02 February 2014

Crêpe Day

Today is crêpe day in France. It's a holiday called La Chandeleur (Candlemas in English) and millions of French people will make and eat thin little pancakes today. They're easy to make and even easier to eat. The photos in this post show different kinds and styles of crêpes that we've made over the past 10 years.

Walt and I always make crêpes on February 2. Today we are going to go whole hog and make two different kinds, savory and sweet. Both kinds are unleavened — no baking powder or soda goes into the batter.

"Authentic" savory crêpes are made with buckwheat flour, called sarrasin or blé noir. These crêpes are also called galettes bretonnes, since they are a specialty of Brittany. They are cooked in a big skillet and then filled with or wrapped up around slices of ham with cheese and an egg. They can be folded or rolled up and then reheated in the oven until the cheese melts and the egg cooks.

Sweet crêpes are made with white wheat flour (recipe in this old post). Some people put a little sugar in the batter, and some recipes call for a glug of rum. Otherwise the batter is just flour, egg, water, milk, and a dribble of vegetable oil. The richness of the crêpe comes from the filling. Since there's no sugar in the batter, the crêpe can be made either as a savory (salty) main dish or as a sweet (dessert) treat. We've also been known to make dessert crêpes out of galettes bretonnes...

Simple sweet crêpes can be buttered and sprinkled with sugar, with a few drops of lemon juice added. Or they can be filled with jam or jelly. Then they get rolled up or folded and reheated in the pan they were cooked in.

The word crêpe derives from the same root word that gave us "crisp" — the edges of the thin little pancake should be a little lacy and crispy. Tradition has it that you should hold a gold coin in one hand as you toss the crêpe to turn it over in the frying pan. That brings you good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year. Trouble is, I don't know where to get a gold coin.


  1. Our pancake day comes later in February and I'm looking forward to it already!
    Personally I love pancakes, especially galettes. Ham, egg and cheese would be my favourite.

  2. It doesn't look like the Bretons will be having a good chandeleur this year, what with rain coming down and high tides coming up. I love buckwheat pancakes! P.

  3. A nice primer on crêpes to share with my students :)

  4. i made buckwheat crepes a week ago and used about half buckwheat & half white flour, which was fine....I tried to do the ham, cheese & egg thing & cracked the egg carefully on the crepe as per your picture....then I was unsure how to cook it...so I ended up broiling....the edges of the crepe kinda overcooked while the egg was not cooking enuf.....i guess i could fry the egg & then put on....how do u do it?

  5. Melinda, here's what I did today: I put a piece of ham in the middle of a big crêpe and the put a good amount of grated cheese over it. I folded up the four edges of the crêpe so that the 'footprint' was square. I put the crêpe in the oven at 170C / 325F and let it cook until the cheese was melted and hot. Then I pulled the pan out of the oven and broke the egg into the middle onto the molten cheese. That way the egg white got a head start cooking as I put the whole thing back into the oven until all the egg white was pretty much cooked and the yolk was heated through but still liquid or at least soft. It worked.

  6. my first nutella crepe - outside on the street near the Musée d'Orsay on an overcast february afternoon... i still remember every bite. and how i spilled it all over my jacket. ;-)


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