You know how certain tastes and smells can trigger vivid memories? For me, crème fraîche and fruit jam wrapped up in a buttery crêpe takes me right back to the south of France, where I spent a delightful summer in college eating and drinking my way through Provence. Some day, I hope to return to this culinary paradise on a dream food and wine tour by bicycle, but until then, I guess I’ll have to continue conjuring up my sensory memories in my own kitchen. And crêpes are a favorite way to accomplish this.
Julia Child’s recipe for crêpes fines sucrées is a favorite — whip it up the night before and enjoy the next morning. As mentioned above, a simple mixture of crème fraîche and whatever jam you have on hand is all you need for the perfect petit déjeuner Provençale.
And so, given my adoration for this French classic, it was with great trepidation that I decided to give the vegan version below a try. Crêpes are so decidedly un-vegan; how could it be anything but an abomination?
You see, in search of healthy recipes for a post-holiday detox, I paged through an old vegetarian cookbook of mine that I had almost forgotten about, titled Passionate Vegetarian. It is a bit outdated, written during a time when soy was considered a miracle food, fats and eggs were maligned while white flour was still okay, and people still sauteed with cooking spray. Of traditional crêpes, the author writes “few eat that way anymore.” Huh? Regardless, it’s true that there’s an awful lot of butter and egg yolk packed into the batter, and that is really the last thing I need right now!
I was a skeptic, but the author swears up and down that the taste and texture were almost exactly the same as my beloved classic crêpes, insisting that the only slight difference was the beige-y color. And as I flipped them off the pan, they did look a little anemic, and carried a distinctive fragrance from the chickpea flour. My skepticism hadn’t faded.
But when I ripped a taste from one of the first ones I made, I was shocked: she was RIGHT! These were a surprisingly close approximation. Amazing!
I decided to serve these with some chard sauteed with shallots and shitake mushrooms, and a vegan mushroom-mustard sauce also adapted from Passionate Vegetarian. But these crêpes would go with just about anything, sweet or savory.
This recipe makes about 25-30 crêpes. You can make them all at once and store them separated with parchment paper in a container, or make a few at a time, keeping the batter in the fridge for up to a week.
For a healthier (but heavier) version, substitute up to 1 cup of the white flour with buckwheat flour or up to 1.5 cups of whole wheat pastry flour.
2 tablespoons potato starch
2.25-2.5 cups water
1 tablespoon mild olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
In a food processor, combine potato starch, salt and oil with 1/4 cup of the water, and process briefly to a thin liquid. Add the flours and gradually mix in the remaining water, at least two cups. Batter should be relatively thin, if it is still a thick consistency, add more water tablespoon-by-tablespoon.
Coat a large skillet with a little bit of oil and bring to medium-high heat. Drop in a scant 1/3 cup of the batter, gently tilting the skillet to allow it to spread out into a wider circle.
Heat the crepe for about a minute or two — you will know when it is ready to flip when the edges start to curl up and it easily pulls away from the pan.
Cool them briefly on a cooling rack, and stack them with a piece of parchment or wax paper in between. These can be frozen for up to two months.
Savory crêpe filling —
sauteed chard with mushrooms
Really, you can fill these with just about anything. Any kind of vegetables, greens, beans, cheese; dip them in sauce, serve them like tortillas, or fill them with fruit and some cream, honey or maple syrup. Grind up some hazelnuts to a paste in your food processor, add some cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar, and voilà, you even have your own vegan version of nutella!
To make the filling that I used, simply saute some shallots (or garlic), add some sliced shitake mushroom caps and then deglaze with a splash of rice whine vinegar and soy sauce.
Add a couple bunches of chopped chard (or spinach) to the pan. Probably best to steam the greens first, but, eh. Why dirty another pot? Cover and stir occasionally until greens are nice and wilted.
When I first tasted this sauce I thought I could do without it, but it went perfectly with the chard and shitake crêpes.
1 teaspoon butter or butter substitute
1 medium onion, finely minced
2 cups diced mushroom caps
3 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Scant 2 tablespoons flour (I used chickpea)
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon red miso
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Saute onions, then mushrooms in a saucepan. Deglaze with a splash of the wine and then top with veggie stock.
In a food processor, combine garlic, flour, miso, yeast, mustard and the remaining wine and process into a paste. Add paste to saucepan and stir to combine.
Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, until thickened.
I may not be ready to give up my traditional crêpes just yet — but these were a fantastic substitute for those on a vegan diet or who just want something a bit healthier. And though time-consuming, they weren’t hard at all!
I think next time I make these I will try substituting some whole wheat flour to see how that goes. But I am happy with these for now :).