How to Make Perfect Crepes

Dana Cree wrote . . . . .

Most fundamental pastry techniques rely on indulgent amounts of butter and sugar. But with many of us are trying to catch our breath after a marathon of holiday eating, it seemed fitting to share the daintiest classic pastry I could find: the crepe.

A crepe is a handkerchief of a dessert made with a thin batter cooked directly on the surface of a pan. If you’re on the streets of Paris, your crepe will be made before your eyes, the batter spread circularly across the surface of a hot iron disk with what looks like a desktop-sand-garden rake that’s lost its teeth. As the batter is spread, the pan’s warm surface gently coagulates the batter.

At home, we make crepes in a non-stick skillet warmed gently over a stovetop. Instead of spreading the batter manually, we roll the pan circularly with our wrist, using gravity to move the batter around the surface. The motion takes some getting used to; even the most seasoned crepe makers know the first few to come out are tossed to the hounds as they rebuild muscle memory and tinker with the heat of the pan.

Because the heat from the pan coagulates the batter on contact, it is crucial to control the temperature of your pan. If it’s too hot, the batter will grab too quickly, and won’t have time to coat the pan before it’s set in place. Another bummer: the batter will bubble and boil on contact, filling your crepe with tiny holes and leaving the surface with a prune-finger appearance. If the pan isn’t warm enough, the batter will swirl and swirl before it sets, leaving your wrist aching and the crepe batter pooling anywhere gravity has time to move it. Ideally, the heat of the pan will be just warm enough that batter makes only one tour of the pan, setting as it passes, until the last of the batter just reaches the start of the crepe.

It takes some practice to get the hang of it, so don’t give up if your first attempts look like Pinterest fails. Most recipes will leave you with enough batter that you can make more than a few mistakes.

The batter itself is made from a lot of milk, a little flour, a couple eggs, and a touch of butter. If you’re making sweet crepes, you can add a touch of sweetness to the batter with sugar, or something more flavorful like honey or maple syrup. Crepes are also a wonderful place to experiment with flavorful flours. Simply swap out 10 to 20 percent of the all-purpose flour for buckwheat flour, teff flour, or any other that’s piqued your interest.

When flour is added to liquid, it must be added with intention. Because the flour will absorb water on contact, it has a tendency to form “fish-eyes”: small beads of dry flour encased in gluey wet flour. You might have seen this in a lumpy gravy, or when trying to mix cocoa powder into milk for a cup of hot cocoa. They are hard to break up once they form, and the risk increases as the ratio of liquid to flour rises.

The ratio of liquid to flour in crepes makes fish-eyes inevitable, and to combat this I mix the batter in a blender. The high speed of the sharp blades will make quick work of breaking up any fish-eyes that form. A whisk will do, if that’s what you have, but you’ll greatly benefit by passing the batter through a fine-mesh sieve, catching any lumps of flour left un-whisked.

Now, the most crucial part of making crepe batter is walking away. Letting the flour rest for up to forty-eight hours allows the flour to fully hydrate, so the starches completely swell and are ready to gelatinize into tenderness, instead of gumminess.

You can get away with an hour or two, and indeed many recipes call for that. However, in my experience, short-changing the resting period leaves me with crepes that are rubbery.

Once you have a stack of crepes at your side, you can fill them with just about anything you like. If you’re a Nutella fan, crepes are a wonderful vessel for a thin schmear of the stuff. (And if you add bananas and you can justify eating if for breakfast.) Classic fruit-and-whipped-cream stuffing can be upgraded by including diplomat cream instead, but the lightened pastry cream truly shines when layered to make the elegant and understated crepe cake. If you’re looking for a spectacle, you can attempt crepes suzette, the dessert that illuminates French dining rooms. An orange-y, boozy sauce is prepared in a shallow pan, and after the crepes are dipped in and folded into quarters, the entire pan is set on fire. The flambé swallows the last of the alcohol, and leaves behind a toasty flavor unattainable by any other means.

You can omit the sugar in the recipe and fill your crepes with savory fillings as well. Julia Child calls crepes “an attractive way to turn leftovers or simple ingredients into a nourishing main-course dish,” and indeed dedicates five pages in Mastering the Art of French Cooking to the savory side of this dessert. Crepes can be rolled around cooked fish or meat; lined up in a casserole; gently spread with béchamel or mornay sauce; then broiled until gratinéed. Or simply wrap the pancakes around soft scrambled eggs and chopped herbs for a light brunch.

With all the possibilities, don’t forget: nothing is quite as delicious as a warm crepe lightly spread with butter and consumed without circumstance.


