My mum would make crepes for us all the time when we were kids. She’d make a large batch and would spend ages (or what felt like it!) flipping crepes. But when she would stop to count the crepes, she’d realize we had already eaten them all! I really wanted my kids to have the same amazing experience. So I’ve been making crepes for years now, but I will admit I have never tried tossing them in the air! I’m clumsy enough as it is! Trying to catch a hot crepe mid air isn’t really for people like me! Have you ever tried it?
If you’ve never made crepes before, you’re in for a big treat! Crepes are actually really easy to make and only require a few basic ingredients. Crepe batter is primarily composed of eggs, flour and a liquid such as milk and/or water. The batter is very thin with a consistency similar to heavy cream. Crepes are extremely versatile and can easily be used as a filling meal – think chicken crepes with béchamel sauce. Or as a fancy dessert, drizzled with alcohol and “set on fire” for an entertaining performance!
The ingredients you use and the amount you add will determine the final texture and taste of your crepes. By knowing what each ingredient does, you’ll be able to tweak any recipe to get your ideal crepe. So let’s go through some of the ingredients used when making crepes.
The most common liquids used are milk and water. Milk will add richness and flavor to the crepe. But the more milk you add, the heavier the crepe will feel. Conversely, the more water you add, the lighter the crepe will be. I personally like to use slightly more milk than water. But you could use equal amounts of milk and water for a lighter crepe if you want.
But you shouldn’t restrict yourself to milk and water if you don’t want to. You can use different types of liquids such as heavy cream, coconut milk and almond milk (used in conjunction with heavy cream). You could also use juice, such as orange juice. Some recipes even call for beer, which lightens the crepe batter by having a leavening effect.
The amount of liquid you add will determine how thin or thick your crepe is. Too little liquid and the batter will be thick and hard to spread in the pan. You’ll end up with a thick crepe. Too much liquid and you’ll end up with a thin crepe that is hard to flip over and might tear.
It’s best to use room temperature eggs so that you can easily mix them with the other ingredients. The eggs will give structure to the crepes once cooked. The fat from the egg yolk will also contribute to the flavor and richness of the crepes.
All-purpose flour is generally used, although you will also find French recipes using buckwheat flour. The flour will thicken the batter, which is mostly made up of liquid ingredients. As previously discussed in the liquids section, the thickness of the batter will determine how thick your crepe is.
The most common issue you might encounter when making crepes is lumps of flour in the batter. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the troubleshooting section. But just keep in mind that when mixing by hand, don’t just dump all the ingredients in the bowl from the beginning. Add them slowly, to give the flour a chance to dissolve.
A little bit of fat is added to the crepe batter for more flavor but also to prevent the crepes from sticking to the pan. You can use butter by melting it beforehand and slightly cooling it down, before adding it to the batter. Adding it hot might scramble the eggs. I have noticed however that if I pour cold batter (straight from the fridge) onto the pan, it has a tendency to stick. If this happens to you as well, make sure to properly grease your pan for the first few crepes, until the batter warms up a little at room temperature.
Using butter will give shine to your crepes. It will, however, also give them a slightly greasier feel. If you are planning on eating the crepes with your hands and don’t enjoy the mild greasiness, you can use a neutral vegetable oil (such as sunflower oil) instead. The crepes won’t feel greasy and will appear more mat.
A pinch of salt is added to the crepe batter for flavor. You can also add vanilla extract which will give off an amazing smell during baking. Sugar will make the crepes slightly crispier, and sweeter.
Several French recipes call for using rum to flavor the batter. You can replace the rum with vanilla extract, orange blossom water etc.
Mixing The Batter
Now that we know what ingredients we’ll need, let’s see what to do with them. I strongly recommend following the recipe steps exactly as they are written. I had been making crepes for years but always ended up with flour lumps in the batter. Until I discovered by accident a specific sequence for adding the ingredients, that gave me completely smooth and lump free batter! Happy dance!
- Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Let it cool down at room temperature while you prepare the batter.
- In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar and salt. I just used a fork. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs.
- Add the water and whisk again.
- Gradually add the flour and keep whisking. The batter should look smooth.
- Add the milk to the batter, whilst mixing. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract and give it a quick stir to combine.
Letting The Crepe Batter Rest
You might have noticed that some recipes will recommend letting the batter rest before heating the crepes. I haven’t found this necessary with the recipe I use. But let’s talk about why, and when, you should let the batter rest.
