Once upon a time Europeans in general, after weeks of carnival, masked balls, partying, drinking, and eating sweets, were expected to use up their last remaining lard or animal fat before the Lenten period of penance and abstinence. So they made crepes. Each country developed various sauces and fillings. My favourite is the little rolled-up Czech crepe called palacinky that I discovered at Café Lucerne in Prague. Peter John, manager of Hotel Clement, recommended this beautiful café, which opened in 1902.
These delicious rolled-up crepes are very versatile. They are good with a slightly sweetened quark or curd cheese filling, served smothered with vanilla sauce—my favourite. Some people prefer apricot jam as a filling, possibly laced with Grand Marnier or kirsch and a dusting of vanilla sugar on top. Canned poppy seed filling with lightly sweetened whipped cream is another idea. A savoury option: a filling of lightly steamed asparagus or thinly sliced ham with cheese sauce. Omit vanilla sugar for savoury crepes.
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla sugar
- 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) milk, slightly warmed
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) butter, melted
- Butter for melting in the skillet
Sift flour with salt. Beat eggs until light and very slowly add slightly warmed milk and melted butter. Beat well. Add flour mixture to dry ingredients little by little, beating until smooth and full of bubbles. Heat a 6-inch skillet, then grease with just enough butter to cover the bottom (1/4 to 1/2 tsp should be enough for each pancake).
Pour 25 to 40 ml (2 to 3 tbsp) of batter all at once into the skillet, turning the pan so it spreads and completely covers the bottom. When the pancake is light brown, turn and brown the other side. Turn only once. Usually, when the pancake is ready to turn, the top side will be full of bubbles and no longer runny. Continue cooking until all the batter is used.
Cover each pancake with the filling of your choice, roll up and secure with toothpicks if necessary. Add topping and serve warm.
Tip: Cool crepes uncovered for half an hour to an hour, put plastic wrap over them on two or three plates and they will then fold and wrap very easily.
Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: [email protected]