Crepes are one of the hottest menu trends sweeping the foodservice world today. And really, this isn’t surprising given that the versatility of this sweet or savory treat makes it a perfect addition to any menu. But what exactly are crepes? And is there a difference between classic and modern crepe recipes? Well, get ready for some answers, as this post digs deeper into one of the best dishes on the planet.
What is a crepe?
Whether we’re talking classic or modern, crepes are essentially a very thin type of pancake. This culinary masterpiece is formed by thinly spreading batter across a crepe pan or crepe maker, the latter of which makes the process infinitely more manageable. Pulling off the perfect crepe involves cooking the batter with the proper technique until a crispy, golden, curled edge forms (interestingly, the Latin word for crepe means curled).
But, what makes a crepe classic or modern? Honestly, that answer is somewhat subjective depending on who you talk to or where you’re located. Yes, your Nana’s recipe will always be considered “classic” in your book, but if you strip away all of the individual, familial and regional preferences, there is a line that’s used to differentiate the two. Since the method of cooking basic crepes doesn’t diversify much, typically it’s the type of batter, topping or filling that determines whether a crepe fits into the modern or classic category. Simple enough? Well, since there’s a good deal to learn about each type, let’s dig in.
What’s classified as classical crepes?
According to one story, crepes were invented way back in the 13th century by a housewife in Brittany, France who accidentally dropped porridge onto her hotplate. In these times, food was scarce and wasting even a drop was not an option. She ate the thin, crispy pancake-like treat, and in one heavenly mouthful, the accidental spill soon became what we know today as a traditional crepe — well, more or less. Interestingly enough, not only did the original crepe come out of Brittany, France, but the original crepe maker did as well!
Traditional crepes come in both savory and sweet varieties. And although a simple piece of crispy porridge gets credit for creating this iconic dish, in actuality, crepe batter isn’t made from porridge. There are traditional savory crepes, which boast a simple mixture of naturally gluten-free buckwheat flour, water and salt that are combined, cooked and served alone or with a wealth of different savory fillings. On the flip side, classical sweet crepes are a little more involved with all-purpose flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt and a dash of sugar. The original sweet version of crepes are filled with just a hint of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar. Ah, magnifique!
Traditional crepes and a word to the French
It’s no question that classical crepes are unapologetically French. And French cuisine is, well, French cuisine. And true to reputation, this food culture is famous for perfecting each dish. Indeed, entire restaurants, called creperies, are scattered throughout France. Many of these operations dedicate themselves to the art of classical crepe making. It’s here that chefs tirelessly craft both sweet and savory varieties. But no matter which type, the skill required to prepare a flawlessly fried crepe isn’t for the faint at heart. It takes finesse and practice.
Most certainly, the effort is worth the results. These papery, pancake-looking, classic delights can fill an entire menu. Take your pick of the smorgasbord. Savory ham, egg and Swiss cheese folded into a crepe for breakfast, a smoked salmon crepe for lunch and a sweet, strawberry cream-filled crepe for dessert. Whether it's mushrooms, onions, eggs, cheese, Nutella, fruit or chocolate, the type of filling or topping that complements classical crepes is truly endless.
Mouthwatering modern crepes
Now, on to what’s considered modern crepes. The increased globalization of businesses, along with vast and quick communication (thank you World Wide Web), makes traditional goods and practices more easily accessible throughout the world (it truly is a small world after all). Traditional foods and recipes are no exception. But the thing is, the more exposure even the most classic recipes experience, the more opportunities there are for people to adjust, change and modernize them. And since a basic crepe is essentially a blank canvas for culinary artists, it’s often the subject of tasty experimentation.
Where classic foods are honored and timeless, modern twists of the original allow for a fun and fresh dining experience. For example, crepes filled with apple pie ingredients bring a little bit of American flare to this tasty French fare. Or, lemon rind and poppy seeds inside the batter can complement blueberries and mascarpone cheese rolled up inside. Operations can take a walk on the savory side and one-up the traditional ham and cheese crepe with an eggs Benedict version. What’s more, crepe batter mixed with sharp cheddar serves up perfectly delicious, cheesy goodness. And there’s nothing better than the layered crepe and bavarois dessert, dousik. This rich, velvety-textured dish will blow you away with it’s inviting vanilla tones and sweet caramel flavor (grab the recipe here). Phew! The creative options are endless.
Additionally, some modern crepe creations accommodate food sensitivities, allergies or plant-based eating preferences by incorporating vegan milk, cheeses and oils. But that’s not all; experimenting with flour varieties such as almond, chickpea or rice adds a delicateness to gluten-free crepes that makes a great substitute for the heavier, gluten-free buckwheat flour that’s often used in savory classical crepe recipes. But, no matter what type of modern spin, the deliciousness of crepes won’t disappoint.
It’s true that crepes are enjoyed throughout the world and in vastly different ways. Therefore, it’s no wonder these treats make an amazing addition to any operation’s menu. And even though there’s a crafted art to crepe making, quality equipment makes what could be a tough endeavor just a little easier. With this in mind, Hatco has teamed up with Krampouz (the inventor of the crepe maker!) to offer a variety of high-quality commercial crepe makers that are guaranteed to bring life to any crepe offering. Interested in learning even more about crepes? We’ve got you covered. Go beyond the traditional boundaries with Catherine Merdy-Goasdoué’s award-winning crepe guide and become a crepe expert in no time. Bon Appétit.