If you could ask Henri Carpentier what the proudest moment of his life had been, he’d have had a quick answer for you. He would say that it was in 1895, when he burned dessert for the Prince of Wales and invited Crêpes Suzette.
The story goes that 14-year old Henri, an assistant waiter at a cafe in Monte Carlo, was whipping up some crepes for the future King Edward VII. His chafing dish overheated and the Grand Marnier sauce burst into flames. He put out the fire, surveyed the damage and said to himself, “What would you say if you burned dessert for royalty?” He decided, being 14, to serve the crêpes anyway. And wonder of wonders, they tasted like heaven. The “accident of the flame,” as he put it, had perfectly melded the flavors into absolute harmony.
The Prince of Wales, being no fool, and with the manners of an English gentleman, promptly suggested that Henri call the marvelous new dish after his dining partner, Suzette. She smiled, and then they ate more crêpes.
In truth, “crêpes are deliciously simple,” says Roland Sioson, a traveling pastry chef with Celebrity Cruises. “The difference between a perfect one and a not-so-perfect one comes down to the tiniest details.” Here is a simple recipe, as well as a few tips that will improve your results.
1. Choose all organic ingredients for the very best crêpes.
2. If you’re using all-purpose flour, sift it first to avoid lumps in the batter.
3. Melt the butter until it’s slightly browned before adding it to the batter; this will give the crêpes a deliciously nutty flavor.
4. For really fluffy crêpes, beat an extra egg white and fold it into the batter just before cooking.
5. Non-stick pans or griddles are best, and be sure they are hot enough to quickly give the crêpes a nice golden color. The first crêpe should be used as a test, and a quick snack for the cook.
Traditional Recipe for Crêpes
1 cup fine flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and eggs. Gradually add milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and melted butter, beat until smooth.
Heat oil on a flat griddle. Pour that batter onto the griddle, using about 1/2 cup batter for each crepe. Cook each crêpe about 1 minute, or until bottom is lightly browned, and then turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.