Good crêpe pans are made of heavy iron. They differ from omelet pans only in that the sides are lower and more oblique; in their absence, small omelet pans will serve.
Like all flour-based batters or doughs, crêpe batter is usually left to relax, losing the elasticity that is developed to an extent relative to the length and violence of its beating; but the nature of crêpes—the simplicity and the rapidity of their preparation, their usefulness as an elegant means of disposing of leftovers or of tossing off a hastily improvised dessert—thrusts them often into the category of last-minute-decision preparations. Care should be taken to whisk the batter gently and no longer than necessary to perfectly combine the ingredients and they may, then, be prepared immediately.
The best crêpes are made with a proportionately high egg and low flour content. Cognac is a useful flavoring agent, and a certain amount of either melted butter or olive oil is necessary—otherwise it seems to me to make little difference what they are moistened with; good crêpes can be made moistened only with water, or only with beer, or heavy cream may be added to enrich the batter. The precise proportioning of ingredients is of little importance, but the consistency of the batter is of the greatest—its body should be approximately that of American fresh heavy cream (that is to say, very thin).
Sugar is usually added to dessert-crêpe batter; after years of dumbly respecting this rule, I realized that I preferred unsweetened crêpes; whatever their ultimate treatment, they will receive a large sufficience of sweetening. Recipes calling for an addition of chopped fruit, crumbled macaroons, or other cookie-like substance to the batter may sound attractive but, in practice, the added bulk necessitates the use of too much batter to make a crêpe and its finesse suffers greatly, thinness being part of its essential character.
For non-sweet preparations, finely chopped fines herbes are often added to the batter. Powdered saffron—as much as one can heap on a knife tip—may be dissolved in a bit of hot water and stirred into the batter. Saffron crêpes seem to me particularly useful as a wrapping for mixtures based on crustaceans or shellfish—shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, mussels, clams . . . Spread with softened butter, rolled up, and eaten hot from the pan, they are sublime; buttered, folded in four, arranged overlapping in a buttered gratin dish, spread with stiff cream (or a small amount of stiff béchamel generously creamed), the surface sprinkled generously with grated Parmesan and put in a 500° oven for 10 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the surface colored, saffron crêpes cannot help but elicit admiration.
Add the eggs to the flour and salt, whisk from the center of the bowl, working gradually out, until no lumps remain, then stir in (with the whisk) the other ingredients.
Use a small ladle to pour the batter into the pan; count (but do not measure)
Heat the pan—give it a high flame for the first few moments if you like—and then adjust the heat to medium-low. The batter should sizzle when it touches the pan. Lift the pan and, at the same time that the batter is poured in, give it a rolling motion, turning it in all directions so that the surface is coated as rapidly as possible. Add only enough to coat the pan—a bit more can always be added (or if you add too much, pour the excess immediately back into the bowl of batter). It is ready to turn when the surface becomes almost dry—tacky—and the edges curl. Turn it either by loosening it gently and picking it up with a round-tipped table knife or by picking it up by the loosened, curled edges with your fingertips. After the first 2 or 3 crêpes, the heat may have to be turned slightly up or down and, since the pan heats progressively, it should be removed from the heat for a very few seconds before each successive bit of batter is poured in. The batter should be stirred lightly each time it is used, as it tends to settle, becoming heavier at the bottom of the bowl. If not to be used immediately, stack the crêpes on a plate to keep them from drying out and, if to be kept for some time, wrap the stack in plastic and refrigerate.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.