Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crêpes for Dinner

Today is a holiday in France called "La Chandeleur"--not a holiday where you get off work, unfortunately, but a small holiday nonetheless. For the historical background, it celebrates the day Jesus was presented to the Temple of Jerusalem and the Virgin Mary was purified, or something like that. "Chandeleur" comes from chandelles, or candles, used to represent purification. People would bring candles back from mass and put them on their windowsill. Today, however, people don't really remember February 2nd for its religious meaning, but rather for the crêpes we feast on every year. Apparently, an old superstition said that if you didn't make crêpes on Chandeleur, then the wheat crops would be bad throughout the year to come.

Anyway, whatever the true meaning is, I don't think twice when I get the opportunity to eat sweet crêpes as dinner. Sure, you could have savory ones, but I still like to stick to how things were done when I was young.

Did you ever have "breakfast for dinner" nights at home when you were little? We never officially had those, but we did have crêpe nights. Maman would make classic sweet crepes and I would fill them up with sugar, Nutella or jam. I would roll them up like big cigars and chomp away happily, so glad that I could legitimately satisfy my sweet tooth along with the rest of my family.

Speaking of cigars, I remembered the strangest thing the other day. For a short while, when I was ten or so, I took a liking to chocolate cigarettes. Before any of you scream out in outrage on how bad an influence they are for kids, I'd like to add that I have never taken up smoking since, and certainly don't plan on it. Chocolate cigarettes were, in one word, cool. For me at least: the packs had Anglo-sounding names like "Hillsbury" and portrayed large plantation-like mansions sitting on top of pastel hills. I would sit at my desk and try to look as nonchalant as possible, "smoking" my "cigarette" while I added and multiplied fractions, pretending I was on some kind of literary debate show. I came to realize, however, that the more I puffed on my cigarette, the more the paper surrounding the chocolate became moist and decomposed into my mouth. My sour powder candy-filled "lighter" couldn't do anything to help out, and I gradually quit "smoking".

I guess the same kind of thing happened with rolling my crêpes into cigars. Now, I like them as flat as possible to get as many bites as possible out of them, but at home I still roll them up for the sake of nostalgia. 

Fig jam and crêpes, a winning combination

I happily discovered I'm far from being alone in my love of crêpes and their infinite topping possibilities, so my friend Claire invited me over for Chandeleur dinner. Dulce de leche, homemade fig jam, sugar, and chocolate were all in attendance. The recipe for crêpes is simple, and for those watching their weight, nearly fat-free. Basically, that means you can pile up all the toppings you want without feeling guilty in the least.


Yummy honey from the Vosges mountains

My advice? Go for a simple combination of sugar and melted salted butter on your crêpe. Then you can go ahead and roll it, fold it, or rub it in your face. Either way, it'll be good.

Pâte à crêpes
makes 500g (enough for a dozen crêpes, approximately)

2 eggs
1/3 oz. butter (10g)
3.5 oz. flour (100g)
1/2 scraped vanilla pod
1/2TS fine salt
8.5 oz. (1 cup) milk (25cl)
2TB water

Beat eggs in a small bowl. In a saucepan, melt butter. 

In a large bowl, mix flour, vanilla, eggs and salt. Add milk and water, and mix. Add melted butter and incorporate well.

Let batter rest for at least 2 hours prior to using. Right before making the crêpes, add a scant tablespoon water to the batter.

Heat a non-stick pan or special crêpe skillet over medium-high heat. Moisten a paper towel with a neutral oil, and rub across skillet. Ladle batter into pan, trying to keep it thin. When the bottom side becomes golden, flip over and cook until both sides are similar in color. 

Top it while it's hot!
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Emily said...

I'm so very jealous. I love crèpes! Especially with a fig jam like that.

I'm also jealous that you live in Paris. :(

Paris Pastry said...

I have exactly the same thing with rolling up the crepes when I was little, but now I eat them flat so I eat more bites, take a longer time to eat them and therefore, eat less! I love spreading home-made strawberry jam & powdered sugar on them.

ImplausibleYarn said...

I'm fairly new to the world of crepes. I'm a huge fan of banana and nuetella or just some maple syrup and eat them like american style pancakes.

Mercotte said...

Bien fine comme je les aime on peut les manger sans culpabiliser !

Barbara said...

I often have breakfast for dinner! And we did as kids, too. We always thought it was a treat! And it usually involved pancakes and syrup in one form or another.

Crepes are divine. No question. Any time of the day, filled with just about anything.

claudia said...

i make crêpes for my middle school students and they LOVE them, esp. with A LOT of nutella!!

Merisi said...

Your crêpes look delicious!
Viennese have their own version, usually filled with apricot jam from the Wachau Danube valley.

The feast day of "La Chandeleur" marked the end of Christmas season in the good old days in Austria, and the day the Christmas tree was removed from one's home.

Lucie said...

Merisi, thanks for the historical insight! It's always fun to find out how food traditions started and how they differ from country to country!

Sinful Southern Sweets said...

Very interesting regarding the holiday. Love hearing the background on different foods. I must admit that I have never had a crepe. Isn't that sad?!?!? But who knew they were so easy to make. I'll certainly change my crepe status by the weekend.

Oh, and I loved your chocolate cigar story...Too funny!!

grace said...

fact: i could eat breakfast-type foods for every meal and be completely satisfied.
fact: i cannot make a crepe to save my life. i'm impressed by your crepe-prowess. :)

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

I'm full grown and we still have "breakfast for dinner" nights!! :)