Thin and delicate, coated with a gentle amount of melted butter and overstuffed with sweet seasonal compote, that is the crepe I know well. It’s more than a thin pancake. It’s a delightful treat that’s simple yet complex and beloved across continents.
The crepe, for me, is a story of my year living in France. It’s when I discovered that other cultures knew the art of living well through the foods they ate and how they chose to eat them. Time spent at the table with the French family I lived with was my daily treat, and the full-fat mountain cheeses, yogurts, and seasonal treats I learned to enjoy broke me of a trend that was sweeping my own nation—fast, convenient, and void of taste. It was the mid 90’s and back at home we were in full swing calorie counting and dieting mode—void of pleasure and high on guilt.
My host mom was crazy. And I adored her. Most of the time, you could hear her yelling at her fifteen-year-old son for showering too often and not putting his fork and knife down between bites (both considered savage acts). But beneath this rough exterior, she shared with me her rich culture by teaching me the art of slowing down. It was with Charlotte that I learned once again to enjoy the simple treats in life, realizing that by investing just a little extra time and care into the products I was consuming I could change not only my health, but also learn to think of food as time spent with those I love.
Whenever I make crepes with kids today, I can hear Charlotte walking me through the steps. The kitchen lessons I can pass along to the kids in making crepes are numerous.
First, there’s the batter–not too thick and not too runny. Inevitably there will be some adjustments to make after testing the first crepe in the pan.
There’s the drop and swirl.
With just the right heat on the pan and a little butter, work quickly once that batter hits your pan–swirl, swirl, swirl with your wrist to coat the pan quickly!”
And then, we watch and smell. Have enough bubbles formed to let us know it’s almost time to flip? Can we smell that buttery, almost cookie like smell that tells us just the right amount of browning has happened without burning?
Maybe one of my favorite lessons about crepe making is that they will never be perfect.
In fact, the first crepe is usually the sacrificial one, and that’s to be expected so that you can test the temperature of the pan, if the batter is thin enough or needs more milk, and whether you’re using the exact amount of fat needed.
The more you make the crepes, the better you’ll get your technique down of swirling them quickly in the pan, waiting for the perfect amount of bubbles to appear before flipping, and when to take the flipped crepe from the pan to add to your growing stack.
In my home, we prefer a sweet stuffing over the choice of a savory one.
Classic French crepes may have cheese and ham, or Nutella, or just a simple jam sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar. With rhubarb and strawberries in our local markets, this week I’m filling my crepes with my sweet-and-tart Strawberry Rhubarb Compote—from my Joyful 12 Spring Classroom.
Every time I have the chance to pass along the joy of making the beautiful crepes from my French food adventure, I jump at the chance. After all, falling in love with the simple pleasure of food made and shared together is a gift we can all attain.
- Rhubarb, 2 lbs.
- Strawberries (fresh), 2 quarts
- Sugar (organic turbinado), 1 cup
- Whole organic milk, 1 ½ cups, room temperature
- All purpose gluten free flour, 1 cup
- Eggs, 2
- Unsalted organic butter, 3 TBS, melted (plus extra for cooking)
- Salt, ¼ tsp.
- Powdered sugar, 2-3 TBSP (optional)
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Wash rhubarb and strawberries.
- Take stems off strawberries and cut into quarters.
- Remove any woody ends from rhubarb. For thicker pieces cut in half and then cut ½ inch pieces.
- In a large soup pot, place strawberries, rhubarb and sugar.
- Stir together.
- Cover pot and cook on medium low heat for 20 minutes.
- Break eggs into a bowl; add salt and whisk together until eggs are yellow.
- Measure gluten free flour; slowly add about half into egg mixture, whisking small amounts as you go to help fully incorporate into egg mixture.
- Add the milk and whisk out the lumps; continue adding the rest of the flour and milk until you have a smooth batter.
- Add the melted butter and whisk.
- Cover the batter and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- When the compote has cooked 20 minutes, place a strainer over a bowl. Pour compote into strainer. Keep the juices that drain through, as they make great syrup.
- Set aside enough compote for your crepes and store the remaining compote and syrup in containers in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- In a pre-heated non-stick pan, add just enough butter (or your favorite cooking oil) to barely coat the pan. Pour 1/3 cup batter into pan and swirl to coat bottom.
- Cook until edge of crepe is light brown and bubbles have formed, about 1-2 minutes. Loosen edges gently with spatula. Carefully turn crepe over. Cook until bottom begins to brown in spots, about 30 seconds. Transfer to plate. Cover with paper towel or wax paper.
- Repeat with remaining batter, oiling pan as needed and covering each crepe with paper towel.
- Fill crepes with rhubarb and strawberry compote. Sprinkled powdered sugar on top for fun!