You know you’re in France when it seems every shop is either a Tabac, a cafe or a crêperie. I spent a couple of days in Montpellier on my way to a WWOOF farm in southwestern France and my host taught me how to make crêpes. Now, unfortunately, on this trip I have discovered that I have gluten sensitivity, meaning that eating those delicious crêpes made me feel really crummy for a day. But I had to do it in the name of French cuisine!
I want to learn why French cuisine is considered one of the best in the world. Thankfully, unlike when I was in Italy discovering Italian cuisine, French cuisine actually does not require very much wheat! The only time of day that the French always eat wheat is in the morning; the typical French breakfast is a bowl of tea or coffee (a bowl not a mug, so that you can easily dip things into it) and toast with butter and jam. Bread is also served at lunch and dinner, but at those times it is optional. However, freshly made crêpes served for breakfast, those are not optional! And they are worth it! My host’s recipe and a few of her family’s secrets are provided below.
I’ve started researching gluten-free alternatives and experimenting with different flours in my baking. I’m quite pleased and surprised with the results! While at the farmer’s market last week I asked a flour producer which gluten-free flour I could use to make crêpes. She handed me 200 grams of buckwheat flour and told me that in Brittany, in the northwest of France where crêpes originated, savory crêpes are always made with buckwheat flour and sweet ones with wheat flour. All I had to do was mix water and a little salt into the flour until the batter reached a nice consistency and then let it rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours. I could then use the batter like normal batter. Simple, gluten-free and vegan!
While eating out at a Crêperie in Montpellier, I also learned that in Brittany savory crêpes are traditionally served with hard apple cider. So I ordered a smoked salmon crêpe with crème fraîche and chilled apple cider. A delicious combination!
Crêpes Salées, Savory Crêpes
Makes 10 medium crêpes
- 200 gr buckwheat flour
- 75ml water
- A pinch of salt
- Whisk all ingredients together and let the batter rest in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
- Heat your crêpe pan and swipe with a paper towel dipped in oil. Ladle some batter onto the pan and turn to evenly spread it out into a circle. Cook until just pale golden. Place finished crêpes onto a plate over a pot of boiling water as before or fill immediately and serve.
- I used this recipe to make argentine canelones, which are crêpes usually filled with ricotta and spinach, rolled into a tube and baked with tomato sauce. They turned out great!
Crêpes Sucrées, Sweet Crêpes
Charlotte’s recipe. Makes 12 large, sweet crêpes
- 2 cups wheat flour
- 3 eggs
- 4 cups milk
- 1 TB sugar or more as you like
- 1 TB neutral vegetable oil
- Pinch of salt
- Dash of aroma like vanilla, orange blossom or rum
- Boil a pot half full of water and cover with a plate. You will rest the finished crêpes here and cover them with foil.
- Sift flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Mix in one egg at a time and the oil. Then while whisking slowly add the milk and aroma. It’s always a good idea to let crêpe batter rest for at least an hour, try making the batter ahead.
- There are several tricks to making the perfect crêpe. Make sure you’ve got the right pan: large, round, flat and non-stick. Next, it’s got to be hot! Swipe a paper towel with oil all over the pan. Take a ladleful of batter and pour it slowly onto the tilted pan while turning to evenly spread the batter out into a circle. Quickly flip when lightly golden. Place the finished crêpes onto the plate over boiling water and cover with foil.
- In France the two traditional sweet crêpe fillings are fresh-squeezed lemon juice with granulated sugar or Nutella. I love adding banana slices and toasted nuts to Nutella.