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Crepe expectations: Try our crepe recipes for Mother’s Day

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jeffrey de Leon, executive pastry chef at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, knows how to make a tasty crepe and demonstrates how easy it is to assemble one of these French delicacies. The Grand America will be making hundreds of crepes for its Mother's Day holiday buffet.

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published May 08 2012 07:34AM
Updated Aug 28, 2012 11:32PM

There were signs, early on, that Jeffrey de Leon was going to be a chef.

While other children in his Southern California neighborhood were attempting to make pancakes from a just-add-water box mix, de Leon was making light and airy crepes from scratch.

"I used to make them for breakfast for my parents," said the 31-year-old executive pastry chef at Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel. The meals, he said, included his own handmade menus.

Since then, de Leon, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Pasadena, has moved on to more difficult recipes, such as mastering extravagantly decorated wedding cakes and French pastries. But he still loves crepes. "They sound so fancy, but they are super easy to make," he said.

Crepes are just the kind of easy, elegant meal families can prepare to impress mom this Sunday for Mother’s Day.

De Leon and his staff will be making thousands of the paper-thin pancakes during Grand America’s annual Mother’s Day buffet — which is hands-down the busiest dining holiday of the year.

"There’s always a line at the crepe station," said de Leon. "It’s us and the roast beef."

Watching the cooks pour the batter, then swirl, flip and fill the crepes — in just minutes — is part of the allure. "It’s a show," de Leon said. "It’s the Food Network right in front of your face."

Crepes, the French word for pancakes, have been around for centuries. Originating in Brittany, they were used as a peasant-type bread and rarely had fillings. Eventually, the wafer-thin treat spread throughout Europe, with other countries and cultures creating their own variations, from Italian crespelle and Jewish blintzes to Russian blini.

Making crepe batter requires no special ingredients and is best done in a blender or food processor, writes Lou Seibert Pappas, in her cookbook Crepes: Sweet & Savory Recipes for the Home Cook. For tender crepes, the batter should be made ahead and refrigerated for at least two hours or overnight. "The resting time allows the flour to absorb the liquid and the foam to dissipate," she said.

Crepes also could be cooked ahead of time, wrapped in plastic wrap and either refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to two months.

Typically, crepes are made with all-purpose flour, but whole wheat flour can be used as well. For those who have gluten intolerance, crepes can be made with a variety of specialty flours, such as buckwheat, blue cornmeal, corn flour and cornstarch.

Versatility is another attribute of crepes. They can be sweet or savory and served for breakfast, lunch, as an appetizer or for dinner, depending on what kind of fillings are in your refrigerator and pantry.

Fresh berries and whipped cream are the easiest and probably the most popular filling. Another idea is to use Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread, and bananas warmed in a bit of butter and brown sugar.

The savory fillings combinations are endless: sautéed mushrooms and spinach; sausage and roasted peppers; ham and asparagus.

That variety of fillings is why Pappas calls crepes "the good cook’s best ally."

kathys@sltrib.com

facebook.com/saltlakefood

Twitter: @kathystephenson

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