In the City of Lights, where the Eifel Tower stands tall, numerous crêperies bustle with life … at side walk cafes, sit- down restaurants and takeaway windows, everyone is enjoying but one famous dish. Crêpes. Sweet or savoury, eaten hot and off the iron cast pan, this dish is exquisite. Made from a batter of flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt, sugar, water and oil, crepes are thin and transparent like muslin, they have a golden brown hue and their edges resemble a fine lace. Made either soft or crispy, these French pancakes look a lot like our South Indian Dosa’s. Crepes are very versatile and malleable. Their fillings can be complex and sophisticated or as simple as a dollop of herb butter, a dice of chilies, or crumbled sheep or goat cheese. You can make a meal entirely of crepes – vegetables, cheeses, and meats for dinner Or, for sweet bite-fulls, tuck in some grated bittersweet chocolate or white or dark chocolate chips, spread with jam and sprinkle with powdered sugar, or sprinkle with sugar and splash with lemon juice. And what’s more, their roll-up portability makes them the perfect fast food.
Traditionally crepes are eaten to celebrate renewal, family life, and hope for good fortune and happiness ahead. It is customary to touch the handle of the frying pan and make a wish while the pancake is turned, holding a coin in the hand.
Most cuisines all over the world make crêpes in one form or another. There is the Italian crespella, the French crêpe, the Chinese mandarin pancake, the Mexican tortilla, the Indian dosa and the Russian blinchki, Scandinavian plattars, Jewish blintzes, Hungarian palacsintas, Greek kreps and Ethiopian anjara. Even the English have created their own twiston the crepe. They are a bit thicker and sweeter in the UK. A bit like the pancake but thinner, and a bit like the crepe but thicker … The English always seem to have their own personal opinions and versions on food globally.
Turning out a batch of the aromatic butter-browned pancakes is a rewarding endeavor. Assembling them is swift and can often be done ahead. With a stack of these tender discs on hand, you will have myriad serving possibilities for a happy repast any time of day. Crêpes are ideal to make in advance and refrigerate or freeze, to fill later for a party or informal gathering. They are easy, dramatic, and fun to serve.
Extremely popular you can see these popping up on many menus at hip and chick restaurants all over India and a favourite with the younger generation.
Ingredients for Crepe Batter
225 gm plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
500 ml whole fat milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
50 gm unsalted butter, melted, plus extra melted butter to grease
For the Orange Sauce
250 ml strained fresh orange juice
110 gm caster sugar
Icing sugar to dust
Segments of orange to serve
Spiced Cheese filling
400 gm fresh soft cottage cheese/paneer crumbled
100 gms softened cream cheese
35 gm currants
3 tbsps pure icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the egg, milk, melted butter, sugar and a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth. Crêpe batter should be about as thick as heavy cream. If it is too thick, thin it with a little water. If it is too thin, additional flour can be added. Cover the batter with cling film and leave in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.
Meanwhile for the cheese filling, stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined.
For the sauce, place the orange juice and caster sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Now increase the heat to high and simmer rapidly, stirring occasional for about 10 mins or the mixture is a light syrupy consistency.
Heat a crepe pan (ideally a dosa tawa would be just perfect) or a medium sized non-stick frying pan, over medium fire. Then brush the base with the melted butter. For each crepe add a large ladle of batter to the pan and swirl quickly to cover the base. Spread it out evenly like you spread a dosa. Cook for 1 minute, then lift the outer edge of the crepe with a flat spatula and flip it over. Cook for a further 30 seconds or until golden Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and stack up the crepes.
Now to finish, spread a heaped tablespoon of the cheese filling over a quarter of each crepe and fold into quarters. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium fire and brush with melted butter. Working in batches, add the filled and folded crepes to the frying pan and cook for about 30 seconds each side. To serve, place 2 crepes on each plate. Dust with icing sugar and drizzle with warm orange sauce and top it up with the orange segments.