet I thought for sure I wouldn't be able to make crêpes. Happily, I discovered canola oil makes a fine substitute. I often have a hard time with substitutes, thinking them at best silly and at worst an affront to cuisine. Both add necessary fat - canola is just a healthier one - and very often canola oil quietly replaces butter much like a televised awards ceremony seat filler. Feel free to re-substitute an equal measure of melted, unsalted butter if the substitution offends. I won't lie: butter provides a better taste and texture. But try substitution yourself - you may be surprised.

Print recipe only here

Serves 4-6

Sift together in a large mixing bowl:
• 2 cups flour
• ½ t salt

Add and combine:
• Zest of 2 lemons

Whisk together:
• 6 eggs
• 2 ½ cups nonfat milk
• 3 T canola oil
• 2 t vanilla extract

Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly whisk in the liquid. When completely combined cover and allow to sit for 45 minutes in the refrigerator.

Cooking method
Preheat 1 or 2 nonstick omelet pans over a low-medium low flame.

Spray with high heat canola oil. Holding the pan at an angle, ladle a small amount (about ¼ cup or less) directly into the center of the pan. Tilt slowly to allow the batter to evenly coat the pan.

If this is your first crepe-making venture, allow yourself 2-3 crepes to get a hang of it. Crêpes should be as thin as possible while still coating the entire bottom of the pan. Just experiment with the amount of batter you use.

When the surface looks cooked through (about 45-60 seconds of cooking), slide a spatula around the sides to loosen and flip over. I use my fingers to do this, and sometimes it’s pretty hot, but it’s really the easiest way. Cook the other side for about 10-15 seconds, then flip onto a plate or surface to fill and roll them. I use a cutting board here.

No comments: