Naturally gluten-free, these lacy traditional crêpes are perfect for either sweet or savory dishes.
Buckwheat crêpes are one of my favorites from the family recipe box. My own family loves them as well. I might make them for a Sunday breakfast, brunch with guests, dessert, or as a well-loved after-school snack for my grandchildren.
Everything old is new again
Who knew these kitchen standbys would become right on trend with many of the food moods of today – they are gluten- and dairy-free, nut free, low-fat, and a good source of minerals, B vitamins, and both fiber and protein! Versatile, crêpes (pronounce to rhyme with steps) can be eaten at breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, as a main course, dessert, or a snack. They even pack nicely in lunch boxes, and can be filled with just about any left-over in your refrigerator – ratatouille is my favorite!.
This is a family French-Canadian recipe traditionally filled with ham and cheese, or perhaps just cheese, for a savory meal. But savory is not their only application! Simply made, dotted with butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar is the way we often had them when I was a child. There are probably as many recipes as there are families – some use buckwheat and white flour, some use milk, and a few even use a smidge of baking powder. My mother even had two of her own!
Originally, these crêpes were, and still are, a specialty of the Bretagne region of northwestern France, where the buckwheat grew easily. In Brittany, they are called galettes, and even have their own day of celebration, February 2, or Le Jour de Crêpe! Luckily for us, these crêpes migrated along with early settlers to the Provence of Quebec, where my mother’s family originated, and are enjoyed there ever since, in many forms. Buckwheat is grown easily here in the northeast, where wheat is not, and thus can be found in many of the older regional recipes.
You can use a spatula too
My mother always turned crêpes with her fingers, no spatula! It really isn’t difficult, but they have to be at the right stage for turning, shake the pan and shake the edge of the crêpe out of the pan, grab it gently, and flip it over, but you can also use a spatula if you like, or just hold your breath and flip it right in the pan (warning: this does not always work…).
Mom had two buckwheat crêpe recipes, one that was half-and-half buckwheat and white flours. I like the one that is all buckwheat because it is a little nuttier in flavor. the mixed version is a little softer (both are flexible) and milder in flavor.
Always a stash in the freezer
Crêpes freeze nicely, so you can make a big batch ahead. Pull them out for a quick snack or light supper, filled with whatever you imagination or the contents of your refrigerator can come up with.
When I was a kid, we made the crêpes using bacon fat to coat the pan. Mother had an ever-ready coffee can filled with this grease for any number of recipes. She usually filled the crêpes with cheese and bacon or ham. She also filled them with left-over beans or other vegetables, always with cheese to glue them together.
Buckwheat Crepes with Swiss Cheese and Turkey Bacon
Traditionally, these crêpes were filled with cheese, or ham or bacon and cheese. I’ve chosen a local uncured turkey bacon here, and an absolutely wonderful local Swiss-style cheese from Boggy Meadow Farm just across the river in New Hampshire, a vibrant cheese with a lovely nutty flavor.
If you are making the crêpes production line and serving folks one at a time, once turned, sprinkle the crêpe with the cheese, add the bacon, and fold it over when you plate. If you are making a bunch ahead, fold them, place them on a baking sheet, and when you have them all made, sprinkle with a little more cheese and pop in the oven until the inside cheese fully melts.
There are not many ingredients in this recipe, so make them good, organic eggs and flour! Just for regional flair, I use my fleur de sel from Brittany for my salt!
2 cups buckwheat flour
3 cups water
1 large egg
½ tsp. fleur de sel or other sea salt
Place water and egg in the blender and process for a few seconds. Add the flour and salt and blend for a full minute. You want this to be well blended.
Cover and refrigerate several hours, but overnight is best. This is a simple recipe, but this step is important. The batter will thicken, and you may have to thin it out with a bit more water when you are read to cook. It should be just a bit thicker than the consistency of heavy cream, much thinner than regular pancake batter.
To make crêpes, heat an 8” omelet or crêpe pan, non-stick works well, but a seasoned cast iron pan is good too. The pan I use is 8” on top, but the bottom is 6” so that is the size the crêpes turn out.
