I know in America, we use the beginning of February as an excuse to kick a groundhog out of his home and either 1) scare him upon the sight of his shadow or 2) leave him complacent with no shadow to scurry back into his burrow. This isn’t the only holiday happening at the end of January…it’s also Candlemas !
I realize this isn’t a common exclamation. My roommates cocked their heads in wonder as I uttered such words.
Candlemas isn’t really much to celebrate for anglophones, but the French tradition is actually pretty “chouette.” Known as the fête de la chandeleur – otherwise known as crêpe day – it’s a grand excuse to eat these thin pancakes with any number of fillings while sipping on hard cider, a drink once extremely popular in the USA (more popular than milk…and the #1 beverage in Massachusetts) but now less well known. The origins of such a culinary combination are dubious, but many say the crêpe symbolizes the sun, and the celebration of la chandeleur falls on a pagan day recognizing the return of longer, sunnier days – rather like the solstice. Legend has it that if you can flip the crêpe with one hand, holding a coin in the other, you will be financially blessed for the coming year. (We didn’t try that combination, but I managed to half-flip my crêpe once…)
In order to properly devour lots of crêpes, we invited friends over (and a few Frenchies – Laurent and Jérôme) to celebrate en masse the “end” of winter. Potluck-style, I supplied the crêpes while the guests were asked to bring cider or fillings. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, caramel, speculoos, nutella and ice cream graced our kitchen table…as did four saladiers worth of crepes !
In a final twist, I made a “bananas foster” crepe complete with stewed bananas in a bourbon caramel sauce. Oh the spontaneous accidents that happen in a happy kitchen !
Crêpes take all of five minutes to whip together and they cook just as fast – serve them as a savory meal (filled with potatoes and cheese and salmon and herbs….or ham and cheese…or anything really) or as a nice breakfast or even as dessert. You can’t go wrong with this simple pancake as your canvas.
Crêpe batter :
2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups milk
3 GENEROUS tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Oil for the pan (we used a little veggie oil)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla and whisk well. Add the sugar (if you want – it’s not required) and the flour and whisk until the batter is smooth and without lumps. Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes. We didn’t REALLY have the time to let it rest (hungry people must be fed !) but in theory it’s wise to let the ingredients mingle. I think this removes some of the bubbles from the batter (allows them to rise to the top) so that one doesn’t have air pockets in their crepes.
Pour the batter into the center of a round pan, tilting the pan in order to make an even, thin crepe. Be sure to use a spatula to gently lift the crepe from the bottom of the pan in order to prevent further sticking. You can try your hand at flipping without a spatula…or you can just use a spatula because that’s a foolproof way ! Flip the pancake and let those little brown pockmarks form – it’s better if they have a little brown on ’em (adds some flava !)
Put on a plate and cover with whatever you want – I like speculoos – and either ROLL like a cylinder or fold into quarters. If it’s very full, folding is the wisest choice. If you have a thick filling, like nutella, then rolling will suit you just fine.
Devour in between swigs of cider !
Bon appétit ! 🙂