How to Boil Water: Simple crepes, savory or sweet

Illustration for "How to boil water" series; crepes
(Caroline Marks / For The Times)

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So we’re here to get you started.

Each weekday, we’re going to post a new skill here and go into detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.

March 26, 2020


I’ll take pancakes at a diner over a crepe from a crepe shop any day, but at home, crepes are the only way to go.

I realized during my kids’ tiny years that pancake breakfasts meant I missed spending the meal with them — I was stuck at the stove, waiting for each batch, and by the time I was done cooking, they were done eating.

Crepes cook in a quarter of the time and can be stacked and served warm all at once. Even if I’m slinging them one by one, there’s still enough time to enjoy them together at the table for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Plus, leftovers mean crepes for quick snacks and, of course, desserts too.

If you’re imagining batter spread onto a special flat pan with a wooden flat-bottomed rake like at some creperie, you might think they’re difficult to make. But you don’t need a special pan or tools. All you do is whisk the batter together until smooth and then turn into a crepe-making machine with a nonstick skillet or two.

The batter cooks and tastes better after an overnight chill in the fridge, but it can hang out for just five minutes before cooking too. Resting the batter thickens it, but I don’t always plan ahead, and I’m happy with less-rested crepes too.

It may take a few tries to get the hang of swirling the batter into a thin floppy round in the pan, but amoeba-shaped crepes taste just as good. The secret is to work quickly: As soon as the batter hits the lightly greased hot pan, start rotating your wrist with the skillet handle in your hand so that the batter runs into a nice circle. Set it back down and as soon as the bottom browns in a minute or less, flip the crepe. An additional 15 to 30 seconds and it’s done. Once you nail it, you can try doing two pans at once, going from one to the other for a steady flow of warm crepes. Sooner than you think, you’ll find the process second nature and hypnotically soothing.

Nonstick pans make the process foolproof, but a well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel skillet or, of course, a crepe pan works well too. Grease all the options lightly — no pooling please — to ensure that the batter slides evenly.

If you’re not serving the crepes one at a time and want them warm, you can keep the stack in a low oven, a barely simmering steamer or a tortilla warmer. (They’re good at room temperature too.) Or you can get fancy and return the crepes to the pan when filling them.

For sweet, you can start with the classic butter-sugar duo and go on to jams, spreads, curds or compotes. For savory, cheese is always tasty, as is ham or cured pork in any form; ditto eggs, fried or scrambled, and, of course, vegetables like sauteed greens or mushrooms. Keep a stash of crepes in the freezer and experiment with stuffing them however you like at each meal.


Basic Crepes

Time30 minutes, plus resting batter
YieldsMakes about 12 (6-inch) crepes

Galettes (buckwheat crepes)

Time1 hour
YieldsMakes 20 to 24 galettes

Crepes suzette

Time1 hour
YieldsServes 6