My mama used to make a tasty dessert that always sounded like “Bolla cheenta”, which is actually the Hungarian palacsinta. They were thin pancakes rolled around sweetened “pot cheese” (small-curd cottage cheese) with cinnamon and were always an extraordinary treat.
Years later I prepared palacsinta for a friend and myself and he said they were similar to Blintzes, a crepe recipe popular in Jewish cuisine. We got to talking about filled pancakes and realized they are found all over
Eastern Europe with variations almost everywhere else. We agreed that the most celebrated crepe (French for “pancake”) preparation was probably Crepes Suzette.
Since I already love palacsinta, I try the Suzette variety. In the ensuing years I make it several times. Apparently I’m not the only crepe lover because all of a sudden there were cumbersome crepe-making machines everywhere and crepes became a fad.
Like all fads, the crepe craze cooled off, but not in established upscale restaurants. Crepes Suzette with its flambé preparation is always an exciting event for diners and onlookers. A trolley table is pulled up to the table and the dessert is prepared tableside.
Making crepes may be off-putting to some but are not difficult to make. It’s important to let the batter rest one or two hours in your icebox. Then the thin batter is poured into a greased pan and swirled to cover the entire pan bottom. Basically, a crepe is just a very thin cooked pancake. The first one may not come out well but the rest will.
The Suzette variation has flavourings and orange brandy is poured over the crepes and ignited. Crepes Suzette with the flamboyant flambé technique and the luscious taste of the crepes combine to make a spectacular dessert.
If you love desserts and are looking for something out of the ordinary with an entertaining presentation, I urge you to try this regal dish, supposedly invented in 1895 when served to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII of
Here is my recipe, adapted from the Fanny Farmer cookbook.
Crepes Suzette serves 4
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1 pinch salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Light olive or canola oil for oiling pans
Confectioner’s sugar for garnish, optional
Orange wedges, for garnish, optional
· Mix the flour, eggs, milk and salt in an electric blender or with a wire whisk briefly, until smooth.
· Add the melted butter and blend to combine.
· Put the batter in the icebox for at least one hour. This is important.
MAKE THE SAUCE
4 tablespoons fresh unsalted butter, separated into four pieces for even melting
3 tablespoons sugar
Grated rind and juice of two oranges
1/3 cup of Cointreau orange liqueur
In a large wide skillet, melt the butter. Just when it is melted, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Stir in the rind and the juice and bring to a simmer. Adjust flame to very low, or shut off until ready to serve the crepes.
PREPARE THE CREPES
Use a 6-inch skillet, lightly oiled using a paper towel, over medium heat.
Pour slightly less than ¼ cup of batter into the pan and swirl until fully coated.
Cook about a minute, watch the top get dry.
Turn and cook about 10 seconds.
Put each cooked crepe on a platter
The batter is thin like cream, if it gets thick thin with a little milk.
Make sure skillet is ready for each crepe by wiping with the oily paper towel.
FINISH THE CREPES
Fold each individual crepe in half and put 2 at a time in the warm sauce. With tongs or a spatula, quickly fold crepes in half again. Repeat until all crepes have been added. Work rapidly so all the crepes can absorb the sauce equally.
Warm liqueur briefly in a small pan and pour over all the crepes in the skillet. Do not pour directly from the bottle.
With a wooden match or a long match, ignite the liquer. Remove the skillet from the heat.
The flame will burn for about a minute. When it’s all burnt and the alcohol is evaporated, put the crepes on dessert plates. Dust gently with the confectioners sugar (you could pour some through a strainer) and garnish with the orange slices.
If you prefer, you can certainly omit the alcohol flambe and the dessert will still be excellent. You could add a dash of orange extract to the sauce. Either way, try some Crepes Suzette, a grand old classic.