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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Problem-solving: Crepes

Some of the best food in town is to be had at the local creperie. The lemon and sugar crepes are fabulous, but so are the croissants, soups, salads. And the coffee! The ambiance, though, is not so great. It's really more of a take-out place. True, in good weather you can sit outside, but there's that gas station across the street. And then there's the issue of the paper plates....

Crepes are easy enough to make - I still have and use the special steel crepe pan I bought when we lived in Brooklyn Heights, probably around 1965. Trouble is, the crepes it makes are smallish - about 7", so you end up having to make quite a few of them to have an impact. Which means they're a bother. These crepes are BIG! And you only need one of them. How do they do that?

I decided to watch the crepe guy in action.

Right away I noticed quite a few things that were radically different in his approach. First, he has two HUGE round flat griddles that are in continuous operation. Second the crepes are cooked on what seems to be VERY LOW HEAT. (Not what traditional recipes suggest.) He pours the batter onto the heated surface, spreads it out to the edges with a special little wooden crepe "rake". Then he lets it cook undisturbed for longer than you would imagine. Finally when the underside is set and slightly browned (you can lift the edge once in a while to peek), he turns it over with a long spatula and IMMEDATELY adds whatever filling is to be used (the order I watched involved spreading the crepe with Nutella and then slicing a banana over the surface). Once again, he lets it cook for a while, casually turning his attention to other matters. Finally, when it seems finished, he folds the four edges in toward the center, making a neat square package, and slides it onto a plate, garnishing with whatever sweet or savory thing is appropriate: powdered sugar, grated cheese, a wedge of pineapple, whipped cream, a bit of salad....The end result is one huge perfect crepe - plenty for a single serving.

I can do that, I thought! Trouble is, I needed a huge flat pan. I tried it with my largest non-stick skillet, but it was only 10". It worked, but it still wasn't quite big enough. I ended up having to make extras. I wanted it BIGGER! So off I went to ebay and found a 12" aluminum non-stick pan for 9.99. They even had a 14-incher, but I was afraid it wouldn't fit on my stove. I had to pay 9.00 for shipping - but - guess what! It came TODAY, less than 48 hours after I placed the order, so I got to try it out.

I won't keep you in suspense (if by any chance you're still reading). The result was perfect. I sauteed some apple slices for the filling and added lots of powdered sugar at the end. The batter is made in the blender - half a standard recipe. Here's how:

Melt a blob (1T) of butter in the microwave. Put 1/3 cup flour in blender. Now add 4/9 cup milk (fill the 1/3 cup measure, then add another third of a third). Crack an egg into the mix, add a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of salt and the melted butter. Blend til smooth then (ideally) let it sit for half an hour or even a day or two.

Cook as above using a lightly buttered 12" nonstick pan. Just tilt the pan to swirl the batter around to cover the bottom - no rake needed. Makes 2 12" crepes. (Make the second one after you've eaten the first and save it for another day - just heat it up in the same pan and add the filling).

NOTE: That's not a crepe in the photo; it's a particularly toothsome apple-apricot pastry.


Anonymous beecher said...

The blini stands in Russia do it just as the creperies do, with those enormous round griddles. We all became addicted to the blini "c yablakom", and the ham and cheese blini were really filling enough for a meal for two (followed by an apple one to split as well). I don't think you even get a paper plate at the blini stands, though.

Crepes are certainly one of my favorite foods.

9:19 PM  

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