Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crêpes

It's Pancake Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras today. I had never heard of such a thing as eating pancakes to mark the occasion until I lived in the UK. I did a semester abroad just outside of London in 1993 and my host mother was a wonderful cook. She introduced me to homestyle French cooking and the concept of eating a three-course meal even on an ordinary night. I learned to make béchamel from her and how to eat pancakes the Tuesday before Lent.

I also learned that it is possible for a married couple to huck mini mince pies at each other at the dinner table on occasion with no hard feelings, which was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I've stayed friends with Sue and Tony for well over 15 years now and they came to my wedding.

So, in honor of Sue, I post a pancake recipe. That was another surprise, of course--British pancakes are nothing like American pancakes. What's more, when I got to Scotland I learned that flapjack is also something else again entirely. (Note to self: refrain from making comment about being divided by common language now). Though there may be some minute differences, to my palate, British pancakes are crêpes.

I use a recipe from Fanny Farmer and the only change I made was to use 100% whole wheat pastry flour. Much to my surprise, once I had it hot enough, my 6-inch enameled cast iron skillet worked beautifully for the crêpes. I served with huckleberry sauce for Evan and Elspeth, though I like mine with just a little sugar. Traditionally, you would serve with a squeeze of lemon and some icing/powdered/confectioners' sugar.

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 TBSP butter, melted
More melted butter for brushing skillet (approx 1 TBSP)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and mix until well incorporated
  2. Pour batter into a liquid measuring cup or some other container with a spout (this is my preferred method, anyway)
  3. Let mixture sit, covered, at least 30 minutes
  4. Heat a small skillet over medium heat until quite hot
  5. Brush the skillet with melted butter
  6. Lift the skillet in one hand and tip it to an angle
  7. Pour a few tablespoons of batter onto the skillet, keep the skillet at the angle and use a circular motion to help distribute the crêpe batter evenly. If you have never done this before (or even if you have) it may take a few tries to get the motion down. In theory the crêpe should be very thin, but I never mind too much if some are a bit thick
  8. Allow the crêpe to cook until set (a couple of minutes). You'll know that it's ready to flip when the sides pull away from the pan and the top of it no longer looks wet. You can use a spatula to flip up an edge; the bottom should be lightly brown
  9. Turn the crêpe over. I like to loosen it with my spatula and then flip it by jerking the pan, but you can also just loosen and then use a spatula/your fingers to turn it over
  10. Let cook for a minute or two on the other side. It will not get as uniformly golden as the first side. Instead, it will likely have some darker brown dots on it. No need to overcook
  11. Remove crêpe from pan and set on a plate to warm while you cook the rest
  12. Serve with the topping of your choice. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for a day or so, or freeze nicely

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