In France crepes are not eaten exclusively (or even very often) for breakfast, like pancakes are in the United States; instead, savory crepes called galettes are eaten as a meal and sweet crepes (crêpes sucrées) are eaten as dessert.
The batter preparation between galettes and dessert crepes differs slightly. Galettes are made with buckwheat flour, rendering the batter brown, and no sugar is added.
My favorite savory fillings for galettes:
Tomatoes, goat cheese, and pepper
Sliced salmon and chives
Sautéed mushrooms, asparagus, and gruyere cheese
An egg, sunny-side-up
Dessert crepes add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter and use regular wheat flour.
Sweet crepe fillings:
Any sliced fruit or jam
Sliced bananas caramelized in brown sugar and rum
Granulated sugar and lemon juice
Butter and honey
I still prefer a thick stack of pancakes to crepes; the soft chewy texture of pancakes is hard to beat. But it’s true that crepes are more portable, accounting for the afflux of crepe stands in France (and absence, sadly, of pancake stands in the United States). And they are more attractive, maybe, folded elegantly with just the colored edges of sweet fillings tumbling out, powdered sugar sprinkled over top. And they are certainly more exotic and impressive, should you decide to make a romantic end to a dinner end (pancakes might fail to showcase your culinary skills—crepes are no harder to make, but no one has to be the wiser). And—you can make a respectable meal out of savory crepes, while eating pancakes for dinner is probably popular only in frat boy circles.
Tips for making crepes:
Making crepe batter beforehand and refrigerating it for 30 minutes to an hour helps produce exceptionally tender crêpes because as the batter chills, the flour expands and absorbs the liquid. When cooking the crepes, pour a ladle of batter into a non-stick flat-bottomed skillet and tilt the pan so that the batter spreads out evenly and thinly. You can add a bit of butter to the skillet to avoid sticking. The thinner the crepe, the better. Cook 1-2 minutes on the first side, until the edges begin to curl, and flip and cook another minute. Crepes cool very quickly, so if cooking for guests you can cook the crêpes in advance, then fill and broil them just before serving. Sprinkle dessert crepes with powdered sugar.
Black Pepper Crêpes with Goat Cheese and Tomatoes
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
8 tsp. unsalted butter
4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
4-oz. log of goat cheese (chèvre), crumbled
In a large bowl, combine the milk, egg, flour, oil, the 1 tsp. pepper and the 1⁄2 tsp. salt and mix until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a crêpe pan over medium heat, melt 1 tsp. of the butter to coat the pan evenly. Lift the pan at a slight angle and pour 2 Tbs. of the batter into the center, tilting the pan to spread the batter to the edges. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the crêpe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the crêpe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover. Repeat to make 8 crêpes.
Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler and preheat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a clean work surface, lay a crêpe flat. Put one-eighth of the tomato slices on the crêpe and top with one-eighth of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the crêpe into quarters and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining crêpes and filling. Broil until the crêpes are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Makes about 20 crepes
1 1/3 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1. Mix first 6 ingredients in blender just until smooth. Cover batter and chill at least 15 minutes and up to 1 day.
2. Spray 7-inch-diameter nonstick skillet with vegetable oil spray and heat over medium heat. Pour 2 tablespoons batter into pan and swirl to coat bottom. Cook until edge of crepe is light brown, about 1 minute. Loosen edges gently with spatula. Carefully turn crepe over. Cook until bottom begins to brown in spots, about 30 seconds. Transfer to plate. Cover with paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter, spraying pan with oil spray as needed and covering each crepe with paper towel. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
3. Fill as desired and sprinkle with powdered sugar.