Ooh la la! Crepes are delicious and French and can be very fun for the Purim seuda. They are also super-easy, healthy, can be made gluten free, and can filled with just about any filling you would be willing to eat. They can be savory or sweet and used as an appetizer, entree, or dessert. They can also be gussied up “Fancy Nancy” or a pedestrian street food.
Recently, I went to the TA tea and demonstrated how to make crepes suzette – or their much more exciting title, crepes on fire. Where did crepes suzette come from? Crepes had already existed in France before 1896. The addition of the flambe and alcohol was the crucial new step that distinguished crepes suzette from plain crepes with filling.
Who made the discovery? It’s a mystery! Henri Charpentier (a young teenager at the time) claimed he created the dish by accident – accidentally setting fire to the alcohol in the dish in front of the then-Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) and that the king requested the dish to be named for his friend. Auguste Escoffier (of melba toast and culinary school fame) also claimed to have invented the dessert. Whoever created it (and I wish I knew definitively), the end result of orange butter, sugar, and crepes is truly delicious. The fire caramelizes the sugar and blends the flavors so amazingly that it elevates them to the next level.
What’s the recipe, you say? Well, if you have an immersion blender (or a whisk, if not), flour (cornstarch or potato starch, for gluten free), water, eggs, and approximately 5 minutes, you can have crepes. (Other ingredients are optional – see below.)
Crepes freeze phenomenally well. If you have extra, place them in several small stacks, each stack into a separate ziplock bag (so you don’t have to defrost the whole stack to eat), squeeze the extra air out, and freeze. They lose their tastiness in the fridge after about 2 days.
Basic Crepes Recipe
3 large eggs
1 c. water (or see below)
1 c. flour (or cornstarch or potato starch)
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 tsp. – 1 T. sugar (optional)
Blend the first 3 ingredients together with an immersion blender or whisk. Add salt and sugar (if using) and blend. The amount of sugar depends on whether you are making sweet or savory crepes. The salt and sugar enhance the flavor of the crepe, so I typically add them. (Most recipes call for “resting” the batter at this point to prevent bubbles. If you have an extra hour, go ahead and rest your batter. Otherwise, I just start making the crepes right away.)
Heat a saute pan to very hot and then lower the heat to medium. If the pan is nonstick, you don’t even need to add cooking spray, but to hedge your bets, you can lightly spray the pan. The size of the saute pan will determine the size of your crepes. The smaller the pan, the smaller the crepes.
Pour approximately 1/4 cup of batter (or as much or as little as you need) to only cover the bottom of the pan in a thin coat. Cook until the edges of the crepe pull away from the sides. The crepe should look dry. Sometimes the first crepe does not come out properly – use it as a sample to share while you’re making the rest.
Briefly flip the crepe so that the second side touches the heat but does not brown. Remove the crepe from the saute pan (you can use your fingers if you dare, or a spatula) and start your stack!
Repeat with remaining batter. This amount of batter makes 6-8 crepes. This recipe doubles and triples nicely.
After you have made all your crepes, add your chosen filling. Roll up like a burrito or fold in half and then half again so it looks like an open fan and then pop back into the saute pan on medium heat to warm or melt your filling, if desired.
Additional ingredients (to be added prior to blending the crepe batter):
1 tsp. dried herbs (or 1 T. fresh)
1 T. thawed frozen spinach (This will turn your crepe greenish.)
coconut milk or fruit juice, instead of the water (If it’s a colored fruit juice, your crepes will turn color as well, which might make for an exciting presentation.)
your favorite jam
banana slices and chocolate chips
chicken with a wine mushroom sauce (Crepes are a great way to use up leftovers. Extra meat or chicken? Add a wine sauce and you’re in for a tasty meal.)
green onions, chives, or strips of orange peel (blanched) to tie the crepe, if you would like to make a crepe purse (pictured)
chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, or any other sweet sauce, drizzled on top
sprigs of mint or parsley
Crepes Suzette (Recipe from Julia Child)
zest of 1 large orange (see tip)
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into chunks
1/3 c. freshly squeezed orange juice or orange juice concentrate
8 sweet crepes
sugar, for sprinkling
1/4 c. cognac
1/4 c. triple sec (or Grand Marnier)
Prepare orange butter: Beat together orange zest and sugar. Add butter and blend thoroughly, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the orange juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the liquid is incorporated. For more flavor, use the orange juice concentrate.
Set a 12- to 14-inch skillet over medium heat and add orange butter. Heat 4–5 minutes – longer if necessary – until the butter melts, boils, and bubbles and begins to thicken into syrup.
Have your utensils on hand (a long-handled fork and spoon, a ladle or measuring cup for pouring on the liqueur, long matches, and dessert plates). Lower the heat so the sauce is bubbling slowly and lay the first crepe into the pan, “best” side up, to moisten for an instant. Turn it over quickly with a fork and spoon; fold it in half and again in fourths. Move the wedge-shaped crepe to the side of the pan and lay in the next.
Working quickly and steadily, bathe and fold the remaining crepes and arrange them around the edge of the pan, overlapping as necessary, to leave an open space for moistening the last crepe in the sauce. Sprinkle a little sugar over all of the crepes.
You are about to pour the alcohol into the pan. NEVER pour alcohol directly from the bottle into a hot pan where there are flames. Fire can jump – and if it jumps into a bottle (chas v’shalom), an explosion can occur. (Just as a side note – I’ve never had the fire jump on me, and I’ve done this over 100 times.) Instead, use a separate container, such as a ladle or a measuring cup.
Pour cognac into the separate container and pour from ladle over crepes; quickly repeat with the triple sec. Spoon it dramatically once or twice over crepes, then tilt the pan quickly but ever so gently into the flames to ignite all the contents, making sure to keep your face averted and your hair out of the way. (You’ll get to see the fire jump here, if you’re willing to tilt the pan. If you’re not willing to tilt the pan, use a long match and light the alcohol that way.) With high flourish, spoon the flaming sauce over the crepes until the flames have subsided to a flicker. Serve 2 crepes and the still-flickering sauce onto each plate.
Tip: The orange zest is optional but really imparts a lot of flavor into the butter. If you don’t have a zester or small grater, you can use a peeler and then blend or food process the sugar and zest together until the zest is very small.
May Simcha ben Yitzchak Ber’s neshama have an aliya with all the fun brachos we get to make on this delicious food.
Bracha Shor is owner of Sweet and Good Catering and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org – where she will very enthusiastically respond to any query.