I know what most people think of crêpes — they’re difficult, they require planning ahead, they’re fussy (coughFrench), they rip easily, the first one always goes in the trash — but I respectfully disagree, especially about that last bit (it goes in the nearest mouth). In fact, I think think that a great big stack of crêpes and a few easy fixings are the best thing that can happen to brunch. Hear me out:
- The batter takes 120 seconds to assemble (including the 30 to melt the butter in the microwave).
- You can prepare the batter 1 hour or 4 days before you need it; it doesn’t mind rushing or neglect.
- Cooked crêpes are basically magic — you can stack them hot or cold, they don’t stick to each other. It’s like some sort of pancake voodoo.
- They reheat like a charm so don’t you dare spend the morning frying crêpes. Make them all the day before and be amazed that the difference once rewarmed is undetectable.
- Some people like Nutella and berries with breakfast, other people like ham and cheese. Crêpes are the ideal foundation for both.
- The vast majority of things that taste good on crêpes require little more prep than chopping, if that — fruit or jam, cheese, dollops of ricotta or yogurt or cured meats. These, too, are meant to be prepared ahead, if you like to sleep in on brunch mornings as much as me.
- Think taco bars are fun? This is the fancy brunch equivalent. Until you can put sprinkles on tacos (I implore you: just say no), crêpes are going to win this round.
- If you’re besieged by tearing, flimsy exasperating to make crêpes, I think you’re due for a new recipe. Like mine.
My go-to crêpe recipe is four ingredients in one bowl, everything in at once, no fuss. What makes it easier than most is that it’s has a tiny bit more heft to it and a little less terrifyingly fragile laciness, which is to say it’s completely headache-free to cook, an ideal housing for any fillings you can dream up, and nobody — and certainly nobody you’d want over for brunch — will be the wiser.
Which brings me to my two rules for putting out a great crêpe bar (this Sunday, perhaps?):
First, as we discussed, make all of your crêpes in advance and rewarm them when needed — if you’re standing over a hot skillet when people arrive, there’s a 99% chance you are not going to enjoy your party.
Finally, there are, like, a million ways to make crêpes taste good and do not even try to make 10 of them. Do not make yourself crazy. I vote for two sweet and two savory ideas (or, at most, three of each; many ideas listed below the recipe) and really not more than one to two of them should require any work beyond chopping. People who really want a sweet crêpes are almost certainly going to see the chocolate spread option and stop looking; the remaining handful will always be happy with berries and cream. For the savory, one vegetarian and one with meat. Think of it like a good restaurant menu: I feel positively stressed when a menu is too long. I desperately want the chef to just tell me which 5 things s/he makes best and let me choose from there. LET’S BE THAT CHEF.
One year ago: Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
Two years ago: Blue Sky Bran Muffins
Three years ago: Spring Vegetable Potstickers
Four years ago: Bacon Egg and Leek Risotto
Five years ago: Ribboned Asparagus Salad with Lemon
Six years ago: Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits and Creamed Chard and Spring Onions and Avocado Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing
Seven years ago: Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper and Pasta with Fava, Tomatoes and Sausage, Buttermilk Ice Cream and Black Bread
Eight years ago: Jim Lahey’s Pizza Bianca and Brownie Roll-Out Cookies
Nine years ago: Tequila Lime Chicken + Green Onion Slaw
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
1.5 Years Ago: Smoked Whitefish Dip with Horseradish
2.5 Years Ago: Spinach and Egg Pizzettes
3.5 Years Ago: Apple Cider Caramels
4.5 Years Ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
Yield: 11 to 12 9-inch crêpes
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering pan
1 1/4 cup (295 ml) milk (and sometimes a splash more)
4 large eggs
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
Two pinches of salt
In the bottom of a large bowl, melt your butter halfway, then stir until fully melted. (This keep it from getting so hot that it will prematurely cook the eggs.) Add milk, eggs, flour and salt and whisk to combine. It’s going to be a little lumpy. It’s going to be okay. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour and up to 4 days until needed.
When ready to cook, cover a large plate or platter with a layer of paper towels. Remove plastic from batter bowl and whisk to remove any remaining lumps.
Quick directions for the confident: Heat skillet over medium-low. Butter skillet. Ladle in 1/4 cup batter, roll around. Cook until golden underneath, flip. Repeat, adjusting heat and re-buttering skillet as needed.
Detailed directions for the nervous: Heat a skillet (a nonstick will give you the fewest headaches; I use this discontinued one) over medium-low. When hot, lightly butter it. Ladle in 1/4 cup batter (this amount for a 9/10-inch) and tilt and roll the pan until the bottom is covered. If this is extremely difficult cover because the batter is too thick, whisk in another splash of milk. If a stubborn hole won’t easily fill with batter, add a drop on top of it to fill it in; it will all be the same in the end.
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, until faintly golden underneath. If this happens too quickly, reduce heat to low. Use a long thin spatula (I swear by a flexible fish spatula as well as a small offset, for this an all things in the kitchen) that can really get under the crêpe through the middle and lift and flip it over. Spatula not long enough? Put one in each hand, use the first one to lift as much as possible, and the second one to get under the crêpe further and finish the job. If it folds or crinkles, don’t fret, it’s surprisingly easy to stretch out wrinkles and shimmy the crêpe back flat. If it tears, it likely would have benefitted from another 20 seconds cooking time to better firm up underneath. Cook on the second side for 20 to 30 seconds, then slid out onto prepared platter.
Repeat with remaining batter. I do not need to rebutter a good nonstick between crêpes, only every 3 or 4. Crêpes, even warm, can be stacked and they will not stick to each other.
To store: Wrap stack of crêpes in plastic, foil or place in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
To rewarm: Arrange in a baking dish (overlapped is fine) covered with foil and warm in a 250 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve: With a couple sweet and savory toppings. For ideas, look no further:
Sweet topping ideas
- berries (mascerated in a bit of lemon and pinch of sugar or not) + mascarpone + mint
- lemon wedges + powdered sugar (my Parisian street favorite)
- honey + ricotta (homemade, if you’re crazy enough) + orange zest + sea salt
- nutella (or peanutella) + sprinkles
- dulce de leche (homemade or storebought) + bananas + chopped salted peanuts or pistachios
- cream cheese sweetened with a little brown sugar + jam
Savory topping ideas
- proscuitto or another thin-sliced cured meat + cheese (I show deli ham and emmentaler)
- quick-sauteed mushrooms with cream + chives (shown)
- slow-roasted tomatoes (even good with offseason grape tomatoes) + soft goat cheese
- a seasonal roasted, chilled vegetable (thin asparagus, for example) + mixed green pesto (parsley, arugula and basil would be my choice here)
- avocado + sprouts
- creme fraiche or sour cream and caviar (bet you can’t guess who suggested that)