It’s all about the batter: the 2 secret(s) to great crepes

Whether you like your crepe fillings or toppings (or both) to be sweet or savoury (or both!), crepes are versatile and delicious. And they’re not that hard to get right, so long as you start with the right foundation.

To get to the bottom of what makes a great crepe, I reviewed 20 recipes to find out what’s popular, and what’s not. And despite how it may seem, crepes are not just thin pancakes.

Crepes are not pancakes

If you haven’t made them before you’d be forgiven for thinking that crepe batter is just extra-runny pancake batter.

But there are a few significant differences that mean that the two are not interchangeable.

Leavening agents

The most important difference between pancake and crepe batter is the leavening agent, which is the ingredient responsible for raising or rising.

Pancakes are made with a chemical leavener (usually baking powder) which creates bubbles of carbon dioxide in the batter, especially when it’s heated. These bubbles are trapped in the pancake by gluten, giving it a risen fluffy finish.

But we don’t want tall, fluffy crepes, so there’s no chemical leavener added. That doesn’t mean there are no leavening ingredients in crepes though.

Closeup of ten eggs in an egg tray each with funny faces drawn on them.

Eggs

Both pancakes and crepes contain eggs, but the difference is in the ratios.

A typical pancake batter contains one egg or less per cup of flour.

Crepe batter is an egg-rich batter. The 20 recipes I reviewed have on average 2½ eggs per cup of flour.

The eggs play two important roles in crepes:

  • Eggs act as a leavener. They do this by trapping the air bubbles created by water expanding as the batter is heated. So the extra eggs in crepes help them fluff up just a little, preventing them from being too dense.
  • The fat in the egg yolks coats the gluten in the flour, helping prevent the finished product from being too tough.

Be aware though that too much egg can negatively impact the taste of your crepes. A couple of the recipes have four eggs per cup of flour, and one of these attracted a number of comments complaining of the eggy flavour or smell of the crepes.

Additional fats

The more fat there is in the batter, the more tender the finished crepe will be. And the fat in the egg yolks helps, but it’s not enough for truly tender crepes.

This is why most of the authors also include melted butter in their batter.

On average, these recipes contain two tablespoons of melted butter per cup of flour. And more than a few contain three or more.

Liquid

Like eggs, both pancake and crepe batters contain milk. And again like eggs, the difference between the two batters is in the ratios.

A common ratio of milk to flour in a pancake batter is 1:1. For each cup of flour there’s a cup of milk.

Crepe batter on the other hand has more liquid. Fifteen of these recipes have between 1¼ and 1½ cups of milk per cup of flour. That may not sound like a big difference at first, until you realise it’s between 25% and 50% more.

This is what makes a crepe batter so much thinner and runnier.

This helps the crepe batter spread out thinly in the pan. It also makes the batter easier to work with and less susceptible to overmixing.

Resting your crepe batter

The ingredients aren’t the only secret to a great crepe batter.

All but three authors rest their batter for a period of time after mixing it. And more than a few strongly emphasise the importance of this step.

Different authors highlight different reasons for resting the batter, but there are a couple of key points that come up again and again. Resting the batter:

  • Allows the gluten formed during the mixing process to relax, producing more tender crepes.
  • Gives the air bubbles created during mixing time to rise to the surface and escape, giving less leavening (and therefore more compact crepes).

Both of these are desirable outcomes, so it’s not surprising that most authors recommend completing this step.

In spite of this, three authors don’t find it necessary. And in fact Kenji from Serious Eats states clearly that “contrary to popular opinion” a crepe batter does not require resting. He doesn’t explain why, but he typically has good reason and often much experimentation behind this kind of statement.

Still, popular opinion is strongly on the side of resting your batter, with more than ¾ of the authors recommending it. And there’s no suggestion that resting is not good for your batter.

The suggested resting times vary dramatically, from as little as ten minutes to as much as 48 hours. Most authors recommend in the range of 30 minutes to overnight in the fridge.

Resting time is not the only place where there’s a big variance in the author’s recommendations.

Cooking time

For a very simple dish to cook, there is a lot of variation in how long the authors propose each crepe will take in the pan.

While a few authors suggest cooking your crepes should take only 10 to 20 seconds per side, almost as many advise it will take six times as long as this (from one to two minutes per side). In all the reviews I’ve done I’ve never come across this much variation in suggested cooking times.

There are obviously many factors at play here. The thickness of the pan used, the efficiency of the stove top, the heat setting used, and more. But it’s still a LOT of variation!

That said, the majority of authors suggest your crepes will take between 30 and 60 seconds per side. And many advise the second side will take less time. I’ve found both of these points fairly accurate (at least for me, my pan and my hot plates).

And one thing a number of authors point out – cooking them at a low temperature will not yield good results. The result is variously described as rubbery, chewy and uninviting. Most authors recommend medium to medium-high heat.

Closeup of cut open crepes filled with ham, mushroom and cheese.

The secrets to a great crepe

The secret to a great crepe is a great batter, and there are two key steps to making one.

  1. The right ingredient ratios. Based on these 20 recipes there are a few fundamentals that will help you nail it. Compared to a typical pancake batter, your crepe batter should be:
  • Egg-rich, with 2-3 eggs per cup of flour.
  • Quite runny, with 1¼ to 1½ cups of milk per cup of flour.
  • Fat-enriched with 2-3 tbsp of melted butter per cup of flour.

2. Let it rest. Once your batter’s mixed to a smooth consistency, rest it for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

Picking a recipe that follows these guidelines should lead you to a delicious meal or sweet treat.

Recipes included in this review

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