01 April 2008


Crêpes au Bananes avec Lait Concentré Sucré
Not very long ago, I had a nice conversation with a friend (oh, he knows who he is) which went something like this:
Me: I am such a sucker for pop music!
Other Guy: Yeah, me too!
Me: I'm listening to the Spice Girls!
Other Guy: What the hell is wrong with you?

The truth is, I'm such a sucker for catchy tunes. Even songs that I want to hate in theory like anything of Fergie's creeps into my subconscious and out of nowhere I will suddenly be singing I hope you know, I hope you know that this has nothing to do with you.. And that is why I don't listen to the radio and rely instead on my iPod full of classical tunes and the other artists you're probably tired of hearing by now. If I didn't do that, my head would be filled with Sean Kingston and Fall Out Boy, and honestly who can study in that situation?

In the same way, I've avoided ordering the Tarzan crêpe of Café Breton because of the description-- bananas and condensed milk. Gosh, that sounds so cheesy (it is also one of the cheapest crêpes on the menu). A little kid crêpe. I always opt for more sophisticated-sounding crêpes like Cherries Jubilee, La Delice, and Crêpes Suzette. But in order to grow, you sometimes have to let the wall down and give in to your inner cheese. It takes courage to stand up and say, "HEY, WORLD! I LIKE PLAIN CONDENSED MILK! AND I LISTEN TO CHEESY MUSIC (AT TIMES)!" Because in reality, Tarzan is a really good, lick-the-plate kind of crêpe, screw sophistication. And it is the crêpe I honored by making for my friends when they came around for some post-exam unwinding and XBox.

I also chose to make crêpes for my friends because Faith and her sister Clara wanted to learn some culinary tricks, and it would have taken too much time to bake a cake and to wait for it to cool. I'm not sure if they would ever make it, though, as no amount of demonstration would convince them that wiping a pan clean with your hand down on the hot surface is almost completely harmless. I've made chocolate crêpes before, and I even have a demo. I've improved the timing a lot (I don't have to take it off the heat) by adopting this technique for flipping:

  1. Loosen the edge all around the crêpe with a long, flexible spatula (you see this black tool on my demo).

  2. Lift up the edge on any one point of the crêpe with the spatula and pick up that edge with the fingers of your other hand.

  3. Quickly slip in the whole length of the spatula under the crêpe near the halfway mark. The end of the spatula shouldn't be under the crêpe, or it will tear.

  4. When you lift the spatula, the other half of the circle will come off cleanly. Replace the crêpe upside-down on the pan. I think this is how those drones at the crêperies do it (without the fingers part)-- just watch them.

You will need brown butter for this recipe. Simply melt 3 tablespoons (45g) or slightly more butter in a pan over low heat until it turns a nutty brown color and smells of hazelnuts. There will be dark milk proteins settling at the bottom-- I included them in the recipe for an interesting flavor. If you're feeling confident with your microwave skills (which is the method I used), simply process 45g of butter in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power at 30-second intervals until it reaches this point. It takes a little daring as the butter will be sputtering in a very hot and small container.

Crêpes adapted from Desserts by Pierre Hermé
  • 320g (1 1/3 cups) whole milk

  • 25g (2 tbsp) sugar

  • 2 large eggs at room temperature

  • 1 large egg yolk at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Amaretto

  • 2 teaspoons rum

  • Grated zest of 1/3 orange

  • 2 teaspoons orange juice

  • 33g (3 tbsp) corn oil

  • 45g (3 tbsp) brown butter, at room temperature

  • 120g (3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) all-purpose flour, sifted

Place all the ingredients except the flour in the container of a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth. Add the flour and process until it is just incorporated, but you don't want lumps either. Pour into a container with a spout, such as a Pyrex measuring cup. Cover with cling film and chill overnight.

Before cooking, give the batter a short whisk. It should be the consistency of heavy cream; whisk in some milk, a drop at a time, if it is too thick. Follow the demo here for cooking the crêpes. For a high yield with very thin crêpes with slightly crispy edges (the way I prefer them), wait only one second, no longer, before pouring the excess back in the pitcher. For slightly thicker, more velvety crêpes (the way most crêperies make them), wait 4-5 seconds before pouring the excess back. Also, you don't need coalescing bubbles to tell you to flip: the top of the crêpe will look set and if you peek on the underside, it should be golden. It will take about a minute or more. Certainly crêpes that are on the brown side are tastier and more fragrant than pale, milky ones. As you stack the crêpes, sprinkle some additional sugar on top.

Bananas for filling
Allow one banana per serving. Slice the banana into 1/4-inch slices. In a skillet over high heat, melt a pat of butter and sauté the banana with half a tablespoon of sugar for about 30 seconds. Place in the center of a crêpe and fold into a neat package (browner side out). If you prefer, you may spread Nutella on the crêpe before adding the bananas.

Serve on a pool of condensed milk and/or chocolate syrup, and a scoop of ice cream on top. I used dulce de leche ice cream for this one.

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