18 October 2009

crepe tutorial

These instructions are meant to help those who have never made any crêpes before. If you already make them on a regular basis - skip this whole entry, you'll probably know better than I do anyway. This is purely they way I have learned how to make them and have tried to make the process more efficient and failsafe over the years.
(Actually, it's almost a quarter century of experience, now that I come to think of it. OMG.)

you need:
a common non-stick pan
a wooden or plastic spatula
a small bowl with about two tablespoons of neutral oil
some sheets of paper towel
an assortment of various soup-ladles
a plate for the crêpes
and of course, your batter (recipe here)

A few words on the pan:
A) non-stick surface has to be as unmarred as possible. Theoretically, crepes can be made in any kind of pot or pan with a flat bottom - but I'm really not bored enough to ever have tried.
B) Also, the lower the angle of the pan's rim, the easier it will be to flip the crêpes. Which, of course, would only be necessary if you'd want to show off. But sometimes, that's part of the point, isn't it?
C) The pan can be any size you like - but medium sized pans and their subsequent crêpes are best to handle and work for any filling or topping you have in mind.

the 'mise en place'
Ignore if you are working with one pan only. But if you're in a hurry and / or are using two or even more pans at the same time, thinking about the setup will save you some precious time and a lot of a mess.
These instructions are for right-handers, lefties please flip accordingly.

Batter goes far right of the stove.
Bowl with oil and small plate for paper towel and spatula front right.
Plate for crêpes front left.

This ensures that none of your hands will (normally) have to cross the stove. It also minimizes the ways both the batter and the oil have to travel to the pans.
This might seem silly considering what little distances your hands have to cross, but when keeping in mind that making a large batch of crepes can easily turn out several hundred of them, each milimeter makes a difference.

actually making crêpes

Preheat the pan(s) to medium heat.

Grease by wiping the pan with a paper towel dipped in oil, it really only needs a greasy sheen.
Yes, you wipe the hot pans with a paper towel. This is how you get asbestos fingertips. Or learn how to fold paper towel really thick...

The pan is hot enough when a drop of the batter dries in about ten to fifteen seconds.
You should be able to loosen the drop by merely nudging it with the spatula. If the drop sticks, wipe away with the oiled paper towel and leave the pan on the stove for a few moments longer before trying again. The oil should never start smoking, though.

Stir up the batter with a soup ladle before making the first crêpe.
Especially when making galettes, the batter might have separated a little, depending on the coarseness of your flour.
Also, pick the ladle according to the size of your pan - ideally one full ladle should yield exactly enough batter to cover the pan once. If in doubt, rather err on too small a ladle than one too large - it's easy to fill gaps, but impossible to make a thick, stiff crêpe thinner.

Pour one ladle of batter all at once into the pan, right below the handle.

Then, in a continuous motion, tilt the pan to the left, then down, then to the right, and then up. The batter will spread out and flow downwards, so by continuously changing where 'down' is you can effectively cover the whole pan with a whisper-thin sheet of batter before it has time to set.
Imagine you were rolling a ball along the bottom corner of your pan in a slow, controlled circular motion. If you are not sure of what I am talking, this actually is a great way of training it. Take the pan of your choice and a small ball (A tennis or a golf- or baseball, but an orange, a marble or even a glug of water would work just as well.) Try to roll the ball around in your pan by tilting the pan, in a slow, steady motion. You should be able to stop the ball at any place of the pan without the little thing rolling back and forth. If you can do that, you're only inches away from complete mastery of the batter in your pan.

My wife and I have tried to capture me 'rolling around the batter' in the pan, so you might get a better idea of what I am talking about here. I admit the images looks all very unprofessional, but I still think it helps a lot more to see than to read.

To the left and down...

Down and to the right...

And up...

Left and down again...


Put the pan back onto the flame and mend eventual gaps with a few drops of batter.
Most of the times, that one darn drop hanging underneath the ladle will be just what you need to fix those tiny gaps that just seem to be unavoidable every now and then.

Once the surface of the crêpe has lost its wet sheen and the borders of the crêpe start browning, see if you can loosen the crêpe with the spatula.
In a really well-seasoned pan, you actually can just shake it loose.

Once the crêpe is nicely browned (as brown as you like it) turn around or flip in the pan.

When the other side is as brown as you like it, flip again and slip onto the plate to your left.

Wipe the pan with the oiled paper towel and start the whole process over, step by step creating a neat little pile of crêpes.
You can see that where the batter was poured up the rim of the pan, it turned very thin and crisp, almost tuile-like. This is one thing I really love about pan-made crêpes, something you would never get if they were made any other way. Those fringes always remind me of starched lace ruffles, don't they?

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