They look like little blankets, don’t they? We Bostonians have many tricks up our flannel sleeves for keeping warm on cold winter mornings: mulled ciders, glowing fireplaces, down comforters, and wool socks, like the ones on my feet there, by the stove. But I’ll gladly leave all of these things aside for a couple of crêpe blankets to pull over my knees, and up beneath my chin. Drifting off to sleep between covers so airy and warm sounds just about perfect to me. If you wake up hungry, you can nibble on the crisp, golden edges with the slightest turn of the head.
I’ve tried a couple of different crêpe recipes in the past, with moderate success. The first was a bit too eggy, and both recipes baffled me with little lumps of flour that, no matter how much I whisked, refused to mix with the rest of the batter. This new-to-me recipe, originally published in Gourmet magazine in 1958, was much better on both counts. It calls for only two eggs, and makes use of that stellar piece of lump-busting equipment, The Blender. The blender! In a minute flat, your batter is lump-free, and ready to pour. It’s a beautiful thing.
While I whirred and poured and flipped, Eli set the table. Civilized creature that he is, he placed a knife and a fork beside each plate. But once the crêpes were served, he abandoned said utensils and demonstrated a much better way to feast.
I promptly followed suit; had my fingers not been smeared with butter and jam, I would have the pictures to prove it.
Piled loosely on a warmed dinner plate, Plan B never looked so pretty. Maybe because these crêpes are really more Plan A material.
Vanilla Crêpes with Jam
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2006; originally published in 1958
You can find all kinds of special crêpe-making paraphernalia out there: crêpe pans, batter spreaders, turning spoons, mini-ladles. But I find that a 10-inch non-stick pan, a spatula, a ¼ c. measuring cup, and an agile wrist yield excellent results. It takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, crêpe-making is quite simple, and much faster than making thicker pancakes that need more time to cook through.
I added a teaspoon of vanilla to the original recipe, and used less butter for greasing the pan. A single greasing with ½ teaspoon of butter lasted the entire batch. Any more butter would have left the crêpes too greasy for my taste. The original recipe calls for spreading the crêpes with 10-12 oz. of jam mixed with 1 T. brandy, rolling them up jelly-roll style, and dusting them with sugar. I prefer a less formal, do-it-yourself-at-the table approach, but if you’re looking for a more polished presentation, filling, rolling, and dusting the crêpes sounds lovely.
On New Year’s Day, I served them with strawberry jam (we didn’t have any apricot jam, which is my favorite), toasted walnuts, and sliced green apples. Here are some other ideas for how you might serve them. If you have favorite fillings, I’d love to hear.
With Nutella and sliced bananas
With Greek yogurt, honey, toasted walnuts, and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
With fresh berries and powdered sugar
With sautéed apples and warm caramel sauce
With vanilla sugar and lemon juice
Savory (I’d leave out the vanilla, and cut back to 1 T. sugar for these.)
With sautéed wild mushrooms and fresh thyme
With sliced pears, feta, toasted walnuts, and arugula
With steamed spinach, feta, and toasted pine nuts
With smoked salmon, crème fraîche, red onions, and capers
Now, the recipe:
1 c. plus 2 T. whole milk
2 large eggs
1 c. flour
2 T. sugar
¼ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly + 1/2 t. butter for greasing the pan
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and place an oven-safe dinner plate or platter inside to warm.
Combine all ingredients (except for the ½ t. butter for greasing the pan) in a blender, and blend until smooth, about one minute. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice. The original recipe suggests letting the batter stand at room temperature for one hour, to “prevent tough crêpes.” (Don’t quote me, but I think it has something to do with letting the gluten relax.) We were impatient and hungry, so I skipped this step. The crêpes were maybe a little stiff when they first slipped out of the pan, but in their heap on the warmed plate, they relaxed and softened. They were as tender as can be. Still, if I can stand the wait, I may try letting the batter rest for one-hour next time around.
Add ½ t. butter to the non-stick pan, and heat over a medium-high flame, until the pan is hot and the butter is melted. I used a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly over the pan, but a spatula will work in a pinch. Pour ¼ c. batter into the pan, and tilt to coat the bottom. Cook until the underside of the crêpe is pale golden, about 1 ½ minutes. Then, jerk the skillet to loosen the crêpe, and flip it over with a spatula. (I find that a combination of fingertips on the edges, and a spatula underneath works best for flipping.) Cook for about 30 seconds, until the underside of the crêpe is covered in pale brown, lacy swirls. Flip the finished crêpe onto the warmed plate. Repeat, until you have used up all of your batter.
You’ll need to work quickly, as the crêpes are thin, and begin cooking as soon as the batter hits the pan. Don’t be discouraged if the first crêpe or two tear, come out too greasy (from the freshly buttered pan), or cook unevenly. I always think of my first couple of crêpes as sacrifices to the breakfast gods. I use these early sacrifices to play around with the heat and cooking time so that I can find the ideal crêpe-making conditions for the rest of the batch. As you can see, some of my crêpes came out looking a little mottled, due to a too-hot pan, I think. Still, they were delicious, speckles and all.
Yield: 8-10 crêpes.