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French Crêpes From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

French Crêpes From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

From Auguste Escoffier to lemon zest, 26 facts and figures about French crepes, very think pancakes usually made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour.

By FDL on

Auguste Escoffier. The Crêpe Suzette was invented in 1903 by the “king” of French chefs, Escoffier, and for the first two decades of the 1900s was considered to be the ultimate in luxury desserts. It is prepared with 'beurre Suzette', a melted butter-based sauce with caramelized sugar, juice of orange and tangerine, with the addition of Curaçao or Grand Marnier liquor.

Bretonne. In Breton, they are called krampouezh and are a culinary speciality of this region of Northern France. There are two basic types: either made from wheat flour mixed with milk and eggs and generally eaten as a sweet, or using buckwheat flour, traditionally mixed with water and salt and served with a savoury filling.

Crispus. Their name derives from the Latin word Crispus (crinkly, undulated), or from Greek Χρισπος (crispos, wrapped, rolled up).

Demi-lune. Half-moon: is one of the usual shapes in which crepes are presented. They may also be folded over twice to form a triangle, simple rolled or 'en pannequet', which means that the filling is placed in the middle and the opposite edges are tucked in to form a sort of parcel.

Europe. Generally thought to be a typical dish of French cuisine, variations on the crepe theme do, however, exist in other European countries, from the filloa in Galicia, Spain, to the Dutch pannenkoek and the Rumanian lătită.

Flambé. The Crêpe Suzette will forever be associated with the ethereal blue flame of its flambé preparation: and yet one French school of thought denies the authenticity of 'flambage' , claiming that it was never contemplated in the original recipe.

Galettoire. Or galé(t)ière. The Breton equivalent of a crêpe pan is a pan without a rim or with very low sides for cooking crêpes (called 'gallettes' in Breton). Not to be confused with the 'billig' (or 'pilling'), the Breton name for the heavy grid assembled onto a tripod and positioned over a heat source, also used for cooking crepes.

Hard liquor. Its addition to the crepe mixture is not only recommended for its flavour but also to break down any lumps.

IX Century. It was in this period that the recipe we know today containing wheat flour became widespread.

Jour des Crêpes. National pancake day in France: 2 February is the day on which the Christian feast of Candelora used to be celebrated and it was the custom to make a wish when the crepe was flipped over in the pan – taking care not to drop it!

Kaiserschmarrn. From the German words Kaiser meaning 'Emperor', and Schmarr(e)n 'Sweet pancake', this is one of the most well-known Austrian desserts to be found all over the area which was formerly the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is basically a thick crepe that is shredded and sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with blackcurrant jam, bilberry jam or apple sauce.

Lambig. This is the name of an apple brandy distilled from cider in Brittany which is sometimes added to the crêpe batter, in alternative to other types of alcohol such as Calvados, rum or beer.

Milk. This is the liquid we mix crêpe batter with today. In the Middle Ages, however, wine mixed with water was used instead.

No 1. The first – and also the last – crêpe is given to the cat. Or to the dog or to whoever offers to eat it… This custom derives from the fact that the first one out of the pan is never a success...

Oven-baked. Many crêpe-based regional dishes are then baked in the oven au gratin. Like the French recipe Ficelle picarde, made from ham, mushrooms and cream. Crêpes are often used in Italy as a refined alternative to lasagne.

Palacsinta. In various countries of Central Europe, there is a popular speciality very similar to crêpes called palacsinta, which may also be prepared in sweet and savoury dishes. These versions are normally thicker and softer than crepes and are often rolled up like cannelloni.

Québec. In Québec, thick crêpes are served as traditional fare in the cabanes à sucre, the small sugar shack farms where maple based products are produced. The typical “sugaring off” meals are consumed from March to April and generally consist of broad beans, pork fat and ham along with typical maple products.

Regular. The standard French crêpe – in its savoury version – is known as Complète: grated cheese, ham and egg.

Soup. In some types of soup and consommé, crêpes are cut up into strips and added to the liquid, which is usually a meat broth, as in the case of the Austrian Frittatensuppe.

Teramo. There is a widespread use of crêpes in Teramo province, in Abruzzo, Italy. The so-called scrippelle 'mbusse – served wet – are rolled up with grated pecorino cheese inside and sprinkled with piping hot broth made from boiling fowl. This is a typical dish for eating during Carnival.

Ukranian crêpes. Blinis are a Russian-Ukrainian version of crepes. Small and leavened, they symbolize the rebirth of the sun and are excellent when eaten with caviar.

Vôte. This is the name of the Belgian creêpe. The liégeoise variety is made from buckwheat flour and currants, or slices of apple, and sometimes mixed with beer. They can be served either warm with sugar or cold with syrup.

Wrist. A quick action of the wrist is the secret for flipping over crêpes successfully. They have to be “tossed” at a height of about 15 centimetres from the pan.

Xpress. Crêpes are an ancient and ever popular form of ‘street food’; in France, fast food crêperies have sprung up everywhere.

Yeast. Crepes can be prepared using different types of flour or batters, but one characteristic sets them apart from other similar recipes such as American pancakes or blinis: the traditional French recipe does not contain yeast – although some regional specialities of this country do, such as the tourtou of Limousin and the bourriol eaten in Auvergne.

Zest. Lemon or orange zest is often grated into the crêpe batter – crêpes Suzette comprised – to add a refined aroma of sweetness.

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