a stack of crepes.

In another life, I spent a summer waitressing at a crepe restaurant in cottage country.  This was a year or so after a crepe restaurant would open up on a very busy intersection in the city I grew up in, and a few years before I would move to a city where yet another crepe restaurant would open up.  Somehow, crepes have always been hovering around me, like a smack of jellyfish in the Pacific Ocean during a night-time dive.  Moreover, all these places have seemed to do well, notably without my patronage.  I enjoyed my time serving crepes, not because I thought they were particularly good, but I enjoyed the challenge of being perky while remembering who needs more coffee and balancing three plates on one arm.

So when a friend came over one Sunday afternoon, and the thought floated into my head that we should make crepes, I didn’t really realize its historical underpinnings.  Being a classical French recipe, we decided a good place to start would be my secondhand original edition of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.  Alas, Mrs. David’s recipe was certainly from a different time; the way she listed the ingredients was thus: “2 large eggs, their weight (which will be 4 to 5 oz.) in butter, flour and sugar, and about 1/4 pint of milk, a tablespoon of rum, salt.”

In my crepe-starved state, I couldn’t wrap my head around this.  It sounds simple enough now, but the confusion due to low blood pressure in the moment was too great, and we sheepishly defected to a recipe from allrecipes.com – possibly the most polar opposite to Mrs. David’s refined and laid-back sensibility, but time was ticking before a full-on hunger tantrum would explode.

Regardless, the crepes we made were incredible and delicious – and easy to make!  Now I’m starting to see a glimpse into why a crepe restaurant would be so alluring to a potential restauranteur: a basic crepe recipe, multitudinous fillings, a dash of nostalgia and Parisian whimsy…a sweet and buttery dream.

dessert crepes

We filled ours with Nutella and strawberries, or peanut butter and bananas, scattered with sliced almonds.  The recipe made a substantial stack of crepes, so for the following days every breakfast consisted of a reheated crepe smothered in Nutella, folded into quarters, and eaten with my hands.  This ritual triggered the resurfacing of another buried memory: eating the most gargantuan crepe of Nutella and bananas while walking through the streets of Paris with my friends a few years ago, and feeling like I was going to throw up at 10 in the morning because it was so good I couldn’t stop.

Basic crepes

makes 8-20, depending on size

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted

Whisk everything together.  It might be a little lumpy, so let it sit for 30 minutes to let the lumps hydrate and soften and then whisk again.  Place a heavy frying pan (preferably non-stick) with low sides on medium-high heat.  Use a brush to apply a thin layer of butter on the bottom of the pan.  Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan and immediately start swirling the batter around so it evens out across the pan.  Let it cook (3-5 min) until it is fully cooked on one side before confidently flipping with a spatula.  Stack on a plate until you are ready to fill.

crepes ready to be filled

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