My Favorite Buckwheat Crêpes

Sunday February 26, 2017

I adapted my first buckwheat crêpes from this old Chez Panisse recipe that uses beer for the liquid; they are delightfully light-flavored despite the addition of the often intensely musky buckwheat. This recipe utilizes lots of eggs and flavorful flat beer in the batter. Every time I would post a recipe for buckwheat crepes in the San Jose Mercury News, it was a standing joke that there was no buckwheat flour to be found in a 50-mile radius as it was sold out. You can always order buckwheat flour by mail from Bob’s Red Mill.

Once a staple in the diet of both the rich and the poor, buckwheat crêpes are traditional in the Brittany area of France.  The pancakes are traditionally cooked on large, round iron hotplates called a bilig. A special batter ladle, called a rozell, and a long narrow wooden paddle designed for turning the crêpes, called a spanell, are traditionally used.

They are good for dessert rolled with ice cream and topped with hot fudge or orange sauce; or serve just plain, folded in four and dripping with butter and strawberry jam. Savory crepes are good with cheese and mushrooms, a fried egg, any vegetable really. In crepe restaurants in France, a favorite rendezvous for friends meeting for dinner, I would have a savory crepe for the main dish, a salad, then a sweet crepe for dessert. If you love crepes, my Quick Bread book has an entire chapter on crepes, each one more delicious than the next. Here is a taste.

Yield:  About sixteen 7- to 8-inch crêpes

1 3/4 cups milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cups light buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 tablespoon light olive oil or walnut oil

1 cup flat beer, room temperature


1.  Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan or heat in the microwave until the butter is melted.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, eggs, oil, and beer.  Beat hard with a whisk or immersion blender 15 seconds.  Add the warm milk mixture and beat 1 minute, until very creamy. The batter may also be beaten with your outstretched hand for 10 minutes, in the old farmstead fashion.  The batter will be the consistency of smooth heavy cream.  The batter may also be mixed in a blender or food processor.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest about 3 hours.  The batter can also be refrigerated up to 1 day and brought to room temperature before baking.

Use 1/4 cup batter and an 8-inch crêpe pan.

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Crepes: Substitute a gluten free all-purpose flour mix for the all-purpose flour.

How To Cook Crêpes

The secret to perfect crêpes is the correct heat, the consistency of the batter, and your quick wrist movements to distribute the batter over the bottom of the pan.  Practice is the key here to gaining culinary confidence.  As a caterer, I had requests for crêpes often and used the opportunity of making 50 crêpes per batch to get good at making them.

Melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil, for brushing the pan

Crêpe batter

1.  Assemble your work space with everything you will need for cooking the crêpes before baking, so as to be able to work uninterrupted.  Spread out a large clean kitchen towel on which to lay the crêpes after baking (in Brittany there are ribbed wooden boards specially for this purpose).  Set out a measuring cup or small ladle for the batter and a long metal cake spatula or wooden crêpe tongs for flipping.  Have a piece of paper towel, natural bristle brush (one with plastic bristles will melt), or a piece of cloth for brushing the hot pan with a thin layer of oil, ust enough to keep the batter from sticking.

2.  Brush your pan with some oil or spray with a vegetable cooking spray (if you want to use cooking spray for the oiling between crêpes, be sure to remove the pan from the heat source as you spray).  Heat your crêpe pan, skillet, or nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.  Stir the batter a few times.

3.  Remove the pan from the heat and immediately ladle in desired amount of the batter, tilting and rotating the pan quickly in all directions to coat the entire surface evenly.  If the batter does not spread quickly, it is too thick; thin with water.  If the batter stiffens when poured into the pan, the pan is too hot.  (If the crêpes have holes, fill in with a few drops of batter; this is a common beginning problem that disappears when you master the tilting of the pan.).  If you have too much batter, just lift the pan and pour the excess back into the bowl of batter.  Plan on a few uneven crêpes at first while regulating the heat and thickness of the batter (No matter how many years I have been making crêpes, it still takes a few to get the rhythm unless I make them every day.  Sometimes it takes a few to get the right look.).  Return the pan to the heat.  In about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, the edges will lightly browned and lifting up slightly off the pan and the top set and almost dry.  Slide the long spatula under and turn carefully to prevent tearing.  Cook briefly, just until brown in spots but not until crispy, 30 seconds.  The second side is never as attractive in appearance as the first (when you fill, keep the first side on the outside.).  These crêpes should remain soft, so don’t overcook.   Invert the pan to release the crêpe onto the clean dish towel.  This goes very quickly once you get going and you can use two pans at once.

4.  Continue to make the crêpes in this manner, stirring the batter and greasing the pan lightly as needed before cooking each pancake.  If using within a few hours, cover the crêpes with another towel for a few hours.

Storing and Reheating Crêpes

If you are not going to use the crêpe right away, you can wrap the cooled crêpes in plastic or slip into a self-sealing plastic bag and refrigerate up to 3 days, or freeze, in plastic freezer bags, up to 1 month.  Wrap in stacks that will be the amount you are going to use.  Let the refrigerated crêpes stand at room temperature 1 hour before filling so they won’t tear as you separate them.  After being frozen, the crêpes must be defrosted in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter and be brought back to room temperature before separating to avoid tearing.  A package of 6 crêpes takes only 20 to 30 minutes to defrost.  Delicate crêpes can be stacked with some waxed paper in between to keep them perfect.  To reheat, wrap your stack in foil and keep in a 325º oven for 15 minutes.  Warmed crêpes separate the easiest.  You need to do this if you are going to fill and serve.  Room temperature crêpes can just be filled, as they are going to be warmed in the oven with their filling.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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