Happy (belated) Crêpe Day
Last Saturday I went to a cooking class to learn how to make crêpes – in French! It was a huge confidence booster to realize that I actually knew what the chef was saying, and could carry on conversations with the other participants. Although I also realized that I know more vocabulary in French related to immigration reform and the economy than I do about kitchen tools and techniques. I don’t think that crêpe-making will be on the final exam, but it’s much more delicious.
That said, I did learn something about French culture. The class was organized on February 2, which is the French Holiday of La Chandeleur, fête des chandelles (candles). It’s translated as Candlemass in English. For Catholics, the holiday marks the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, 40 days after Christmas. In France, the holiday is celebrated with crêpes. The traditional drink to accompany the crêpes is hard apple cider, although the cooking class offered sparking cider instead.
Also, I learned that La Chandeleur has some traditions similar to our Groundhogs day. The French rhyme says: “Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver par derrière; Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte!” Which roughly translates to: “If February 2nd is clear, no more winter to fear; if the Chandeleur is overcast, forty days of winter to last.” Unfortunately, it was a dreary day, on the verge of snowing. So I think winter is hanging around a bit longer.
The class was sponsored by a French Meetup group and held at Petits Plats, a French restaurant in Woodley Park. In a private room upstairs, the chef of Petits Plats, Frédéric Darricarrère, demonstrated how to make the crêpe batter, gave several tips, and then set up two stations for each participant to try to make a crêpe. Flipping the crêpe was tricky, and only about half of the crêpes survived in one piece. Thankfully we didn’t have to eat those. At the end of the class, the restaurant brought out several plates of fresh, steaming hot crêpes along with Nutella, sugar, and a hot Grand Marnier sauce. Très délicieux!
This weekend I tried to give the recipe a go, and thankfully it went pretty well. There are countless recipes for crêpes online, so I won’t add yet another one here. But I will share three of the most important tips I learned.
- Tip #1: Add some rum, or even beer to the batter. Apparently this is pretty common in France, and adds just a little punch to sweet crêpes.
- Tip #2: Pour your batter through a mesh strainer or food mill. This takes out any lumps and ensures that the batter is thin and consistent.
- Tip #3: Let your batter sit overnight. This is the most important tip. You MUST let the batter sit, preferably overnight or around 12 hours.
I also made a version of the Grand Marnier sauce, which I adapted from this site. Enjoy!
Grand Marnier sauce for Crêpes
- 5 TBS unsalted butter
- 3 TBS sugar
- Zest and juice of 2 oranges
- 3 TBS Grand Marnier
Gently heat the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Increase the heat and bubble for 4 minutes until the mixture starts to caramelize. Add the juice and zest, letting the mixture bubble for 3-4 minutes to thicken slightly. Add the Grand Marnier and heat for a few seconds, then lower the heat.