Sweet Crepes Recipe

4 eggs
400 g milk
200 g all-purpose flour
75 g sugar
5 g salt
50 g melted butter

  1. Place the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the cup of a blender, making sure to add the flour after the liquid, to reduce the risk of it clinging to the sides of the cup. Turn the blender on high and blend the crepe batter for 1 minute. If you do see flour sticking to the sides of your blender, free it with a rubber spatula and blend until it disappears.
  2. If you’re using a whisk to mix your crepe batter, mix the flour with the eggs first, then add the milk bit by bit. You want to make a paste before you add the bulk of the liquid, reducing the risk of fish-eye clumps of flour. Once you see a “paste” form, add the remaining ingredients.
  3. If you have a fine-mesh strainer, pass the batter through it as added insurance, removing any tiny lumps that might be lurking. Place the batter in an airtight container and let it rest in the fridge for at least half a day. If you are pressed for time, a one-hour rest is mandatory, but the texture of your crepes will be greatly improved by more resting time.
  4. Prepare a crepe-making station at your stove. You’ll need a non-stick skillet, the newer the better. I recommend an 8-inch pan, which uses 2 ounces of batter to make a crepe. If yours is larger or smaller, adjust the amount of batter you add accordingly. On the counter, place a plate to capture the finished crepes, a pastry brush to apply melted butter to the pan, a small rubber spatula for loosening the crepe from the pan once cooked, and a ¼- cup measuring cup to portion the batter.
  5. Heat your crepe pan over low heat for a few minutes. You want to slowly bring the pan to temperature. It’s easier to increase the heat of the pan than it is to cool it down. Lightly brush the warmed pan with melted butter, then add your crepe batter in the center. Lift the pan with your dominant hand, then tip the far edge of the pan down slightly, watching the batter slide towards the edge. When the batter reaches the edge, begin swirling the pan by rotating only your wrist, clockwise or counterclockwise. The motion will move the batter around the pan, coating the bottom evenly with crepe batter.
  6. When the batter forms a thin skin over the bottom of the pan, place it back over the heat. Cook the crepe until it loses all shine and you can see that the batter is set all the way through, about 60­–90 seconds. Peek underneath the crepe to see that it has taken on a fawn-like brown color. At this point, you need to flip the crepe. Loosen the edges of the crepe from the pan with a rubber spatula, then pick the crepe up by pinching it between your thumb and forefinger. I need to use both hands to do this, and my fingers always cry out in protest early in the process, dropping crepes unintentionally until they adjust to the sharp heat from the cooking crepe.
  7. When you get a solid grip on the crepe, lift it and quickly flip it, cooking the second side of the crepe for 30 seconds, just enough to color it lightly and set the remaining batter. Slide the crepe out of the pan onto the prepared plate. If you’re stacking your crepes for use more than 1 hour later, lightly brush the crepes with butter to ensure they don’t stick.
  8. Make adjustments to the heat of your pan as necessary, before repeating this process with the remaining batter, or until you’ve made as many crepes as your patience will allow. Throw the dishes in the sink, butter yourself a warm crepe, and think of all the lovely things you can fill the fruits of your labor with.

Makes about 30–35 6-inch crepes


Savoury Crepes Recipe

4 eggs
450 g milk
200 g all-purpose flour
5 g salt
100 g melted butter

  1. Place the eggs, milk, flour, salt, and butter in the cup of a blender, making sure to add the flour after the liquid, to reduce the risk of it clinging to the sides of the cup. Turn the blender on high and blend the crepe batter for 1 minute. If you do see flour sticking to the sides of your blender, free it with a rubber spatula and blend until it disappears.
  2. If you’re using a whisk to mix your crepe batter, mix the flour with the eggs first, then add the milk bit by bit. You want to make a paste before you add the bulk of the liquid, reducing the risk of fish-eye clumps of flour. Once you see a “paste” form, add the remaining ingredients.
  3. If you have a fine-mesh strainer, pass the batter through it as added insurance, removing any tiny lumps that might be lurking. Place the batter in an airtight container and let it rest in the fridge for at least half a day. If you are pressed for time, a one-hour rest is mandatory, but the texture of your crepes will be greatly improved by more resting time.
  4. Prepare a crepe-making station at your stove. You’ll need a non-stick skillet, the newer the better. I recommend an 8-inch pan, which uses 2 ounces of batter to make a crepe. If yours is larger or smaller, adjust the amount of batter you add accordingly. On the counter, place a plate to capture the finished crepes, a pastry brush to apply melted butter to the pan, a small rubber spatula for loosening the crepe from the pan once cooked, and a ¼- cup measuring cup to portion the batter.
  5. Heat your crepe pan over low heat for a few minutes. You want to slowly bring the pan to temperature. It’s easier to increase the heat of the pan than it is to cool it down. Lightly brush the warmed pan with melted butter, then add your crepe batter in the center. Lift the pan with your dominant hand, then tip the far edge of the pan down slightly, watching the batter slide towards the edge. When the batter reaches the edge, begin swirling the pan by rotating only your wrist, clockwise or counterclockwise. The motion will move the batter around the pan, coating the bottom evenly with crepe batter.
  6. When the batter forms a thin skin over the bottom of the pan, place it back over the heat. Cook the crepe until it loses all shine and you can see that the batter is set all the way through, about 60­–90 seconds. Peek underneath the crepe to see that it has taken on a fawn-like brown color. At this point, you need to flip the crepe. Loosen the edges of the crepe from the pan with a rubber spatula, then pick the crepe up by pinching it between your thumb and forefinger. I need to use both hands to do this, and my fingers always cry out in protest early in the process, dropping crepes unintentionally until they adjust to the sharp heat from the cooking crepe.
  7. When you get a solid grip on the crepe, lift it and quickly flip it, cooking the second side of the crepe for 30 seconds, just enough to color it lightly and set the remaining batter. Slide the crepe out of the pan onto the prepared plate. If you’re stacking your crepes for use more than 1 hour later, lightly brush the crepes with butter to ensure they don’t stick.
  8. Make adjustments to the heat of your pan as necessary, before repeating this process with the remaining batter, or until you’ve made as many crepes as your patience will allow. Throw the dishes in the sink, butter yourself a warm crepe, and think of all the lovely things you can fill the fruits of your labor with.

