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April 25, 2007

A Stylish Crêpe Recipe

Last week, one of my co-workers asked me if I knew of any good crêpe recipes. Although I can't  remember where I got the one I used most recently, I found the version below in The French Menu Cookbook (the 2002 ed. of a book from 1970) by the late Richard Olney. The American ex-pat author and painter, who moved to Paris in 1951, hung with some famous folks: James Baldwin, Ned Rorem and John Ashberry, to name a few. His recipe writing definitely has style...

Crêpes from Richard Olney's French Menu Cookbook

2 heaping T. flour
1 heaping T. sugar (for dessert crepes only)
small pinch salt
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1 T. cognac
3 T. melted butter

Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, make a well in the center and break in the eggs. Stir, keeping to the center, until all of the flour is gradually absorbed into the eggs, then slowly add approximately 2/3 c. of milk, stirring all the while. Stir in the cognac and melted butter and thin the batter with milk until it is no thicker  than fresh cream. I do not find it essential to let the batter stand before cooking, but this may of course be done.

A small ladle of the capacity of 3 T. is practical for pouring. For large crêpes, count about 3 T. of batter, for small, about 2 T. If the batter refuses to cover the bottom of the pan, it is too thick and more milk should be added.

Heat the pan, lightly buttered (it need be buttered only once, assuming the batter to be sufficiently lubricated), over a low to medium flame (after the first 2 or 3 crêpes, adjust the heat if necessary). If the pan does not sizzle at contact with the batter, it is not hot enough. Lift the pan from the flame and, holding it with one hand, pour in the batter with the other. At the same time, give the pan a rolling motion, turning it rapidly in all directions, so that the batter spreads immediately over the entire surface. Return it to the flame, and after 30 seconds or so, delicately lift an edge of the pancake with the rounded tip of a table knife to check its progress (after one or two times, you will have the feeling and everything will go automatically). Ease the knife all the way under and flip the crêpe over. Toss it if you prefer -- it is a pretty piece of theater, but requires a certain amount of practice and the result is the same. After about 15 seconds, remove the pan from the flame, lift the crêpe out with the knife, and begin the operation all over again. It is essential to remove the pan from the flame for several seconds each time, for, with the flame at the correct temperature for cooking crêpes, the pan heats progressively and rapidly becomes too hot. The batter should be stirred each time just before being poured, as the flour has a tendency to settle to the bottom and the butter to rise to the top. If, partway through, the batter is noticeably thicker, more liquid may be added.

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