As a French Canadian, I grew up on crepes. In fact, crepes were our go-to fast food when my mom didn’t know what else to make. “I don’t know what to cook tonight” she would say to which I would inevitably respond “let’s have crepes!” If they were dinner crepes, she would make them with whole wheat flour and stuff them with something savory like mushrooms and cheese. Morning crepes were generally lighter, made with unbleached white flour and only a little bit of whole grain flour. These usually involved an unrestrained amount of butter and maple syrup. Dark buckwheat crepes were also a frequent choice and those would either be served with a savory filling or with butter and molasses. To this day, a butter and molasses buckwheat crepe is my ultimate snack when I don’t feel like making anything complicated. I’ve learned to whip up a crepe batter in 5 minutes flat. After all, crepes are essentially just flour, eggs, and milk beaten together.
A proper French crepe recipe calls for melted butter but I generally skip it unless I have guests to impress. (It does make the crepes slightly more tender). Cooking the crepes takes a bit more time of course, but with a little practice, you can generally get a steaming dozen on the table in about half an hour or so. So if there’s one take-away I want you to get from this post, it’s that crepes are easy. Easy, easy, easy. Oui, oui, oui. Crepes are not fancy. And when made with whole grain flour, they’re a wholesome nourishing food you can make any time of the day. You just need to keep a few basic tips in mind which I’ll outline in my recipe instructions below. Once you’ve got a handle on those, you’ll be laughing and the marvellous world of crepes is all yours.
Let’s talk a bit about flour here. Of course, I don’t expect you to mill your own rye flour to make these crepes, as I did in the video. You can easily purchase whole rye flour at just about any health food store. (Though if you do happen to have a small kitchen mill, you’ll benefit from the incomparable taste of fresh-milled flour).
Of course, crepes made with white flour are deliciously light and tender, but as any nutritionist will tell you, there’s not much nutrition in white flour. And crepes can be made with a whole assortment of whole grain flours and still be tender and delicious and not feel like you’re eating a “health food”.
I generally try to keep a ratio of 50% unbleached organic white flour and 50% whole grain flour, but I’ve also made crepes with 100% whole grain which are delightful. They do lose some of their elasticity and as can be expected, and feature a more robust whole grain flavor. So it’s really a matter of personal choice. Feel free to play around with this white to whole grain ratio to suit your personal taste. Do experiment with different flours too. These crepes feature 50% rye flour but you could use spelt instead, or buckwheat.
As you probably know if you follow this blog, I’m just a teeny little bit obsessed with rye. Before I became involved with growing grains, I was more of a spelt girl. I still love baking with spelt, but it’s not really a grain we can harvest easily. Spelt and other ancient grains such as emmer and einkorn can’t be de-hulled unless you have expensive de-hulling equipment. Rye on the other hand is relatively easy to grow, harvest, and mill into flour. So by default, it’s become my grain of choice, first by necessity, but lately because I’ve come to realize how tasty and nutritious it is. In the last few years, I’ve been excited to learn about rye’s outstanding nutrient profile. People often associate rye flour only with dense dark bread. But it’s actually a fairly light flour that can be used in all kinds of baked goods. If you’re new here, do check out my buttery rye blueberry cookies, rosemary rye brownies, and my cheesecake rye crust. Who knew I was going to become the kooky rye lady? I sure didn’t. But I’m kind of glad I did.
As a final note, these rye crepes can be enjoyed sweet or savory. The pear and cheddar is a favorite combination of mine because you get a little bit of both sweet and savory. You can substitute apples for the pears. Or make a different kind of savory filling altogether (spinach, cheese, and ham is delicious). Or just enjoy these with butter and syrup. Whichever way you make them, enjoy and bon appétit!
Rye Crepes with Pear and Cheddar
- For the Crepe Batter:
- 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
- 3/4 cup rye flour
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 3 large eggs
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- For the Filling:
- 4 Tbsp unmelted butter for cooking
- 8 oz grated strong cheddar
- 6 medium large pears, sliced thinly with skins on (choose a juicy variety such as Anjou or Bartlett, preferably organic)
- Sift together the rye and unbleached white flours. In a large bowl, add the salt to the flours and whisk together well. (If you want a sweet crepe, whisk 2 tablespoons of cane sugar into the flour mixture). Crack the eggs into the flour and add a bit of the milk. Begin to stir the mixture with a whisk or a wooden spoon. It will be hard at first, but stir well, gradually adding the milk in small increments and mixing between each addition. The batter will become smoother and smoother. If you add the milk too quickly, you will have lumps in your batter (which you can always strain out). Crepe batter is much thinner than pancake batter. Your batter should have the consistency somewhere between half and half cream and heavy cream. If the batter is too heavy, add water to it, one tablespoonful at a time. You will probably need to add around 3 Tbsp of water to get the right consistency. It's better to err on the side of a batter that's too thick, because you can easily thin it down with a bit more water after your first test crepe.
- Once you have a light and smooth batter, cover it and let it stand for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes. Or even better, make the batter a day in advance and let it rest in the fridge to use the next day. When you’re ready to make the crepes, you have the option of running the batter through a fine mesh sieve. You don’t have to do this, but I like to do so especially with whole grain crepes because it gets a bit (not all) of the excess bran out of the batter (as well as any lumps) and makes a more uniform crepe. After straining the batter, add the melted butter into the batter and whisk vigorously.
- Heat a large skillet (ideally 8 inches or bigger) on medium heat. I prefer a cast iron skillet, but a stainless steel or non-stick skillet generally work as well. Once your pan has heated up (about 3 minutes), place a small nub of butter (about 1 tsp) in the pan and swirl it around to cover the bottom of the skillet. The butter should sizzle (if it doesn't your pan is probably not hot enough). However, the butter shouldn't burn either (that means the pan is too hot). Ladle in about 1/4 cup of batter and quickly swirl the batter around to cover the whole bottom of the pan. Once the top of the crepe has cooked (no longer liquid), check to see if the bottom is browning. Once it has browned a bit, you can carefully loosen the crepe using a spatula, and flip it over. Cook the underside just a bit, about a minute or so should be plenty. Having a hot enough pan is key to making a good crepe. However, you don’t want the pan to be too hot either. You will have to find the “sweet spot” by making a couple of test crepes. The first couple of crepes are generally messy, so don’t worry. You will settle into a groove once the pan reaches a good temperature. Assemble the crepes hot off the skillet or stack them on an oven-proof plate and keep them warm in an oven heated to the lowest possible setting until ready to assemble.
- If the pears you're using are nice and juicy, you don't need to pre-cook them. However, if your pears are on the dry side, sauté them lightly in a small skillet on medium heat in 1 Tbsp. butter. Cook them just until their juices are released and they have softened somewhat (about 3 minutes).
- To assemble, place a cooked crepe in the crepe skillet and scatter about 3 Tbsp grated cheddar cheese down the center of the crepe. Add a generous amount of sliced pears, and fold each side of the crepe towards the center. Allow the crepe to cook a bit more until the cheddar in the middle has melted.
- Serve hot. Optional add-ons include maple syrup, red pepper jelly, or a nice chutney.
Yield: 4 to 6 people (makes about 12 crepes)
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.