Makes about 30–35 6-inch crepes

Source: Lucky Peach

Advertisements

Mentally Challenging Activities Key to A Healthy Aging Mind

One of the greatest challenges associated with the growing numbers of aged adults is how to maintain a healthy aging mind. Taking up a new mental challenge such as digital photography or quilting may help maintain cognitive vitality, say researchers reporting in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

Recent evidence suggests that engaging in enjoyable and enriching lifestyle activities may be associated with maintaining cognitive vitality. However, the underlying mechanism accounting for cognitive enhancement effects have been poorly understood.

Investigators at the University of Texas at Dallas proposed that only tasks that involved sustained mental effort and challenge would facilitate cognitive function. Senior author Denise Park and lead author Ian McDonough compared changes in brain activity in 39 older adults that resulted from the performance of high-challenge activities that required new learning and sustained mental effort compared to low-challenge activities that did not require active learning. All of the participants underwent a battery of cognitive tests and brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), an MRI technology that measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.

Participants were randomly assigned to the high-challenge, low-challenge, or placebo groups. The high-challenge group spent at least 15 hours per week for 14 weeks learning progressively more difficult skills in digital photography, quilting, or a combination of both. The low-challenge group met for 15 hours per week to socialize and engage in activities related to subjects such as travel and cooking with no active learning component. The placebo group engaged in low-demand cognitive tasks such as listening to music, playing simple games, or watching classic movies. All participants were tested before and after the 14-week period and a subset was retested a year later.

The high-challenge group demonstrated better memory performance after the intervention, and an increased ability to modulate brain activity more efficiently to challenging judgments of word meaning in the medial frontal, lateral temporal, and parietal cortex regions of the brain. These are brain areas associated with attention and semantic processing. Some of this enhanced brain activity was maintained a year later. This increased neural efficiency in judging words was demonstrated by participants showing lowered brain activity when word judgments were easy and increasing activity when they became hard. This is a pattern of response typical of young adults. Before participating in the high-challenge intervention, the older adults were processing every item, both easy and hard, with maximum brain activity. After participation, they were able to modulate their brain activity to the demands of the task, thus showing a more efficient use of neural resources. This change in modulation was not observed in the low-challenge group.

The findings show that mentally demanding activities may be neuroprotective and an important element for maintaining a healthy brain into late adulthood.

“The present findings provide some of the first experimental evidence that mentally-challenging leisure activities can actually change brain function and that it is possible that such interventions can restore levels of brain activity to a more youth-like state. However, we would like to conduct much larger studies to determine the universality of this effect and understand who will benefit the most from such an intervention,” explained senior author Denise C. Park, PhD, of the Center for Vital Longevity, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas.

Ian McDonough, who is now an assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Alabama and was first author on the study, said: “The study clearly illustrates that the enhanced neural efficiency was a direct consequence of participation in a demanding learning environment. The findings superficially confirm the familiar adage regarding cognitive aging of ‘Use it or lose it.'”

Denise Park added, “Although there is much more to be learned, we are cautiously optimistic that age-related cognitive declines can be slowed or even partially restored if individuals are exposed to sustained, mentally challenging experiences.”

Source: EurekAlert|

Corn Muffins

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
dash salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp dried crushed chilies (optional)
3 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup frozen corn kernels (defrosted and drained) or 1 cob corn, grilled
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, sugar, chili powder, salt, baking soda, and crushed chilies.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Add corn and chopped peppers. Stir into flour mixture, mixing just enough to moisten all dry ingredients.
  4. Spoon the batter into 36 paper-lined or nonstick mini muffin cups. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm.

Makes 36 mini muffins.

Source: Manitoba Egg Farmers

In Pictures: Home-cooked Chinese Breakfasts


Today’s Comic