Not Your Grandma’s Pancake Day!

Yesterday was one of my favourite English ‘holidays’. Pancake Day is not a hyped up, marketing holiday designed for companies to make millions, but an inexpensive celebration that draws the family together for a meal of pancakes (crepes). Those simple and humble ingredients of milk, flour and eggs can be combined to make an irresistible treat. Of course, getting the basic recipe is vital but let’s face it, the reason crepes have become a huge hit across the globe is really more to do with the fillings and toppings. Sweet and Savoury alike, the possibilities are endless and even though Nutella is probably the most popular of indulgences, there is something to be said about the sour crunch of the English classic with  sprinkled sugar and lemon juice.

However, in true Grumbling Belly fashion, where darkness and moments of brilliance collide, I decided to explore some new flavour options last night. One was inspired by my love affair with lemon curd, and the other was born from my need to use up some leftover pumpkin and sage. This certainly wasn’t the usual holiday fare but it was fun and delicious.

What are some of your favourite crepe fillings and toppings?

Basic Crepe Recipe

(makes about 8-10 crepes)

1 cup of plain (AP) flour

1 egg

1/2 tbsp melted butter

pinch of salt

1 cup of milk

1/2 tbsp butter

(Mix all ingredients until smooth and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking. For more tips on crepes see Peppermint Chocolate Crepe Cake)

Drunken Pumpkin Crepe Filling (savoury)

Drunken Pumpkin Crepes

(makes about 4 servings)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large shallot chopped

1 large garlic clove chopped

1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh sage

1 tsp grated orange zest

2 tbsp whiskey

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

2 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese

(toasted pine nuts- optional)

salt and pepper to taste

4 slices of prosciutto

Heat butter and oil on medium heat. Add shallots, and brown for about a minute, then add garlic and sage. Stir for another minute. Mix in orange zest and remove from heat to incorporate alcohol (make sure you always remove your pan from heat when adding alcohol). Immediately add whisky. It will bubble up quite furiously but will start to settle. Put back on heat and sprinkle in sugar. Stir occasionally as it simmers and begins to reduce. After about 5 minutes add the pumpkin and simmer for another couple of minutes. The colour should get darker as the pumpkin absorbs the sauce. Then stir in the Parmesan, and add salt and pepper to taste. (If you want to use pine nuts, go ahead and add them into the pumpkin mixture at the end)

Lay crepe out flat and place a slice of prosciutto down the middle. Spread 1/4 of the pumpkin mixture on top of the prosciutto and then fold each side of the crepe over the middle (almost like a burrito).

Drunken Pumpkin Crepes

 White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepe Filling

White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepes

(makes about 6 servings)

1 cup of fresh (or defrosted unsweetened) raspberries

1/2 jar of lemon curd (available in the jam section of the grocery store)

1 cup of white chocolate chips

2 tbsp of ricotta cheese

Mix the raspberries with the ricotta. (If using frozen, defrost them in a sieve so the excess water can drain away.) Spread the chocolate chips over the fresh hot crepe and allow them to begin to melt for a minute. Add a few healthy dollops of lemon curd, and the ricotta raspberry mix. Fold over and indulge!

White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepes

Chocolate Peppermint Crepe Cake

Crepes, my first pancake love. Simple, warm, with a squirt of lemon juice and a dusting of sugar. Perfect! Truth is there are so many great ways to enjoy them. My mum and aunt used to make crepe suzette (sizzling with orange juice and Grande Marnier) and then in Cyprus I discovered the amazing combination of Nutella, bananas and crushed toasted hazelnuts. Soon, I was seeking out Creperies for date nights, for dinner and dessert and exploring all flavour combinations, sweet and savoury.

In secondary school one of the first things we learnt to make in Home Economics (for boys and girls!) was pancakes. My first attempt was pretty poor and I came home with a Tupperware filled with soggy shreds of broken pancakes. Now, I am quite the crepe flipping diva but as much as I love them, I really don’t make crepes very often because there is no real healthy way to craft the batter effectively unlike American style pancakes. However, we had some new Waco friends over for dinner last night and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to re-kindle my original pancake love affair. I have seen a crepe cake trend emerging on Pinterest so it seemed only natural to attempt my own version.

It’s not easy to describe in a blog how to make the perfect thin crepe and so I am going to defer to the internet on this one! There are lots of  video tutorials to follow and you don’t need a special crepe making machine, just a good medium sized shallow pan (and a little practice!) . But as always, I do have a couple of tips for you.

  • Unlike american style pancakes, your pan should be on medium high heat and make sure you use a non-stick spray or butter. This will ensure they don’t stick.
  • They don’t take long to be ready for the flip. As soon as you see the little tiny bubbles appear, pull the edges away with a spatula all the way round and then turn them over.
  • Use a mixer to remove all the lumps. Your batter should be very smooth.
  • Allow your batter to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes before making crepes.
  • Stick to a good recipe. The consistency of crepe batter is crucial so don’t experiment too much, especially if you’re making them for the first time.
  • The batter keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • I think crepes are best fresh. You can make them ahead of time, if you are going to re-heat them. But with something like a crepe cake, were they are cold, I think crepes are best if served on the same day.

Pancake/crepe Batter:

1 cup all purpose (plain) flour

2 cups of milk

2 eggs

1 tbsp melted butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

Sift flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Combine together with a fork and then mix on medium speed with a hand held mixer until perfectly smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. For the crepe cake, I doubled the ingredients to make about 12-14 pancakes. Make crepes and set aside separated with parchment paper until ready to assemble the cake.

(For the filling and topping, I adapted a delicious cupcake recipe that I was introduced to by a friend. The original recipe can be found here on Your Cup of Cake an excellent baking blog)

Chocolate Mint Filling:

1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 cup of dark chocolate chips

1 tsp mint extract

1/4 cup of powdered sugar

1/4 cup of dutch processed cocoa powder

Melt cream with chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds on 50% heat. Stir well until all the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. (If you chose to make this ahead of time and it hardens in the fridge, you can add a little extra cream and place it back in the microwave for a few seconds)

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

4oz cream cheese at room temperature

3 tbsp of butter at room temperature

3 cups of powdered sugar

drop of mint extract

1/2 tbsp of cream or milk

green food colouring

Cream the butter and cheese for about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, milk and extract. Mix until smooth and then add food colouring a tiny bit at a time until it reaches your desired shade of green.

Assembling the cake:

Lay crepe on serving dish and spread a thin layer of the filling. Leave about a 1cm space around the edges.

Chocolate Mint Crepes

Mint Chocolate Filling

Pipe the buttercream over the top

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

and then drizzle with a little melted chocolate.

Mint Chocolate Crepe Cake

Refrigerate until ready to serve.