Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Crepes- YUMazing!

So two years ago I got a new roommate and she and I shared a profound love of Chocolate. Yes, that sweet, mouth-coating,Aztecian delight "liked" by so many was oh so much more to us. We found ourselves making obscene "Mmmm"s and "Ohhh"s while indulging in our chocolate exploits in the kitchen and around the house. Then, one auspicious Saturday, as she arrived home in the midst of one of my cooking experiments, I turned to her and asked if she'd help me eat crepes. Her answer was an enthusiastic and resounding "OMG yes!" I had had some dangerous and obsessive ideas about crepe toppings throughout the day that I had decided needed to be worked out ASAP and had stopped at Whole Foods for supplies on my way home. Having had a disappointing experience recently with a nutella crepe my thoughts were mainly focused on how I could better mix Chocolate into/onto a crepe... but the fortuitous results exceeded anything I had anticipated!

That night our food eating obscenities reached a new level (most followed directly by insane giggling fits at how ridiculously happy and hilarious we sounded.) That was the night that we "discovered" sweetened sour cream.

Now before you go running in horror please consider the logic of my choice. I love cheesecake. I especially love a good New York Cheesecake. Most NY cheesecake uses a sweetened sour cream to achieve its distinct flavor (some mixing it in the base recipe some using it just on top). I've used sweetened cream cheese and cream cheese icing in crepes in the past but found it rather thick and the flavor a little more "cheesy" than "creamy".

Sweetened Sour cream (SSC) revolutionized our crepe experience. I have repeated two person "Crepe Parties" several times but the SSC is always the favorite and the base of most all of the flavor experiments.

The research has been extensive and deliciously laborious but I hope others can share in our delights and discoveries.

So without further ado...

Crepes-- I prefer mine thin and still moist and flexible. I know some make them thinner than mine, some thicker, some crisper and some more pancake-like. I like mine around the same thickness and pliability as a tortilla. Usually the edges are slightly thinner and will crisp up a bit but this allows them to roll away from the edge of the pan and makes them easier to flip. I feel that if they are too thin they will be easily overwhelmed by the flavor of the toppings; too thick they will be overwhelming, doughy, and take too long to cook; and too crispy they will not roll well and will be messy to eat and just not be as luxurious in the mouth. I believe strongly that whenever possible you should eat them with your hands and that they will taste better that way. Only the most messy of ingredients force me to submit to the plate and fork.

My basic crepe recipe for a small batch (~ 5-6 large crepes) is made as follows:

1 egg
1/2 - 3/4 c. flour
Milk to right consistency (I use unsweetened Soy milk)
1/8 t. salt
1 t. sugar (optional)

Butter for cooking

Beat egg in bowl with salt. Add flour and blend with fork until dough forms. Continue mixing until texture is fairly even and no flour remains. Slowly add milk stirring to even texture until batter is slightly thinner than Elmers glue. (see notes). If using an electric mixer or blender allow to set for at least an hour to remove bubbles.

Heat your pan with a small amount of butter on Medium High heat until well coated. Lower heat to medium. Your pan should be heated until a drop of batter will just barely sizzle. Too much sizzle will create bubbles and your crepe will heat unevenly, too little and your crepe is likely to stick.

Pour a small amount of batter into the pan and tilt and rotate it until you have thin, even coverage. Cook until crepe is fully set (not liquid) and edges begin to pull from the sides of the pan or crisp up. If needed use a knife to loosen any parts stuck to the pan. If the bottom is stuck apply butter to the top of your crepe before flipping. Using a spatula lift the crepe from the pan. If it is stuck on the bottom remove any residue before putting the crepe back in (side plates are always useful in crepe-making.)

Once flipped, slide the crepe around a bit to distribute butter on the pan and keep crepe from sticking. Now add whatever toppings you would like heated or spread to the top of your crepe. This is when to add melting ingredients like chocolate or cheese or hot ingredients like sauteed banana or deli meats. Add lid to speed melting if necessary. Ingredients like fresh strawberry, banana, blueberries should be added after removal from heat.

Once ingredients are sufficiently cooked slide the crepe onto a plate, add any additional ingredients. Fold or roll your crepe around the toppings.

Pick your crepe up with your hands and feel the soft deliciousness for a moment before you ravenously devour it (with or without obscene noises). Look at your friends and apologize for forgetting they were there.

You should not need to add much butter to the pan for subsequent crepes, but add a little if they start to stick and a dash every third or forth crepe. By your third crepe you should have a pretty good idea about the amount of heat, batter, and time you need for each crepe.

Tested and approved toppings and combinations

SWEET Crepe toppings:
SSC- 2 parts sour cream, 1 part sugar (SSC- Sweetened Sour Cream)
SSC & dark chocolate (small pieces melted with the SSC over heat)
SSC w/ fresh strawberries (better than ANY Strawberry shortcake)
SSC & unsweetened carob chips (melted together) w/ fresh banana
SSC w/ cinnamon & sugar
SSC w/ berry mix (frozen mix thawed. drainded and heated slightly)
Butter w/ cinnamon & sugar
Butter with caramalized banana, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom (optional)
Cream Cheese with Caramel (heated)
Thinned Nutella/butter (I find straight nutella too overpowering for a thin crepe)
Thinned Nutella/butter & Banana

SAVORY (useful at the point where sweet feels like it might kill you):
Garlic Cheese (melted)
Swiss cheese and Ham (I'm a vegetarian and still thought this tasted good)
Goat Cheese (chevre) with a tiny amount of marinara (just enough to wet the top)
Brie (melted)
Brie & Pear slices

BOLD/CRAZY options (some tested but inconclusive results)

SSC, Grapefruit, poppy seeds
Brie & Green Grape halves
SSC & sauteed peaches (unfortunately I'm allergic to peaches so I can't try this one)
Brie & Avocado
Cracked Mustard, Avocado & spouts
Thinned Almond Butter (heated w/butter)& Chevre
Marshmallow Fluff & chocolate (melted)

Notes: It is better your batter is too thin than too thick. Your first Crepe is almost always the worst as you adjust pan heat and thickness of your batter. The flour will continue to absorb liquid so if too thin after your first try allow it sit for 20 minutes and it will thicken up a bit. If you refrigerate overnight you will see liquid has separated out and will need to be stirred back in and possibly more added.

On pans: I know there are special "crepe" pans in existence and that there are even dedicated crepe makers. I have limited experience with those but have cooked in a number of different skillets and pans. My favorite pan is a stainless steel Wolfgang Puck Omelet pan-- it distributes heat very evenly and after the first crepe spreads the butter evenly I never have problems with anything sticking (and if they do I don't have to worry about scratching Teflon to get it off) The curved edges make it easy for flipping and the size is just right for the size of crepe I like to eat. If you're having problems with uneven cooking/burning or can't seem to be able to get the right temperature no matter how you adjust you might try upgrading your cookware. I've tried cooking at other people's houses on other people's pans and have found it much more difficult than with my pan.

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