- Water absorption: The resting time will allow the flour proteins and starch to absorb water present in the batter. The batter will get thicker. You might notice you need to add more liquid after a long resting period (in the fridge), to loosen the batter.
- Gluten relaxation: If you have a tendency to overmix the batter, you might end up with elastic, rubbery crepes (too much gluten formed). Letting the batter rest will allow the gluten to relax and will lead to more tender and lighter crepes.
- Air bubbles: The air bubbles incorporated during mixing will rise to the surface and escape. You can also easily remove them with a spoon, or pat the surface of the batter with a paper towel. If you bake the batter immediately, the crepes won’t be smooth. The small air bubbles will create little holes in your crepes.
What Happens When You Cook The Crepes?
You made the batter, time to pour it into the pan! Two ingredients in the batter have thickening properties: the flour and the eggs. When you pour the runny batter in the pan and place it over the heat, the starch in the flour will start to gelatinize1. And the egg and flour proteins will coagulate. You’ll quickly notice that the crepe will start to thicken.
As you keep heating the crepe, the water will start to evaporate, leading to an increase in temperature. The crepe will start to brown (Maillard reaction). If you used a lot of sugar in the batter, the crepe will have a tendency to brown a lot. Crepes made without any sugar will still brown a little since they contain milk.
You will notice, at one point, the edges of the crepe separating from the pan. The crepe is ready to be flipped! Now let’s put this into practice and start cooking some crepes!
Cooking The Crepes
Pouring the batter
- Grease the pan: Slightly butter it or using a paper towel, wipe it with vegetable oil.
- Heat the pan: Before you pour any batter, you should heat the pan on high heat for best results.
- Pour the batter: Take the pan off the heat and using a ladle, pour the batter in the middle of the pan. I use about 1/3 of a cup for a 23 cm (9-inch) skillet. Start swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly. Try not to go up the sides of the pan. Return to the heat.
- Wait: Easy! Do nothing, just wait for a few minutes until the batter looks cooked. The crepe will start to cook from the outside towards the middle. You’ll then notice that the edges of the crepes are pulling away from the sides of the pan. That’s when you can flip it!
- Flip it! Use a spatula – or if you are feeling brave, toss the crepe in the air – and flip the crepe.
- Wait! Just a few seconds! Don’t get too comfortable! And you can now transfer your crepe to a large flat plate!
Selecting the right setting will take some experimentation. But once you have figured it out, you’ll be able to make the crepes with your eyes closed! I personally crank up the heat to 6-7 (out of 9). When I pour the batter in the pan, the crepe starts to thicken a little, but I can still easily spread the batter all over the pan. It then takes just a few minutes until it’s time to flip it.
Sometimes, you’ll find that the heat is perfect for the first few crepes. But then, the crepes start browning too much. That’s when it’s time to lower the heat a little. If it’s your first time making crepes, I would recommend starting on medium heat and slowly increasing it, if needed, until you find the perfect setting for you.
Is the pan hot enough? When you pour the batter in the pan, you should hear it sizzle. But you should still be able to spread the batter before it sets. If you want to test the pan, before making the first crepe, try sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If they sizzle a little, the pan is at the right temperature.
The First Crepe
Let’s talk about the dreaded first crepe! It has such a bad reputation! Think of the first crepe as the test drive. If the batter doesn’t spread properly, you’ll quickly be able to tell if there is an issue with the heat, or the batter consistency for example. You can fix the issues to get amazing crepes.
But the truth is, if you make crepes regularly, you won’t necessarily mess up your first crepe anymore. If you weigh the ingredients and you know when the pan is hot enough, you’ll be able to serve your first crepe to guests!
Let’s start with the most common issue encountered when making crepes: flour lumps!
The crepe batter has lumps
- Don’t add all the liquid to the flour from the beginning: I have found that the best way to avoid lumps is to first mix the eggs and water. Then add the flour, gradually. And finally pour the milk, whilst mixing.
- Use room temperature ingredients: Make sure your eggs and liquids are at room temperature, not cold. Some bakers even warm the milk a little to make sure the flour dissolves. Little confession: I always forget to take out the milk and I use it cold! I don’t have any issues when I follow the steps outlined in the recipe.
- Use a blender: If you have one, you can just throw all the ingredients in there at the same time and blend for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth and lump free.
