Gladice is a formidable Frenchwoman who tutored me and my oldest son in French. I met her through a local agency that gave children lessons in cooking, various languages, art and music. Most of the kids were under 6.
Gladice ran her classroom with an iron fist in a velvet glove a la Francaise. Those kids were lined up in neat little rows, all facing her, and were not allowed to speak until spoken to. No bathroom breaks until the designated break time. No arguing, no passing notes, no crying for mom and no mom’s peeking in the door. The mothers were terrified but the kids managed just fine.
At some point Daniel became too old for the class and started tutoring in Gladice’s home and I began lessons as well. It was then that we appreciated her true nature. She was warm, witty and delightful. She treated Daniel like a son and me like a friend. My lesson consisted of sitting on her front porch, drinking iced tea and gossiping in French. My son’s lessons were more structured with grammar and conversation but from time to time she would have some sort of a treat for him. One day she made crepes for him. He raved about them and she kindly gave me the recipe, written in French naturalment.
Crepes are generally pretty straightforward: flour (all purpose, buckwheat or chestnut) eggs, milk and a bit of sugar for sweet crepes. Gladice put in a secret ingredient that made them delightful: a soupçon of dark rum.
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup water
- 3 whole large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour, fluffed up and spooned in
- 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, still wrapped in paper, for the pan
- Jam, granulated sugar and lemon zest and juice, Cointreau, lemon curd or Nutella to finish the crepes.
- Preferably the night before, put the milk, water, eggs, oil, sugar, rum and salt into a blender and blend on low until combined. If you don’t have a blender just wisk the ingredients in a bowl. With blender on low add flour 1/4 cup at a time. Pour in a bowl, cover and place in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
- The next day, heat an 8″ blue steel crepe pan or a 10″ non stick skillet over a medium flame
- Stir batter gently to blend.
- Place a bowl of ice cubes near the stove so you can run your fingers on the ice before you lift the crepe to flip it. If you have asbestos fingers you can skip this step.
- Holding the stick of butter by its paper wrapper and using it like a big crayon draw a thin film of butter over the surface of the pan.
- When the butter sizzles, take a quarter cup measure and pour 1/4 cup of crepe batter in the center of the pan. Quickly swirl the batter around the pan and pour any excess back in the bowl.
- Watch the edges of the crepe, when the start to brown and lift from the pan, run an off set spatula around the edges. If you shake the pan and the crepe is sticking anywhere, slip the spatula under the part that is sticking.
- When the crepe is loosened, grasp the edge of the crepe and flip it o we to the other side. Don’t let it brown too much or your crepes won’t be flexible. You just want to make sure that the this side has no raw batter on it and that it’s cooked a little bit. It will be pale, flecked with little brown specks.
- Once the crepes are cooked, you can spread them with whatever you like. We tend to stand around the kitchen grabbing the crepes out of the pan as soon as they are cooked. You can certainly do more elaborate preparations, nicely plated to serve to guests but in a house full of boys, it’s catch as catch can.
I like to rub the zest of a lemon into about 1/2 cup of sugar. I put some sugar on the crepe and sprinkle it with some fresh juice. I fold it in quarters and eat them hot out of the pan. Daniel likes them flambéed with Cointreau. Place the crepe back in the pan, pale side down. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of Cointreau and ignite with a match or tip the edge of the pan towards the burner flame to ignite it. Let the flame die out and spread the crepe with a little melted butter and a squeeze of orange juice. Nutella needs no explanation but to cut the sweetness and add a little crunch I like to sprinkle the crepes with chopped toasted hazelnuts, once I spread the crepe with Nutella. Crepes spread with lemon curd or passion fruit curd (rarebirdpreserves.com) and fresh fruit is also lovely.
Daniel home from college, making crepes.