Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Move over, groundhog

Last night I made crêpes. Yup, yesterday might have been Groundhog Day in the US, but it was Chandeleur in France, aka Candlemas. Shame on me, it had slipped my mind until I read Anne's post (in French), just in the nick of time. Bad French girl, bad.

Cultural interlude:

Like most French holidays, Chandeleur stems from an obscure religious origin and turned along the way into an occasion to eat something with butter in it.

"Chandeleur" comes from the Latin Festa Candelarum, meaning Feast of candles. Meaning that at some point, blessed candles charged with religious symbolism (Christ, light of the world etc) used to be involved.

The origin of crêpes and their association with the holiday is unclear; round and golden like the sun that starts coming back in February everywhere but in Seattle? Given out to pilgrims by a gourmet 5th century pope? Using flour to guarantee a bountiful wheat harvest?

Anyway, the tradition of making crêpes still holds today; when I was in Kindergarten we'd make them at school. Some people (like my great-aunt) still flip their crêpes with a gold coin in their hand, to ensure prosperity in the coming year. Looks like it's been working fine for my great-aunt, maybe I should start doing it.

To make crêpes, you will need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk, or 1 cup milk + 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 2 tbsp rum or Grand Marnier (you can skip it but it tastes much better if you don't)
There's no vegan version that I know of. If there is such a thing, I'd rather not find out, thank you.

Useful rule of thumb:

  • proportions work out to be about 3 spoons of flour per egg
  • 1 spoon of flour = 1 crêpe

How to:
  1. Put the eggs, sugars and flour in a mixing bowl. Whisk them together if you need the exercise, but use a blender if you want to avoid lumps
  2. Whisk the milk/water in progressively
  3. Stir in the alcohol and the melted butter
  4. Lightly grease a crêpe pan with an oiled paper towel. You can use a regular pan, but you'll be greatly increasing your odds of making fugly crêpes, especially if it's not non-stick.
  5. Heat the pan on medium-high (it needs to be hotter than for pancakes; crêpes cook fast)
  6. When your pan is hot, thinly coat the bottom with a ladle of batter
  7. When the edges look cooked and start lifting from the pan, slide a spatula under the crêpe and turn it over. You can also flip it, but this only works if there are no witnesses.
  8. Cook for 10-15 seconds
  9. Serve warm with an assortment of toppings: preserves, powdered sugar, chestnut cream, Nutella...
If there's a French person around, don't talk about Nutella unless you're prepared to spend the next hour listening to how Nutella in the US tastes different from Nutella in Europe, and how Costco hasn't carried it in almost 3 months.

No comments: