Mastering crêpes is a helpful skill to have in your cooking repertoire. They are an incredibly versatile base for many classic dishes — they can go from breakfast to dinner to dessert, and can be savory or sweet, large or small. They can be made ahead and eaten later. And they're really not hard to make, as long as you know a few tricks.
The best way to learn how to make crêpes is to ... make crêpes! If you've never made them before, whip up a batch just to practice. I guarantee that by the last of the batter in the bowl, you will have it mastered. Crêpes are all about responding to the size and heat of the pan and the thickness of the batter. Once you have these down, you'll be flipping crêpes like a pro!
The most important thing with crêpes is a nonstick pan or a well-seasoned crêpe pan. It does not necessarily have to have a commercial nonstick coating like teflon. After all, people have managed to make crêpes long before teflon was invented, and in fact, the crêpes shown here were made in a stainless steel-lined copper skillet. But for some people, a nonstick coating is a make or break option. If that's the case, then you should definitely go with it. They do make crêpe-making very easy.
There are crêpe pans specially-designed for making crêpes. Besides being made of cast-iron and naturally nonstick, they have low sides to make it easier to get a spatula in there to flip them. Strictly necessary? No. Helpful? Sure. If you think you'll be making a lot of crêpes or you will use the pan for other things, then go ahead and get one. They often come in carbon steel or cast iron, which can be seasoned to be just as nonstick as the commercial coatings.
Another important part of happy crêpe-making is the consistency of the batter. Crêpe batter is thinner than most pancake batters, more like half-and-half than heavy cream. It may almost seem too thin at first but you will quickly discover that a thin batter is your friend as it spreads quickly and makes a nice, delicate pancake. If your batter seems too thick and isn't spreading in the pan, don't hesitate to gently whisk in a few tablespoons of water to thin it out.
A blender is the perfect tool for whipping up the batter, although you can also make it by hand using a bowl and a whisk. I used a hand-held immersion blender for this post and made the batter right in the bowl I later used to pour the batter. Less clean-up!
Crêpe batter must be rested in order to produce light, delicate crêpes. A half an hour to an hour on the counter is fine, but overnight in the refrigerator is even better. Don't skip this step!
One last note on the batter — crêpe batter can be prepared to be sweet or savory. If you are serving them with sweet additions such as sugar, fruit or chocolate, then it's nice to sweeten the batter a little with some sugar and a touch of vanilla. If you are going in a savory direction, additions such as snipped chives or other herbs are welcome.
Crêpe batters often contain melted butter for tenderness and flavor. It is traditional to also cook them in butter, but I find that problematic as butter burns easily. Since the butter is already in the batter for flavor, I find that it's easier to coat the pan in a neutral cooking oil such as canola or rice bran. These oils have a much higher smoking point, making it easier to find the correct cooking temperature without burning.
Finding the perfect temperature for making crepes is necessary for success. Start with medium heat or just a little lower, and adjust from there. It is common practice to count the first crêpe or two as a throwaway, so don't worry if you need to make a few until you find the sweet spot. In general, lower temperatures are better than high, which will cook the batter before you have finished swirling the batter into the corners of the pan.
Cooling and Storing
It's nice to cool your crêpes on a wire rack so that steam can evaporate. If you are stacking them for storage, a smallish square of parchment or plastic wrap between each crêpe is helpful. (It doesn't have to be as big as the crepe.) If well-wrapped and placed in a sealable plastic bag, they can be store in the refrigerator for a few days and in the freezer for a few months.
How To Make Crêpes
What You Need
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of melted butter
Optional for sweet crepes:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Neutral oil for cooking
Measuring cups and spoons
Blender, or a bowl and whisk
Wire cooling rack
Ladle for pouring (optional)
10-inch nonstick pan or an 8-inch crêpe pan
- Make the batter: Place the flour, milk, eggs, salt, and melted butter (and optional sugar and vanilla) in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds until batter is smooth. Alternatively, whisk everything together in a bowl until thoroughly combined and frothy.
- Let the batter sit: Cover the bowl and let the batter sit for at least 1/2 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Prepare to cook the crêpes: Before cooking the crêpes, assemble everything you'll need by your stove top: the batter, the pan, the oil, the spatula. If your bowl doesn't have a pour spout, have a ladle or 1/4-cup measuring cup handy.
- Cook the crêpes: Place the pan over medium heat and add a small amount of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Let it sit on the flame for a minute to get hot. Pour in about 1/4 cup of batter. Immediately, pick up the pan and swirl it to coax the batter into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
- Flip the crêpe: When the crêpe has browned slightly on the bottom, carefully work a spatula underneath it and flip. Cook the second side briefly, just to set the batter.
- Cool the crêpe: Tilt the pan and loosen the crêpe, then slide it onto the cooling rack.
crêpes:Continue making crêpes with the rest of the batter, adding more oil as needed to keep the crêpes from sticking.
- Stack and store: If not eating the crêpes immediately, stack them one on top of the other as they cool. If they seem sticky, place a square of plastic wrap or parchment paper between them. Place the stack in a sealable plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months.
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(Images: Dana Velden)