Well, it's definitely winter. I'm back on my citrus kick (not that I was ever really off it, but I bought something in the neighborhood of 10 lemons this week, all of which had a specific purpose). I've been dying to make crêpes ever since I got a couple of sturdy, super-nonstick pans for Christmas, and so these crêpes were born. When I was in Paris (sigh...), there was a crêpe stand down the block from me, and it took everything I had not to grab a crêpe every day (and even when I allowed myself to get one for lunch while I was out, it was generally a Nutella one - a questionable meal). The crêpe stands in Paris are fantastic - just large enough for a big, round griddle and a few toddler-sized jars of Nutella. The crêpe-makers expertly pour just the right amount of batter onto the griddle and sweep it into a paper-thin circle using a tool that looks very much like a squeegee. I don't know how they do it, but every. single. time. they manage to flip this giant, papery crêpe without a single tear. They then spread Nutella (or other fillings, but honestly if Nutella isn't one of them, what's the point?) over the crêpe and fold it into quarters, forming a nice, neat package that they slide into a paper cone. The crêpe and filling are piping hot and almost burn your hands through the cone, but it's so worth it.
One time, out of curiosity, I ordered a crêpe au sucre. Note that this is different from a crêpe sucrée. The former is a sugar crêpe, while the latter, literally translated, means "sugary crêpe". Properly translated, this is a sweet crêpe (as opposed to the savory crêpe, or crêpe salée, which literally means "salty crêpe". French is weird). A sugar crêpe just didn't seem to have the necessary sophistication to be sold in Paris, even on the streets*. Of course, once I took a bite, I understood. There really weren't any bells and whistles, but the sugar started to melt under the heat of the griddle and it was fantastic. This recipe is a riff on that wonderful crêpe. I couldn't resist adding some lemon!
* Then again, this is the city that sells waffles on the street, so I should know better than to question them.
Lemon Sugar Crêpes
Yield: 20 5.5-inch crêpes and a wonderfully excessive amount of lemon sugar (1 pint)1
Lemon sugar adapted from Martha Stewart, crêpes adapted from From Julia Child's Kitchen
For the lemon sugar:
3 large lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
For the crêpes:
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt (I used table salt)
3 tbsp melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
Melted butter or peanut oil, as needed for brushing the pan
- Make the lemon sugar: Zest the lemons and mix the zest with the sugar on a large baking sheet. Work the zest into the sugar with your fingers to help release the fragrant oils in the zest2. Allow to dry on the baking sheet for an hour or two (I did this overnight and just broke up any clumps in the morning). Place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator (where it will last for quite some time). I did this a few days ahead and I think it helped really infuse the sugar with the lemony flavor.
- Make the crepes: Place eggs in a blender and pulse to combine yolks and whites. Add all ingredients except flour and pulse again to combine. Add flour and blend until very smooth (if you don't have a blender, you can do this with a whisk and some elbow grease). Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
- Once the batter has rested, remove from the fridge and stir to recombine. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat (I used an 8-inch skillet) until a drop of water sizzles on contact.
- If your pan is not nonstick or if you are uncertain about whether the crêpes will stick, brush the pan with a light coating of melted butter or peanut oil3.
- Pour a small amount of batter in the center of the pan (I've also seen that some people have success tilting the pan and pooling the batter on one side first), and immediately swirl to coat the pan evenly with batter. Your first one (...five...ten...) will likely look terrible. They will still taste delicious!
- Once the bottom is evenly browned, use your thinnest, most flexible spatula to flip the crêpe. Sprinkle one half with a light dusting of lemon sugar. Once the bottom has brown spots all over, fold the non-sugared half on top of the sugared half, then fold in half again to form a triangle. Transfer to a wire rack and enjoy as soon as you can pick up the crêpe without burning yourself!
- If you can't think of what to do with this much lemon sugar (stir it into tea, roll cookies in it, caramelize it just to see what happens, etc.), you can just put a few tbsp of sugar in a bowl and add lemon zest until it tastes good to you.
- Alternatively, you can pulse the zest and sugar in a food processor. I wanted a less homogenous sugar, but the food processor method probably releases the zest flavor better.
- You may not need to oil the pan after the first crêpe - just use the first few as testers.