The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 9, 2013

Throwback recipes inspire modern crepe craze

By Alexandra Nicolas
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — While fondue mostly stayed back in the 1950s and '60s, crepes have been making a comeback. Crepes, traditionally a thin French pancake, have recently risen in popularity again in the United States.

Creperies continue to open in cities nationwide, and many companies are now selling prepackaged versions of the French street food to those unwilling or unable to make them at home.

At the heart of the crepe -- either sweetened or unsweetened, depending on its filling -- is the perfect base for any number of dishes, from traditional Crepes Suzette to pizza crepes. For Christmas, my best friend and former Joplin Globe intern, Laura Dimmit, got a copy of the vintage cookbook "You Can Do Anything with Crepes," by Virginia Pasley and Jane Green. It was first published in 1970.

Aside from the occasional dash of sexism (in the Crepes Suzette recipe, the cook is encouraged to have a gentleman light the dish), the book includes both traditional and non-traditional recipes. Information about the crepe itself and its uses as a dish component is also included./> After I posted pictures from Laura's multi-course New Year's Eve dinner, which included recipes from the book, several people commented online and in person that crepes are either too difficult to make at home or that they thought making crepes required special equipment.

I was surprised by this. I happily admit to the above-average skills my friends and I have in the kitchen, but there is really nothing difficult about making crepes.

While there are many variations, most crepes include a combination of eggs, butter, flour, water, milk, salt and, depending on the filling, a dash of sugar. Some savory crepes include buckwheat flour instead of plain white flour. Other recipes call for a dash of cinnamon or other spices in the batter before cooking.

"You Can Do Anything with Crepes," recommends that you let the batter sit for at least 1 hour (6 hours, ideally) to allow the flour to suitably soak up all the liquid, which makes for a more flavorful crepe -- a technique Laura says is effective.

Once cooked, crepes can be filled, rolled and served or filled, rolled, covered in custard and baked. In the case of Crepes Suzette, finished crepes are added to a sauce made of sugar, Grand Marnier and orange zest. Then, it's flambeed, which, once extinguished, gives the crepes a texture that's almost custard-like.

It's a versatile dish.

Last year, friends and I made an impromptu crepe breakfast for my other best friend, Haley. We used only what she had in the pantry and a skillet -- no special equipment required.

So, to the claim that you can do anything with crepes, I'd like to add that anyone can do anything with crepes. The first recipe for basic crepes has been adapted from several sources. The cinnamon toast crepes and the breakfast crepes are my variations, while the Crepes Suzette recipe comes from "You Can Do Anything with Crepes."

Basic crepes

2 eggs

1 cup flour (more or less to get the right consistency)

4 tablespoons melted butter

2/3 cup milk

1/2 cup water

Pinch of salt for savory crepes

2 tablespoons sugar for sweet crepes (optional)

Dash of vanilla extract (optional)

Blend all ingredients in a bowl or blender, reserving 1 tablespoon of butter for greasing the pan. Add flour slowly until you have a thin batter. Allow the batter to sit for at least 1 hour (preferably closer to 6 hours) in the fridge. Heat small nonstick pan; add butter to coat.

Add enough crepe batter to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. You may have to swirl the pan to get an even layer of batter. Wait 30 seconds, then carefully flip the crepe using a wide spatula.

Remove crepe after 20 seconds or until evenly cooked on both sides. Allow time to cool. Stack with waxed paper in between to refrigerate or freeze, or place on a warm cookie sheet in the oven.

Cinnamon "French toast" crepes

1 batch cooked basic sweet crepes (above) with a dash of cinnamon added to the batter

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon melted butter

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend egg, milk, cinnamon, sugar and melted butter. Fold crepes into quarters and add to baking dish.

Cover crepes with egg mixture. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until egg mixture has absorbed. Serve with dusting of powdered sugar.

Breakfast crepes for Haley

1 batch of basic sweet crepes (above)

2 bananas

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon (or more if you like) Nutella

Slice bananas and caramelize in a nonstick skillet with brown sugar and butter. Should take about 15 minutes on low heat. Spread warm crepe with Nutella. Add caramelized bananas. Roll crepe around filling and serve.

 Crepes Suzette

1 batch basic sweet crepes, folded into quarters

Juice of 2 oranges

Zest of 1 orange

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

4 oz. Triple Sec

2 oz. Grand Marnier

3 oz. cognac

Add butter, sugar, juice and zest to skillet over medium heat. When bubbling, add crepes, folded in quarters, to pan.

Add Triple Sec, then Grand Mariner, then cognac. Carefully, using a lighter or a long match, light the dish.

Can be served while still on fire, but we opted to wait for the liquor to burn off and the flame to extinguish before serving.

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