Although crêpes are often thought of as the province of the French, similar pancakes abound in countries as diverse as Greece and Iceland. Crêpes were a staple in my household when I was growing up. We knew them as palancinka, the paper think pancake ubiquitous in the countries formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire. We would have them as a simple dessert on weekends, smothering them with jam or preserves, cinnamon, or cottage cheese and sugar.
Crêpes were the first thing I ever successfully made in the kitchen without a recipe. I would mix together an egg with some milk, throw in some flour and a pinch of salt and voila! the perfect little pancakes. I had no idea how I did it, but they were always delicious. I’d whip up stacks of them for my friends, who would look at me as if I were Julia Child incarnate.
Then somehow I stopped. Years went by without my making a single crêpe. I cannot now fathom the reason. Perhaps I was busy with school and work and trying to create a life for myself. My twenties are a crêpeless blur.
Then one night, facing an empty fridge and an intense craving for something doughy and sweet, I decided to revisit my old friend. The results were disastrous. The crêpes were rubbery. They stuck to the pan and tasted plain awful. What had I done wrong? Had I not once been the crêpe master? I turned to the only person whom I knew could help me out of this mess.
One of her books, aptly named Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, contained a simple, master recipe that you can use for both sweet and savory crêpes. Although some recipes for sweet crêpes call for sugar, I find that this makes them stick to the pan.
Be sure to allow the batter to refrigerate for at least half an hour, to allow the flour particles to absorb the liquid, which will give you a tender crêpe. Instant-blending or all-purpose flour may be used, although the former will need less time in the fridge. You may have to experiment with the temperature of your range to get the heat right; the crepes must cook through to a golden color without burning,
If you are not using them right away, cool the crêpes thoroughly, stack and refrigerate for two days, or freeze them for several weeks.
This recipe makes about twenty 5-inch crepes or ten 8-inch crepes.
Julia Child’s Master Crêpe Recipe
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cold milk
2/3 cup cold water
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for brushing on pan
1) Mix all ingredients until smooth in a blender or with a whisk. Refrigerate.
2) Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Brush with melted butter.
3) Pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter into the center of the pan and then tilt the pan in all directions to cover the bottom evenly. Cook about 1 minute, or until browned on the bottom. Turn and cook briefly on the other side.
4) Cool on a rack or plate as you finish making the rest. Serve as desired.