Heat the pan over medium high. Traditionally, brush with bacon grease lightly, (I use olive oil) and add batter with a one-ounce ladle. It should be thin enough to cover the bottom of the pan, with a little tilting and twirling around. If not, add a little more water.
Let cook a minute or so, until set; they don’t take long. There should be no unset batter, and they should shake easily in the pan with the edges loosened. Grab them and turn when brown, or flip them with a spatula. Let cool on a cookie sheet in a single layer, then stack between layers of waxed paper and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
You can fold them in three ways: roll it up, probably the easiest; fill half the crêpe, or the entire crêpe thinly, fold it over, and then fold it over again into a little triangle; and, roll up the filled crêpe like an ice-cream cone shown above. I usually favor the triangle method shown below with the strawberry crepes, but do it whatever way makes you happy.
Uncured turkey bacon, cooked and drained
Swiss cheese, local Swiss-style if possible, grated
Herbs of choice
You will need a strip of cooked bacon, broken into two or three pieces, for each crêpe. Place the bacon in the crêpe, sprinkle with cheese and herbs, and roll up like an ice-cream cone, or into a tube. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese.
A Few Savory Possibilities:
Cheese and Chive Crêpes: Simple but delicious. Fill your crêpes with cheese and sprinkle with the chives, fresh-cut from the garden if possible! For breakfast, add a poached egg to each one, also very traditional!
Bean, Bacon, and Cheddar Crêpes: This is a great place to use leftover beans, baked beans or stewed beans, even refried beans! Place a small amount of beans on one side of each crêpe, top with cheese, and fold over twice to make a triangle. I make a bunch, place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little more cheese, and pop in the oven so the cheese can melt.
Little Cocktail Crêpes: Drop your batter by the tablespoon on a hot griddle, lightly greased. Cook until the sheen is gone, flip, and cook another 10 to 20 seconds. The first side cooked will be your presentation side. Fill and fold, and serve bite sized!
Top these with any number of little bites fillings such as crème fraîche and sautéed cinnamon-and-sugar apples; sour cream, bits of smoked trout, and fresh chives; guacamole and minced tomato; or lemon zested ricotta cheese, prosciutto, and drizzle of honey.
Chocolate Buckwheat Crêpes with Strawberry Filling
The humble pancake steps out
This humble, skinny little pancake can also hold its own at an elegant dinner party when filled with a host of dessert possibilities.
If anything in the world makes a recipe better it is the addition of chocolate. Just a tablespoon of dark Dutch processed cocoa powder and a whisper of sugar, and you are ready to fill with whatever you love. This recipe is not an overpowering chocolate, but a background flavor that is enhanced by whatever your filling. Also, they are not overly sweet, so they are indeed a breakfast or brunch, but could be used as a dessert with a sweet filling.
For the chocolate crêpes, add to the basic crepe batter above:
1 tbsp. Droste unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. white sugar
To make the filling, combine 1 cup non-fat strained Greek yogurt, unsweetened, 1 cup of strawberries, chopped, and 1 tbsp. native honey. Mix well and fill your crepes. Top with confectioners’ sugar if you like, and garnish with more strawberries. A little dot of whipped cream is never a mistake here, even if you are serving it to the kids for breakfast.
A Few Sweet Variations:
Orange and Ricotta Crêpes: Prepare a filling of 1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese, the zest of one large organic orange, 2 tbsp. orange liquor, 1 tbsp. native honey, and the segments of two large oranges (save a few to garnish), and sprinkle with zest.
Cream Cheese and Banana Crêpes: Smear crêpes with cream cheese mixed with a little honey, and add sliced bananas. Fold into triangles, and drizzle with a little chocolate sauce or honey.
Yoghurt, Pear, and Pistachio Crêpes: Smear unsweetened yoghurt or crème fraîche on each crêpe and dot with thinly sliced pears. Roll up, top with a little more yoghurt, a drizzle of honey, and addition of toasted, chopped pistachios.
© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen