Crepes: A Delicious Blank Canvas

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the holidays were enjoyable, peaceful, and full of tasty treats for you all. My family had some of the best smoked salmon that I think any of us have ever had. I made crazy delicious slow cooker ribs and jalapeño-bacon deviled eggs which will appear on the blog before too long. We ate so very well all holiday long. It’s interesting to me to note that we all seem to eat such delicious foods during the holidays, and then in the new year, it seems that as part of the “eat healthfully” resolution most people inevitably make, somehow delicious food gets thrown to the wayside. Friends, this does not have to be the case. One of my delicious, “treat” foods that I love to eat and make for entertaining or a special breakfast is crepes. It sounds so fancy when you tell someone you’ve made crepes! The crepes are tasty, your friends feel special, you feel like a big-chef-deal.  Everyone wins! For a long time I was intimidated by crepes, but that was silly of me. I am here to tell you that you do not have to be intimidated by them, either. The recipe I use has 5 ingredients, and the cooking part is really simple, too. I was asked tonight at a party if I make complicated food. Sister, please. Read on, then you tell me.


Crepes (Ingredients taken from this Alton Brown recipe; method adapted)

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup flour
3/4 cup 1% milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
potentially a smidge more melted butter for coating the pan

Steps
1. Melt your butter and let it sit to cool just a little bit while you measure and combine the other ingredients.
2. In a blender (Yep! Blender!), add in all the other ingredients and then the butter. I put them in the blender in the order shown in the list. I think it keeps the flour from getting gunky on the blades and helps the eggs to mix faster.

3. Blend until smooth. My blender doesn’t have a setting for anything similar to batter so I use the “sauce” setting. Usually I go for about 20 – 30 seconds, stop, scrape down the sides, and go another 10 – 15 seconds. It will look very similar to pancake batter, only thinner.

4. Now you leave it alone. It will need to sit for a while to rest and let the air dissipate. I leave mine on the counter for 45 – 55 minutes. If this makes you uncomfortable, put it in the fridge for 45 minutes, then pull it out for 10 minutes to come to room temperature before you start cooking.
5. Using a small skillet, preheat it on medium low. Now, depending on your non-stick pan’s true non-stick factor, you may or may not need butter. One of my skillets needs butter. The other does not. We’ll talk more about this below. But to be on the safe side, use a pastry brush or paper towel, and spread some butter around the pan.
6. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop out some batter. Lift the pan off the stove, tilt, and rotate like you were rolling a marble around the inside edge all while pouring the batter into the center of the pan. It will spread and pour over itself making a thin layer. Usually I rotate the pan 3 times, although sometimes twice if it was a scant 1/4 cup.
7. Put the pan back on the burner and set a timer for 2:30 (2 minutes and 30 seconds). You’ll notice the edges get crispy and the crepe start to turn opaque and thicken. When the timer goes off, you should be able to carefully, but easily, slide a spatula under and flip. It is likely to be firm enough that this will go easily and quickly.
                   
8. Set the timer for 1:30. When it goes off, have a plate ready and simply tilt your pan, with the spatula to help slide your crepe out. It will just slide right out. Sometimes I just hold my spatula under the pan and flip it over and let the crepe fall on my spatula.
9. Measure, tilt, rotate, time, flip, time, slide – repeat.
10. Fill or top with any number of things that sound delicious to you.

So there you have it: the fundamentals of crepe making. Now I’m going to be very frank with you. You should be prepared so that you don’t panic or think you did something wrong. With 2 exceptions, every time I’ve made crepes, my first one turns out terribly. It doesn’t set right, it doesn’t flip right, it comes apart, it is a terrible, awful mess.  But it still tastes good, y’all. 🙂 I tell myself that the first one is a sacrifice to the crepe gods and it helps season the pan, because the rest turn out beautifully. I’ve wondered if the difference is my non-stick pans. I’ve wondered if the difference is using the fridge to let them rest versus letting them rest on the counter. To date, I’m not certain I’ve done enough culinary research to be certain. This last time, with no butter in one pan, the first one turned out just fine. The other pan thoughtfully provided me the opportunity to photo-document how it can look on your first terrible awful mess of a crepe. But then I put a little butter in the pan, just for the very next crepe and no more, and it was just fine. So when you make these and the first one is a disaster, nod to yourself that this is to be expected, eat it while the others are cooking and proceed on calmly.

The Sacrifice

When you are using the butter for greasing the pan, it is better if it is melted because you can just use your method of choice to wipe the pan with butter quickly rather than slicing a piece of butter, waiting for it to melt (even if it does happen quickly in a hot pan), and then rotating the pan around to make sure it gets everywhere. Just use a brush or paper towel to be thorough the first time. My experience is that I really only have to do this for the first crepe or two. Somehow, after that, the pan has enough butter on it or mysteriously is otherwise ready to correctly cook and release my crepes. This means you don’t need a lot of extra butter. Sometimes I’ll use whatever is left in my receptacle from melting the butter earlier. Even if I use butter, sometimes the first crepe still is rebellious and chooses to be a disaster. Remember, this is no reflection on you.

You may also need to make some minor adjustments as you work your way through the batter. As I cook my crepes, if I feel like they are getting too dark, or too crispy, I may either adjust the heat down to 3 or 3.5 on the dial or reduce my cooking time to 1:45 or 2:00 for the first side and 1:15 or 1:25 on the second side. It’s a little like cooking pancakes in that regard, in my opinion. As the skillet continues to heat, you may need to account for that in your cooking time, but then if it cools too much because you’ve turned it down a notch, don’t be afraid to cook a little longer or turn it back up. As you have less batter toward the bottom of the blender, it is easier to pour into the measuring cup rather than scoop. But eventually you’ll have more and more scant 1/4 cups. These will take the shorter cooking times also.

This crepe batter is a very basic, plain batter which makes it perfect for EVERYTHING! There are some recipes out there that have you add vanilla and sugar if you are making sweet crepes or herbs if you are making savory, and you can certainly do that. It’s your kitchen after all. However, I never quite know exactly which direction I’m going to go in when I make mine. Frequently I end up with both sweet and savory, so I stick with the plain batter. One of my favorite ways to eat these is filled with peanut butter and honey for breakfast. A more traditional route is with Nutella and bananas. Recently at a progressive dinner party, I had the Nutella with sliced bananas and blackberries option as well as herbed goat cheese with caramelized onions. Both were a smashing success. My improvement for the future would be to have smaller pieces of the caramelized onion so they are easier to eat. However, the flavors were simply divine. You can keep these in the fridge for about a week, or freeze them if you think you might somehow have them around longer than that. Such a thing doesn’t happen in my kitchen. If I am reheating them, I microwave them for about 10 seconds or so, and they are good to go. You can roll them or fold them as they are quite pliable.

While I haven’t done it yet, I’ve contemplated a “crepe casserole” with layers of shredded chicken, some sort of soft, melty white cheese, some caramelized onions and/or roasted garlic. It seriously makes my mouth water. You could also do layers with fruit and Nutella or a caramel sauce. When creating your filling, it is important to keep the pieces thin and small. This makes it easier to eat as well as keeping the crepe from tearing, and thus keeps it looking nice. It also allows you get all the different fillings in every bite, and that is very important, people. This is serious crepe business.

                   

I hope you are brave enough to try making crepes at home. It’s so very easy. I use both my little skillets to make it go faster and typically use the cooking time to take care of various kitchen chores I’ve been avoiding like loading/unloading the dishwasher. You can’t venture too far from the stove anyway, so why not make good use of your time while in the kitchen? It’s also very easy to double in which case, if you have two skillets, definitely put both of them to work. I doubled it for our progressive dinner and got 23 crepes including the rebellious one. Please share with me how it goes for you and how you topped/filled them. I’d love to hear your stories! Happy eating!

Nutritional Information per crepe– recipe yield of 12 crepes (will change if you make more or less)
Calories: 82
Carbs: 8.7 grams
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 2.7 grams
Calcium: 2.4%

Baked Fig Bites

Dear eaters, I went on an unknown culinary adventure recently. I am going to share with you what I did, what I ate, and my thoughts on the whole thing, but please do let me know your experiences with figs if you have any as I’m a wee bit uncertain about the whole thing. It all started when I realized that my significant other has a fig tree outside his apartment. Well, color me happy! Hello, free produce! The only tricky part is that I am pretty much totally unfamiliar with fresh figs. But when you are handed free produce, you do not shy away simply because you don’t know. Well, at least I don’t think you should – not when you have the World Wide Web at your disposal. So I researched via Google and my friends on Facebook, and I waited for the figs to get ripe. By mid-last week, there were a whole bunch of ripe ones, and I could tell the birds were starting to eat the figs, so Lance and I harvested an overflowing quart bag for me to bring home for experimentation purposes. Here are those experiments for your reading and eating perusal and enjoyment.

Plate o' Deliciousness

Baked Fig Bites

Ingredients – all to taste, depending on how much of each kind of bite you want to eat
Fresh figs
Semi soft cheese – I used plain goat cheese
Bacon
Walnuts
Honey
Prosciutto
Bread – I used ciabatta

Steps
1. Wash the figs, scrubbing as necessary to remove any outdoor detritus from the outside of the fruit. Be gentle as the skin is fragile. I used my handy-dandy produce brush.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil. I recommend placing a cookie cooling rack or small wire rack on the pan if you use bacon on your bites so the bacon grease drips away from your bites.
3. If you are using walnuts, chop them up so they are ready to go when you want them. I chopped up about 4 or 5 halves and had leftovers.
4. If using bacon, slice each long piece in half.
5. Start slicing figs in half. Most of mine I sliced from top to bottom, vertically rather than horizontally, although I did experiment with a few horizontal cuts. I think I prefer the vertical cut (although the horizontal cut seems prettier) because it opens up sort of a wee bit of a pocket in the fruit that is ideal for widening to stuff. I used a cheese spreader (small, dull, round implement) to widen a divot in the fruit.

Divot for Stuffing!

Then I began making decisions. Some I put walnuts in first and then smushed goat cheese on top. Others just got goat cheese smushed in there without any walnuts. It was a bit random. Some got walnuts (no more than ½ teaspoon), and goat cheese,  were wrapped in bacon, and then were secured with a toothpick. Two halves went on the baking sheet plain, just to see.

6. Bake the non-bacon bites for about 12 minutes. They will be quite soft and a little bubbly/juicy at this point. The bacon still wasn’t done, so I gave it 5 more minutes.
7. Drizzle some with honey, as you see fit. Wrap others in pieces of prosciutto as you see fit.
8. Smear some pieces on bread.
9. Eat them all, and be satisfied.

Ready for the oven!

 

As I was preparing my bites, I tasted the raw fruit in minute quantities to have an idea of the fresh fruit flavor. Only once did I sort of squint my eyes and make a face, thinking, “hmmm that wasn’t quite good eats.” But I prepped it anyway. Baked, I thought they all tasted good, although I did get a little burned out by the end of my plate of fig bites. It was a lot of bites, y’all. I liked having the nuts in them as it provided a bit of texture in an otherwise mostly creamy/soft bite. I do like texture in my food. The bacon/prosciutto bites were good also, but I think I liked the prosciutto over the bacon, just by a hair. I’d do either of them again. The salty notes added an edge against the creaminess also. I’ve heard you can use blue cheese instead of goat, and as I do love blue cheese, I will be giving that a try next. I promise to report back. It was a little hard to scrape the fruit out of the skin to spread on the bread, so frequently I just cut the bites into smaller pieces to put on the bread, and it was delicious. I definitely was wanting some fig preserve-type product, so that’s on my mind to figure out as well. I would give all my bites two thumbs up, for sure.

Up close and personal!

 

When I was doing my research online to figure out how to know when the figs were ripe, I learned quite a bit. First of all, there are many different kinds of figs. They are not all dark brown/black/purple, like I thought, nor do they turn that color when they ripen. These figs are green figs, and they turn sort of a yellow/weird light brown/unfortunate pale yucky green color. Appetizing, I know. It’s a tricky color to describe. What would you call those colors below?

Bottom one is ripe.

Left one is ripe.

Anyway. Bright/dark green figs are a no-go. Rock hard figs are a no-go. As the figs ripen, they turn color and get heavier. This will cause them to go from perpendicular to the tree branch to more parallel. As it drops, the skin on the neck may crack a bit. It will also start to drip nectar from the bottom of the fig. They are also soft and kind of squishy. A girlfriend of mine also watches the “bellybutton” at the bottom of the fig.

Bellybuttons on figs

She says when it starts to turn pink, that’s a clue for her to pick them. There was conflicting information out there on whether or not they continue to ripen once picked, so I’m not sure what to tell you about that. My girlfriend who has been figging for years says she picks hers a bit early to keep the birds from getting them and leaves them on the counter to ripen. That’s how she rolls. I found this website to have helpful progression pictures of figs as they ripen. You should check it out!

See how the neck is starting to crack on the right?

 

Let’s talk prosciutto, a quick moment. It is, to be truthful, kind of a pricey ingredient. However, in my opinion, a few slices go quite a long way. For instance, last week I bought six slices at Central Market, and I got three meals/snacks out of those slices, and I believe the six slices cost me $4.25 or so. Plus I got a free “tasting” slice while I was standing at the counter. Bonus! If you are lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods or Central Market, the folks working the counter are often nice and knowledgeable enough to talk to you about what you are eating/serving it with so as to help you make the best choice out of your options. They also usually let you taste them so you can make sure to get one you like. I would use this as a measure of a quality meat counter, wherever you are shopping. If they won’t let you taste it before you pay $22.50/lb, then go elsewhere. Your money is too precious to waste on an ingredient you might not like. And remember, you really don’t need a whole pound. While it depends on the number of people you are feeding, in my opinion, 6 – 12 slices will probably be sufficient. But talk to the meat counter staff person, and they should help you out. It will be cut quite thin, and because of how the meat falls apart, one slice can be used to wrap at least 2 fig bites, most likely. If you are like me, you may want to be prudent and get one more slice than you really think you need for the bites as you may find yourself snacking on the prosciutto while you are preparing the rest of the bites. I’m just saying…it’s a possibility. Stay tuned for more prosciutto education as we continue our fig adventures!

The tree of abundant figs!

 

Since the first picking and bite making, I’ve got another quart bag, and still half of the original bag in my fridge. I’m going to have to figure out a preserves recipe or a pie or something, stat! I also should probably try some of them just raw. I might give the blue cheese and prosciutto bites a go. That sounds tasty to me. Perhaps some will find their way into my lunch. Either way, there is a lot of fig-figuring out going on around here. I refuse to let them all go to the birds. I’m a quick learner, so back off, birdies! I’ll keep sharing my adventures. It was recently suggested to me by a Food Network star (via Twitter – how fun!) to try them roasted with a balsamic-garam masala drizzle. So what that I don’t know how to make that? I’ll figure it out and keep you posted! In the meantime, how do you like to eat figs? What are your tips for how to know how they are ripe? I’d love to hear! Happy eating!

 
I’m still working on figuring out nutritional information for my figs. I will report back when I find something out!