Saturday, August 14, 2010

Oh Crepe!

Ok, I admit it. I messed up.

Normally I'm fairly rigorous about my mise-en-place, that French cooking term which translates, roughly, to "Exactly how dumb would you have to be to start cooking without checking first if you have all your ingredients?" (It does lose something in the translation.)

A couple of weekends ago, my vision of a perfect-50's-television-family Sunday morning breakfast of freshly made peach crepes came crashing back to reality when, part way through mixing the batter, I found I didn't have the milk called for in the recipe. Rummaging through the refrigerator, the closest thing to milk I could find was sour cream. Hardly an ideal substitute, but it's my firm belief that if an idea is the only one you have, it doesn't matter much if it's good or bad. (MacGyver would be so proud.)

As you might expect, the sour cream made for a much thicker batter than would the milk. If you've ever made crepes, you know that, while they're not at all hard to make, the thickness/thinness of the batter is critical. I found that increasing the amount of water called for in the original recipe brought the batter back to its intended thickness, while still allowing the nice flavor added by the sour cream to come through. The disaster for which breakfast was originally headed was, I am happy to report, avoided. It turned out so well that the sour-cream version has now become my go-to crepe recipe.

Crepes, of course, are one of the great, versatile foods. Fill them with fruit for breakfast, with meat for dinner; I've even heard of filling them with lunch meat and cheese, similar to a wrap, for lunch. Remember, it's your crepe. Have fun with it! (My son did try using peanut butter and it was terrible. Even crepes, it would seem, have their limits.)

For the filling, a peach-compote of sorts was easy to make using an approach that will probably seem familiar to anyone who has ever made fruit jam.

To make about 8 crepes, combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of butter substitute (melted), 2 egg-substitute eggs, 1 cup of low-fat sour cream and 1/2 cup of water in a bowl and mix well with an electric hand mixer on high. Add additional water, ¼ cup at a time, until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

After the batter has finished resting, heat a non-stick sautĂ© pan over low heat. When it's heated, remove it from the stove, melt about a teaspoon of butter substitute in it, and add about ¼ cup of the batter. (Unlike pancakes, crepes are very thin.) Swirl the batter around to cover the surface of the pan, put it back on the stove and increase the heat to medium. (I recently saw one of my favorite tv chefs, Michael Chiarello, add a teaspoon of toasted chopped hazelnuts to the batter at this point. What a great idea!) When the crepe is browned on the bottom and firm enough to be flipped (usually about two minutes, but keep an eye on it), flip the crepe or use a spatula and your fingers (carefully!) to turn it over and cook it on the opposite side until it has the desired brownness. (If you're new at flipping, don't be discouraged if the first few flips don't work out. It's really the only challenging part of making a crepe, and it does get much better with just a little practice. The first time I made crepes I had to throw out the first three or four attempts. Stay with it. And this is a case where a good pan really does make a difference.) Repeat the process until all the batter is used, rebuttering the pan after each crepe, and stacking the cooked crepes as they finish. Keeping the stack covered with a clean towel to prevent them from drying out.

Of course, even good crepes need a nice filling.

For the filling, combine in a medium saucepan 1-1/2 cups of sugar and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Heat it over very low heat, stirring often, until the mixture is melted. (This should take a few minutes.)

Once the sugar mixture is melted, add 6 peaches, sliced into eighths, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of butter substitute, and increase the heat to medium. Cook until the peaches are soft and the liquid is reduced. Turn off heat and let the peach mixture rest to allow the liquid to thicken. Fill the crepes, roll them up, sprinkle them with a little confectioner's sugar, and serve warm.

(An equally nice apple filling can be made by using apples instead of peaches, and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon along with the nutmeg. I used golden delicious and it was delicious, but experiment with whatever your favorite apple is.)

After you've filled and folded over the crepe, don't forget to sprinkle confectioner's sugar on top!

Till next week, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. They look yummy! Glad your substitute worked out for you!

  2. Thanks, Tawnya. I thought it gave the crepes a nice flavor. I was thinking that buttermilk might do the same thing, but unless you use it for other things too there's always the problem of what to do with the rest of the container after you've made the crepes. Acidulated milk - the fake buttermilk you make by adding lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk - will do in a pinch, but the taste just isn't the same.

  3. Sounds delish! I remember making crepes once about 100 years ago when I went to visit a college roommate who had moved to Cleveland. My recollection is that the whole affair was very difficult and our crepes ended up looking quite sorry, but they tasted good.

  4. They do take practice; one of the great advantages the Food Network/You Tube era has over our college days is that it's easier now to see what the recipes are describing. Also, I've found a lot depends on the pan. My crepe-making actually began when, this past Father's Day, I got a good, non-stick crepe pan (which also makes cooking traditional omelettes a lot easier) and an outstanding cookbook devoted entirely to crepes (Crepes, by Lou Seibert Pappas). You might want to give it another try! (Just remember to avoid peanut butter.)

  5. I'm from NJ also. I have promised myself I will do more cooking, but I am starting a trife more simple than this. Looks great though. ~Mary

  6. Mary, it's great to see you here, and I hope you've been well since we last met in the blogosphere. Crepes are easier than they might at first sound; it's really just the turn/flip that needs a bit of practice. (Let's put it this way: if I'm doing it, it can't be that hard.) Next week's post is still in the works, so I'm not sure what I'll be going with, but I've got it down to pancakes, blueberry muffins, or fresh pasta; the first two are literally among the first things I ever learned to cook years ago, and the third is easy and one of the most fun things you can make. I hope to see you here!

  7. I love to cook. I love Food Network. I love witty sarcastic humor. Those are the 3 reasons I am your newest follower. :)

    I have yet to attempt to make crepes...I must admit, I'm a little scared they will taste like scrambled eggs! I should just take the plunge and give it a whirl.

  8. Welcome, Keri...I'm so glad you found your way here. It sounds like we've got a whole bunch of common ground, and I'm looking forward to seeing you. (The next post will be about making homemade ravioli, if that makes you hungry. :-) )

    I do hope you'll give the crepes a try. Tasting like eggs shouldn't be a problem since they're mixed with the flour and the other ingredients. It's all in the turn or, if you're daring, the flip. Let me know how it goes!