Add crepes to morning menu, filling possibilities boundless
Burgundy is the softest, greenest, wettest part of France, characterized by a constant drizzle against its medieval stone walls. It rained every one of the three days that my mother and I were there, until right before we left, when the sun beamed down to light up the moss and the green hills.
But still, the cold, craggy texture of the wet stone had gotten into me; I felt a permanent chill that needed soothing. We made ourselves cozy as the locals do, with big sweaters, a nice dinner and a glass of red wine from the amazing vineyard down the road.
Like the architecture, the food was rustic but stunning: poached eggs in a shiny reduced red wine sauce, snails drenched in herb-green garlic butter, ebony hills of slow-stewed beef.
And buckwheat crepes. More vividly than anything else, I remember a pile of buckwheat crepes stacked up on an earthenware platter, just sitting on the sideboard in the breakfast room of our bed-and-breakfast.
They were taupe-colored, pocked with brown, buttery spots from the pan, and cool to the touch. Our host must have made them earlier that morning, but even at room temperature they were delicious: earthy and delicate, and just a bit elastic when torn.
We spread some with plum jam and others with a mushroom and spinach filling, and I remember thinking: what a seemingly effortless breakfast. You can make them ahead!
And ever since then, I do. They're not difficult to make - and easier than American pancakes, in fact, because you cannot overmix them.
This is one of those recipes that doesn't really require a recipe (although I'll give you one). When I want to make buckwheat crepes I usually follow my favorite recipe for sweet crepes but reduce the sugar and replace about one-third of the flour with buckwheat.
But early in the morning, when I'm too tired to follow a recipe, I will just whip some up. It's so easy. You dump a shy cup of flour and a handful of buckwheat flour into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar, then start adding eggs, whipping with a whisk until you have a thick batter, smooth and shiny.
Then you just add milk until it becomes thinned to the consistency of heavy whipping cream. You should then add a bit of melted butter for shine, but I must confess that on these improvisational days I usually just squirt in a little canola oil. It does pretty much the same thing.
The only thing left to do is to stand there and fry them. Your pan should be hot enough that it goes quickly. They need just 30 seconds per side - if that. I use my seasoned cast-iron pan, but a Teflon-coated pan will work very well, too.
Be sure to stir the batter from the bottom periodically, and to thin out with more milk if it doesn't spread to the edges of the pan. They're better too thin than too thick.
And then resist the urge to immediately refrigerate the leftovers. They're cooked. They can sit on the counter for awhile, where the Burgundians would leave them, so that they're available for brilliant snack improvisations.
Recipe from David Lebovitz
It's best to let the batter chill overnight, but let it come to room temperature prior to frying them up. And keep stirring the batter as you go while frying since the flour tends to sink to the bottom.
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
One-fourth teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons (80 gr) butter, salted or unsalted, melted
One-half cup (70 gr) buckwheat flour
Three-fourths cup (105 gr) all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
In a blender, or with a whisk, mix together all the ingredients until smooth. Use immediately or cover and chill overnight.
To fry the crepes, remove the batter from the refrigerator about an hour before frying. Stir it briskly; it should be the consistency of heavy cream. (If not, you can add a tablespoon of milk.)
Heat a 8- to 9-inch skillet on the stovetop. You can use a real crepe pan that's been seasoned, but I use a Tefal non-stick skillet which works great.
Drop a tiny piece of butter or neutral oil in the hot pan and wipe it around with a paper towel. (I only do this for the first crepe.)
Lift the pan and pour one-fourth cup of the batter in the middle of the hot skillet, swirling the pan to distribute the batter quickly and evenly. The pan shouldn't be too hot or too cold: the batter should start cooking within a few seconds, giving you just enough time to swirl it. It may take a couple of crepes for you to get your rhythm.
After about a minute, run a non-stick spatula around the underside of the rim of the crepe, then flip the crepe over.
Let the crepe cook on the flip side for about 30 seconds, then slide it out onto a dinner plate. Repeat, cooking the crepes with the remaining batter, stirring the batter every so often as you go.
Crepes can be served either warm or room-temperature.To rewarm the crepes for serving, fold the crepes and put them in a baking dish covered with foil. Heat them in a moderate oven until warmed through.
Filling possibilities: scrambled eggs, garlicky cooked spinach and goat cheese, ham and cheese, mushrooms fried in butter, jam, honey-sweetened ricotta, fresh fruit. For some of the savory fillings, you may want to fill them, fold them up and then fry them in a little butter to melt the cheese or warm the ham.