Meandering through the streets of Paris, your nose will almost certainly lead you to a crêpe stand stocked with life’s essentials—carbs, chocolate, and cheer. There, crêpes turn into artistic performances where the batter is swirled on a hot griddle then flipped and twisted in several deft hand movements into triangles swollen with sweet or savory accoutrements. Twenty ounce containers of Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread, stand guard over the stands while the culinary accessories such as lemons and sugar border the surrounding cart. Filled with Nutella and bananas or eggs and cheese, crêpes are multi-faceted pancakes with international flare, lending a sense of portability to an otherwise common carbohydrate. They are to Paris as soft pretzels are to Philadelphia: portable, cheap, and delicious.
Outside the French borders, crêperies and even crêpes themselves used to be nonexistent or unknown in American food culture. In more recent years however, this side of the Atlantic has seen a steady rise in the appearance of crêpes in commonplace gastronomic parlance and platters as the cultural interest in food has increased. Locally, Sofi’s Crêpes, with a location near the Charles Théâtre and another in Belvedere Square, has incorporated the batter swirling techniques of Paris along with their triangular folding techniques for enhanced portability. Basically, the crêpes of Parisian food carts are going mainstream.
Inspired by a recent crêpe-making session in conjunction with the recent performance of La Malade Imaginaire, my friend and I decided that we would attempt to master crêpes, or at the very least, eat a lot of Nutella if the crêpes turned out to be a flop. We watched Julia Child, French chef master for the masses, adeptly wield the crêpe pan while adding witticisms here and there about the right way to hold a pan, in addition to several YouTube videos where the characters either botched/spoofed the entire process or made our commonroom attempts seem well, rather common.
Recreating a Parisian crêperie, we donned our most francophile outfits, flung scarves around our necks in complicated knotwork, and spoke in a French-English fusion with the final moments of the NCAA Final Four blasting in the background. With deft motions of our wrists, we swirled the batter in circular motions around the pan, just as Julia and her YouTube culinary compadres had demonstrated. We waited for the bubbles to rise in the pan, then flicked the spatula under the crêpe, and voilà! the crêpes almost seemed to magically stack themselves on the plate next to the stove.
Stocked with our own jar of Nutella and some butter and sugar, we assembled our crêpes and doled them out to our basketball-watching-and-cheering friends, who seemed almost as amazed by our crêpes as they were by Kansas continuing onto the next round of the playoffs. Wishing each other a rousing round of, “Bon appétits!” we raised our crêpes in the air in salutation to a piece of Paris brought to Goucher, Nutella and all.
(can be used for savory or sweet crêpes)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. milk (regular, soy, or almond)
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tbs. melted butter, unsalted
Whisk together flour and eggs in a large bowl. Gradually add milk and water. Continue beating and add salt and butter and mix until smooth.
Heat a medium pan (about an 8 inch diameter) over a medium-hot stove. Grease with butter or spray add about 1/3 c. of batter. Swirl around in a circular motion making sure to cover the surface of the pan.
When bubbles begin to form in the crepe, check the underside with a spatula, and then flip when the color turns golden brown. Heat the other side for a few more moments until similar in color. Remove from pan with spatula and serve with nutella, butter and sugar, or lemon juice and sugar.