- Use an immersion blender to get rid of the flour lumps. Just be careful not to incorporate too many air bubbles. If you do, it’s best to let the batter rest a little before using it.
- Strain the batter: If all else fails! Pour the batter through a fine mesh sieve, into a bowl. Press the flour lumps with a large spoon.
The crepes are too thick
This could happen for several reasons:
- The batter is not the proper consistency: If you used too little liquid (or too much flour), the batter will be thick and harder to spread in the pan. Solution: Use more liquid to thin out the batter a little. If you don’t already, try weighing your ingredients next time.
- You added too much batter: You need just enough batter to be able to spread it all over the pan. It’s best to err on the side of caution and add slightly less. You can always fill the gaps with a few spoons of batter if needed. Experiment with different ladles (or measuring cups etc.) you have, until you find one that will hold just enough liquid. Pour towards the center of the pan and tilt it to spread all the batter in a thin layer. Solution: Use less batter next time.
- The pan is too hot: If the pan is too hot, the batter will thicken before you have a chance to spread it and you’ll end up with a crepe that’s too thick in the middle. Solution: Try lowering the heat.
Rubbery crepes that shrink
Depending on the recipe you are using and how much you mix the batter, you might end up with a rubbery crepe. If you have a tendency to overmix the batter, it’s best to let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours. This will give the gluten a chance to relax, leading to a more tender crepe. You could even replace part of the flour with other types of flour, such as corn or rice, which do not form gluten.
The crepe color
- The crepe isn’t brown enough: 1) The heat might be too low. Try increasing it a little. 2) Don’t flip the crepe too soon. Wait for the edges to turn slightly golden then flip. You could gently raise the crepe to check if you are happy with the color before flipping it.
- Uneven browning: Try rotating the pan every now and then over the stove, if it is not heating the crepes evenly.
- The crepe is too brown: 1) The heat might be too high. Try reducing it a little. 2) You are waiting too long before flipping the crepe. You can flip the crepe before the edges turn brown, for a lighter color. Or as soon as they turn brown for a slightly deeper color. 3) Too much sugar in the batter might contribute to excessive browning.
The crepes are sticking to the pan
It’s best to use a non-stick pan. But whatever you are using, if the crepe is sticking to it, wipe the pan with oil (or butter) between each crepe. If the batter was refrigerated, wait for it to warm up a little to room temperature.
Small bubbles in the crepe batter
If you used a mixer or whisked vigorously, you might end up with batter that is full of air bubbles. This might cause small holes in your crepe. It’s best to let the batter rest before cooking the crepes. If you are in a rush, try removing the foamy layer with a spoon. Or patting the surface with a paper towel.
Filling Ideas For Crepes
The filling options are endless! But let me tell you some of my favorites to get you started!
- Ham and cheese: I love adding ham and cheese, mushrooms and oregano. Try it, it’s simple yet delicious.
- Ham and asparagus: Tell me the truth, what was your reaction to this filling idea?! It was a very popular choice back home. But when I started living abroad, my friends burst into laughter when I suggested this! Different friends, separate occasions!
- Sugar: a simple sprinkle of sugar will hit the spot.
- Lemon: Cut a lemon in two and rub it a little on the crepe. Then sprinkle with sugar.
- Banana: Drizzle some honey over the crepe. Slice a banana and place over the honey. Add crushed walnuts. I’ve also added shredded coconut which I loved!
- Chocolate: Melt some chocolate and spread on half the crepe. And if your pan is still out, you can simply break some chocolate over the crepe and reheat it on low. This is my go-to method after the holidays, when the kids have an abundance of Easter eggs or Christmas chocolate! Just keep in mind that the chocolate will thicken again. If you wait too long, you’ll end up with an unappetizing layer of chocolate that can be peeled off the crepe!
- Chocolate hazelnut spread! What we keep coming back to!! And if we have thrown our self-control out the window, we’ll add a scoop (or two!) of vanilla ice cream on top!
Other things you can use are: whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, crushed biscuits, strawberries.
So what do you like filling your crepes with? I can’t wait to find out!
You Might Also Like
- Crème Anglaise
- Chantilly Cream (sweetened whipped cream)
- Vanilla Pastry Cream
1Gilles, C. (2009). La Cuisine Expliquée. Editions BPI.
2Malinowski, R. & Ahrens, R. (1976). Creative Crepe Cooking. Ottenheimer Publishers,Inc.