A festive take on a strawberry Crêpe.
My garden roses are blooming like crazy, and I’m always inspired by their fragrance to create something special in the kitchen. This year, I decided that since the strawberries are so wonderful, I would start there, with roses, their late spring friend, providing the accent.
People love crêpes, whether sweet or savory, and when you stack them up, you have something even more unique. I first made Julia Child’s Gateau de crêpes a la Florentine many years ago when our book club read “Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell. We had a lavish dinner the night of the discussion, and each of us made a dish from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” It was quite a meal, and a supreme indulgence since most of us were watching fat and carbs and cholesterol.
Let’s try something different
I chose the crêpe dish simply because I’d never had anything like it before. Layers of crêpes filled with spinach and mushrooms and cheeses and cheesy sauce. It was beyond magnificent, and something I keep in the back of my mind. I used the crêpe tower technique for a couple other savory applications, and they were a big hit.
When I was thinking about making a rose-inspired dish, crepes came to mind, specifically strawberry crêpes, but I thought it would be fun to turn them into a dessert tower like Julia’s Florentine mountain.
But start with the basics
I used my mom’s basic crêpe recipe and resisted the usual urge to lighten it up and substitute just about everything (I did use soy milk since I had no other in the house). My twist was to add half a vanilla bean pod to both the crêpes and the cream, and the flavor was out of this world. I will always use the fresh bean now when making crêpes for a sweet dish. I also added a tablespoon of white sugar. The crêpes turned out tender, slightly sweet, and really delicious,
While I like growing old garden roses and species roses, a David Austin or hybrid tea will find its way in my garden every now and then.
But there are lots of swaps you can make. If you can’t have dairy, use soy or almond milk, any plant milk really. The whipped cream can easily be replaced with whipped coconut cream (which is what I used), or even a really creamy local non-fat Greek yoghurt like Green Mountain Creamery. When whipping, make sure to have the cream and the bowl and the beaters well chilled.
Consider the source
Always use rose petals from your garden or an organic garden if you plan to eat them. Florist roses are treated with any number of pesticides and fungicides, and you simply should not ingest them! Just leave the petals out if you don’t have an organic source, the rose water will easily fly solo.
Whether you are having a garden party or special brunch for two, this is all about the flavor and all about the pretty, so fuss with it a bit when you put it together.
Strawberry and Rose Crêpe Tower
The Crêpes (12 of them)
- 3 large, organic eggs
- ¾ cup milk of choice
- ½ cup water
- 3 tbsp. melted butter, cooled slightly
- Seeds from ½ plump vanilla bean
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup heavy cream or two 5.4 oz cans coconut cream, well chilled
- 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
- The other half of the vanilla bean
- ¼ to ½ tsp. rosewater
- 1 pint strawberries, sliced
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. rosewater
- Rose petals and a few more strawberries to garnish
- A tbsp. pistachio, optional
Make the crêpes. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, water, and butter and process until blended. Add the seeds from half the vanilla bean, salt, sugar, and flour, and blend again. Refrigerate and let sit for an hour or even overnight. To remove the seeds from the vanilla bean, cut it in half lengthwise, then scrape out the seeds with the back of your knife, tapping the knife on the top of the blender after all the other ingredients are in there.
Prepare the strawberries: Slice them and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, and set aside for a half hour along with the crepe batter.
Heat a small crêpe or non-stick sauté pan, about 6 inches in diameter, over medium high heat. Brush with a neutral oil and pour about 1 ½ ounces of the batter in the middle of the pan then ever so gently swirl to coat evenly. (I have a 1 1/2 ounce ladle, but this would translate into 3/4 of a 1/4 cup measure, or 3 tbsp.) Let this cook for a minute or so, until there is no shiny liquid look to the surface of the crepe. Turn and cook for another 30 seconds or so and turn onto a plate.
Continue cooking until all crêpes are made. You can go ahead and stack them on top of each other, they really won’t stick although everyone tells you they will. Just keep them covered with a tea towel so they don’t dry out. This should make about 14 crepes, 12 for the tower and two for the cook’s snack!
Make the cream: In a chilled bowl, whip chilled cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds. Once whipped to your desired consistency, add a scant ¼ tsp. of the rose water. This is strong stuff, and too much will taste like perfume, so err on the side of caution. Mix well and taste, you can add a bit more rose water at this point if you like. I like it somewhere just shy of ½ tsp., no more, but everyone’s tastes are different.
To construct: Stack three crêpes on a pretty platter, spread with ¼ of the strawberries, making sure some make it to the edges. Add three more crepes and do the same as above, and repeat one more time.
Put the last three crepes on the tower and add the cream in the middle of the stack, arranging the strawberries around the edges. Sprinkle lavishly with rose petals, and a few chopped pistachios if you want some crunch.
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