Love and Crêpes
Valentine’s Day. I have always adored this holiday despite the criticism by many that it is a manufactured opportunity to inflate the cost of roses and chocolate. As a child, mom made the house look like a conversation heart factory exploded. Dad surprised us girls with flowers and box of chocolates. He took great care arranging them on the table so the treats greeted on our way out the door to school in the morning. The same enthusiasm for the holiday transferred well into adulthood. Despite having spent a majority of years as a single person, Valentine’s Days were happily spent sipping playful cocktails with friends or solo and comfy on the couch with a sinful pint of Cherry Garcia and a collection of Sandra Bullock’s greatest hits. Naturally when I met my husband, Valentine’s Day evolved into an event. Since we each have fairly busy lives outside of our marriage, these opportunities to be extra syrupy and to indulge in the finer things become priorities. Our holiday involves a chilled bottle Veuve Cliquot and a screening Casablanca. However this year, I wanted to take the lovey-dovey holiday even further with a fun experience: a crêpe festival.
The crêpe festival was the result of two factors. First, La Chandeleur – the beloved French crêpe holiday that recently occurred in the beginning of February. While I munched on a scrumptious jambon and brie crêpe during a speedy lunch break that day, I barely experienced the celebration. Unacceptable! Second, my husband is obsessed with crêpes. Obsessed. During our trip to Paris last March, I was sure that with one accidental tumble, he’d profusely bleed Nutella. We ate a lot of crêpes. Since then we both agreed that we needed crêpe gear and integrate the traditional french sweet into everyday life. Now nearly a year later, I finally bought a griddle and a book of traditional recipes, launching the first annual Crêpe Festival!
The original plan was to designate a long weekend for crêpe experiments, with the main event on Valentine’s Day- a Sunday this year. We are newbies. Crêpes are unchartered territory, but I was confident that by the end of the weekend my husband and I would be masters. I perused my new acquisition, The New 101 Crêpes Cookbook by Isabelle Dauphin and plotted a lovely lineup. Savories, sweets, recipes, fillings, and cocktails to pair- the whole kitten-caboodle. Sweets in the morning. Savories in the evening. Nutella or bust!
Then I actually read the recipes. Folks, crêpe-making is a process. My initial worry was the flipping, but I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. While it’s not quantum physics, creating the perfect crêpe is an acquired skill. With the desire to preserve authenticity, I wanted to follow Dauphin’s instructions precisely, which start with preparing the batter and letting it rest at room temperature for an hour. This seemed feasible. Sure. I could use the hour to chop and prepare my fruits and accompaniments. Perhaps, this would be time-consuming, but the cooking would be simple… right? Wrong again.
As you will see below, I had some major issues achieving the perfectly round sweet crêpe. In fact, my first attempts were downright sad. When pouring the batter onto the preheated griddle, one has approximately five seconds to spread and distribute the batter. The spreader itself should barely touch the batter when spreading around the griddle. All I could think of was the intro of the show, 24, with Kiefer Sutherland. Tik. Tok. Tik. Tok. Don’t mess this up, Jess. This is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Timing is everything.
So you may feel the intensity…
Many attempts and a lot of wasted batter later, and I finally managed to make a mostly round crêpe. Voila! I was so proud after the tedious effort that I didn’t even want to eat it… until I remembered we had cookie butter and strawberries. The original plan was to make the entire batch, which would be enough to last the remainder of the weekend. Eat a few sweet crêpes now, save the rest for later. Instead of the initial twenty, as my trusty book instructed, we got about eight edible crêpes. Not terrible, but a blatant reminder that practice indeed makes perfect.
No worries- the festival was not ruined… yet. I still had savory buckwheat crêpe recipes planned for dinner. Oh buckwheat. You are a fickle, fickle ingredient. The buckwheat crêpes were terrible. I am unsure if I prepared the batter incorrectly, or if it was just a bad recipe, but of the 20 intended from that batch, we had six ‘successful’ crêpes. I use ‘successful’ loosely because these did not resemble any savory crêpe I have ever seen. Envision shaved tree bark on a plate. The taste was not much better either. To give you the best simulated experience- go find a cardboard box that has been sitting in your basement for a few years, close your eyes, and lick it. Even with a seemingly delicious pork sausage filling, it was disgusting.
The grand crêpe festival lasted Valentine’s Day only. Between preparation and cleanup, it was an all-day affair. Overall, I recommend Dauphin’s cookbook. She thoroughly explains the process and her instructions are easy to follow, even providing a chart on crêpe-folding techniques. She includes ample traditional non-traditional recipes. Despite the many unexpected setbacks, the experiment itself was loaded with laughs. Bits of batter splatter still lurk within the kitchen’s many nooks. In time, I’m sure we’ll rival the great crêpe-makers of France. For now, I will thoroughly enjoy the training.
À la prochaine!