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Making Traditional French Crêpes is a Family Affair

Born near Paris, Edwige Gamache brings true French tradition to this week's Seed to Feed.

Traditional French crêpes

Writing Seed to Feed has been a true pleasure for me in two ways. First, every week I am introduced to a connection between Pacificans and the foods they love. The traditions and stories we share are universal in nature and span wide cultural divides. Family and friendships are the core of these connections.

Second, and most exciting for me, is discovering the key technique or ingredient that makes a recipe special. This weeks recipe for traditional French crêpes meet both of those conditions. The brown butter used in this recipe is so distinguished an ingredient, I am including a second video for making it.

Originating in the Brittany region of France, crêpes are a part of the French culinary tradition.

Edwige Gamache and her family in Pacifica make these crêpes regularly with friends and the traditions being handed down generation to generation are precious. Born in Suresnes in the western suburbs of Paris, Edwige recalls some of the experiences which have brought personal significance to this iconic French preparation.

"French people make crêpes, sweet or savory, anytime during the year but particularly in the beginning of February, during Candlemas" said Gamache.

Recalling how her one-handed crepe flipping skills were developed, Gamache said, "When I was child and made crêpes with my mother or grandmother, [I would] hold a coin in one hand and trying to flip the crêpe in the pan with the other hand without dropping it on the ground at the risk of losing my coin." 

After moving to Pacifica in 1998 when she met her partner Joyce, Gamache started a family and has enjoyed the community and friendships they have cultivated over the years. Max and Matisse, their children, are students at Ocean Shore School.

In conveying the secrets to the recipe, Gamache emphasizes respect for the measurements in the recipe and taking the time to brown the butter--"A step not to be missed."

Crêpes have become immensely popular in the United States over the last decade and you can get a decent one at any number of Bay Area eateries, including our own .  Making your own crêpes is not difficult and can be a wonderful way for a family to work together to prepare a dinner or dessert treat.

Making traditional French crêpes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (whole wheat or gluten free will work as well)
  • 8 ounces butter, melted and browned
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, if making dessert crepes

Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center of it. Crack the eggs into the well and whisk in half of the milk. Gradually whisk in the flour, adding more milk slowly. Mix thoroughly with a whisk. When the batter is smooth, pour in the hot brown butter and mix thoroughly.  Add the vanilla if necessary. The batter may be used at once or saved in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Getting the heat just right takes practice, so be patient. Grease lightly a blue steel crêpe pan or non-stick skillet. Add one and a half or two ounces of batter and swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the batter is set and starts to brown, flip the crêpe and fill with warm filling and cheese for savory crêpes or your favorite sweet filling. I always use warm filling so cheese melts and the crêpes are warm when eaten. Folding the crêpes the long way or in quarters around the filling both work fine. Serve immediately.

Filling ideas

Almost anything tastes great in crêpes. Just experiment with cheeses and various savory fillings or fruit, Nutella, whipped cream and anything else you might want to try.

Check out the video in the gallery to the right for more on making this French dish. 

This recipe based on an original from Tante Maria's Cooking School.

Derek Burns May 09, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Hello Patch People, The video showing the batter making process and cooking the crepes will be up by the afternoon. Sorry for the delay!
Mary Brown May 09, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Derek, What a great video. If I didn't know better, I would say you might have a cooking show in the making! You should put this up on YouTube.
Ria Tingin Tajbl May 09, 2011 at 03:10 PM
As much as I love crepes (Millbrae Pancake House is a favorite!) I am intimidated by making my own, however I will bookmark this recipe and will try. I'll forward to my father in law who loves most things French and of course has a sweet tooth. He is the senior waffle and pancake maker, my husband being the junior waffle and pancake maker and thus making our son the King of waffle and pancake eating! Merci beau coup.
Ria Tingin Tajbl May 09, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Oh yes the video was very good, I think I can do this myself at home, (barefoot and comfortable, with my dog helping with the clean up! :O)
Erika Rigling May 09, 2011 at 03:36 PM
I'll never forget my first meeting with crepes...54 years ago. They were the main attraction at a sorority rush party! Unfortunately, I never got the recipe! I was hoping this one would be the right one...but what I remember was the buttery LEMON taste! No filling...just this wonderful orangy/lemon sauce! ...and the flaming...Fantastic! Crepes around here have too much filling! It obliterates the delicate flavor of the crepe itself! At one time I was able to get a restaurant in Montara ( sadly, now gone) to make it for me with just butter and fresh lemon...but it wasn't quite the same as I still remember from long ago.
Debs Carsey May 09, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Browned Butter...gaahhh..drool.. I use it for everything. Even Kraft Mac-n-Cheese tastes better with browned butter. Derek, Great video, even posted on my FB. The only thing I found disappointing is that you didn't warn about the fine line between burned and browned, and how to tell the difference. If you have never tasted or smelled browned butter you won't know when to stop.
Derek Burns May 09, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Hey people thanks for the great comments! I must have edited out the how far is too far part. Personal taste is key with how brown to take the butter but no darker than hazelnut please! The key is in the aroma, there is a bridge between toasty caramel aromatics and acrid nasty burnt smell...don't cross it. There will be some carryover heat so allow for the butter to get just a touch darker once it is off the heat!
Derek Burns May 09, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Just posted the batter video and the crepe cooking video is uploading now!
Derek Burns May 09, 2011 at 09:15 PM
You saw Haku at my feet in that one clip? 8-)
Derek Burns May 09, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Hi Mary, Once I figure out how, I will! I have a great idea for a show thtat I am ready to pitch if you now any good producers

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