Our easy, family recipe for French pancakes, classic ultra thin crêpes that are best served for breakfast, teatime or dessert. Either rolled or folded, serve on their own with just a squeeze of lemon or with a whole range of classic toppings – see all the possible ideas.
How are Crêpes Different from Pancakes?
We love pancakes in our house – especially French pancakes or crêpes, particularly for breakfast or a lazy weekend brunch. Unlike thick, fluffy American or British style pancakes, these are the ultra thin crêpes, almost wafer-like, that are more popular in France. Moreover, we don’t just enjoy them to celebrate Mardi Gras, but at any time of year.
To compromise with the thicker pancakes, I’ll make Corsican style Scotch Pancakes using chestnut flour for my Corsican husband. These Scotch pancakes are a married mix of Scotland and Corsica so I recommend you also try the recipe, also known as Drop Scones – perfect for breakfast or teatime, spread with butter or jam.
What are the Main Pancake Traditions in France?
The French not only celebrate Mardi Gras (Shrove or Fat Tuesday) with these thin pancakes, but they also traditionally flip them during La Chandeleur (Candlemass), which marks the halfway point between the shortest day and spring Equinox in February.
Tradition has it that if you manage to catch the pancake by holding a coin in your writing hand whilst flipping the pancake with the other, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.
The French flip pancakes at any time of year, however – we don’t need to wait to celebrate pancake day. It can be any day!
How to Serve
How do we eat crêpes in France? If served in a crêperie in France, sweet crêpes are normally flat, topped with ice cream, Chantilly cream and with any of the toppings mentioned below. Conversely, at home or at crêpe stalls around Paris, crêpes are normally folded or rolled for ease of enjoying them with the least amount of mess.
Our family normally loves plain and simple sugar sprinkled on them with a squeeze of lemon. The simple is often best.
Here are a few other classic topping suggestions:
- Jam (confiture) such as apricot and lavender jam or spicy plum jam;
- Chocolate spread;
- Maple syrup with a squeeze of orange or clementines;
- Orange curd;
- Sweet chestnut and vanilla spread (crème de marron);
- Drizzle over some warmed salted caramel sauce – that’s my personal best!
So what will it be chez vous? Are you a roller or a folder and what are your favourite toppings?
How to Make Crêpes (French pancakes)
The full step-by-step recipe for Orange Crêpes, Suzette Style, is in my second recipe book, Teatime in Paris. With many thanks to my publisher, Waverley Books, for permission to share this recipe from the book. With only 4 main ingredients – butter, flour, eggs and milk (with a little sugar), this crêpe recipe is so quick to make.
French Pancakes (Crêpes)
- 40 g (1.5oz) butter melted
- 250 g (9oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1/2 tsp salt (fleur de sel)
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 3 medium eggs organic
- 500 ml (18fl oz) whole milk (or semi-skimmed for skinny crepes)
- 1/2 tbsp lemon or orange zest optional
- Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the middle and break the eggs into it.
- Add about a quarter of the milk and, using a hand whisk, beat the mixture well until you have a smooth, thick paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk. (this ensures no lumps).
- Add the melted butter and zest, if using. Leave to rest for about half an hour at room temperature (this is for the gluten to expand in the mix, making the batter lighter, although it's not essential in this recipe). The mix will look quite runny but this is perfectly normal.
- Ladle one small quantity of the batter into a very hot crêpe pan that has been wiped with butter on kitchen paper. Swirl the batter around the pan quickly, as thinly as possible, covering the surface of the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes until bubbles form on the surface. Using a spatula or your fingertips, quickly flip the crêpe over and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Turn down the heat slightly (but still at medium) and repeat the process, topping up with wiping of butter in the pan, until you have about 12 crêpes (depending on pan size), stacking them aside on a large plate.
This was a blog post originally published on 17 February 2012 but is now completely updated to include the recipe from my cookbook, Teatime in Paris, with kind permission from Waverley Books.