Today, we will unveil one of the most iconic French culture dishes and French gastronomy: the crêpes. It is not only a renowned French dish but also a major landmark of one French region located in the North-West part of the country called Brittany. One might ask: what is a crêpe, and why is it such a monument of French culture?
What Are Crêpes Exactly?
A crêpe is a thin pancake that is primarily made with wheat flour, milk, and eggs. It can be eaten plain or with sugar, jelly, peanut butter or even Nutella. Crepes are traditionally a dessert, although, in some regions of France, it is eaten savoury. In Brittany, an effort is made to differentiate crêpes that are sweet and "galettes" which are the savoury version of crêpes, made this time with buckwheat flour, and has this sour taste and more brown looking aspect.
The easiest version of the crêpe is the famous "beurre sucre" meaning "butter-sugar". It definitely showcases the quality of the dough. However, the crepes can be matched with multiple other sweet flavours. Topped with salted butter caramel or jellies, crêpes will delight all gourmets!
Crêpes Hold a Unique History
Crepes actually have a tumultuous and long history. Thanks to archaeological excavations, historians have traced the discovery of crepes to 7,000 years BC after grain grind fragments were found. It is believed that one day a woman spilled her edible slurry onto heated stones that immediately cooked this latter and turned it into a crepe by mistake. Many other stories exist of how crepes were discovered. What has been asserted is that crepes are also part of the colonial history of France. One of galettes and crepe's main ingredient is buckwheat and was allegedly brought back by the French from Asia, specifically from Népal, the Himalayas, and Turkey during the crusades of the 13th century. The Bretons introduced the Black Wheat when the Duchess Anne of Brittany imposed it on his lands in the fifteenth century, wishing to ensure the harvests even to the most deprived of his kingdom. The peasants were lucky since the plant requires little work and was little taxed, turning their poorly fertile land into a gold mine. Besides, the buckwheat gives harvest after 3 months. Many poor people fed on porridge and patties, crushing the seeds transformed into flour. At that time, the luxury and abundance criteria were eating crêpes several times a day, which was reserved for lords.
What Is Brittany?
One thing that is important to remember about France when it comes to gastronomy is that it is not a monolithic country. It is made of many regions which each have their own identity, food language and often history. In fact, Brittany used to be a province of France back in the days. Its history actually goes back to the Roman Empire and Julius Caesar's invasion of the Gaulle (ancient France). In the 16th century, Brittany remained autonomous fiscally and politically. Until the French Revolution and the abolition of feudal privileges, provinces such as Brittany started to lose sovereignty. Then in the 19th century, despite efforts to keep a traditional peasant-based way of life, Brittany was pushed to integrate within the rest of France and lose some of its traditions and cultural specificities. But one thing that Brittany was able to preserve is its gastronomy and its most famous dish, the crêpes.
A Regional Pride for Centuries
Crepes are now a regional pride for Bretton people, who struggle to preserve their culture and uniqueness as they are now entirely integrated into France. But crepes are now a symbol of Brittany's identity and culture, which shines on France and manages to export itself in the entire world. France even has a holiday to celebrate the Bretton dish, called "la chandeleur". It occurs on the 2nd of February every year, also celebrating a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. On this day, all French people, Bretton or not, bake crepes at home and share them with their families and friends. This is another example showing that crepes are truly an emblem of French culture and, more specifically, of Brittany.
Easy To Do Recipe of How To Make Crêpes
A traditional recipe of crêpes only includes the following ingredients: wheat flour, eggs and milk. One often adds some butter, sugar and sometimes even beer in the batter to make it airier. You can find 8 other savoury easy to do French recipes to impress your guests!
Ingredient for 4 servings
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.
The Pancake, An American Version of the Crêpe?
Crêpes and pancakes are kind of like distant cousins. One living on the Old Continent and the other one in the so-called New World. But what truly distinguishes the Bretton crêpe from its North American counterpart?
The main difference between the two is that pancakes have a raising agent; in other words, it has baking powder, contributing to its thickness and fluffiness. In contrast, crêpes are way more airy, thin and delicate. Pancakes also seem to be a bit heavier in calories, making our French crêpes the go to a healthy option. Besides, pancakes are often served as a pile of them, whereas crepes are usually rolled and eaten individually.
An Emblem of French Culture
Crepes are ultimately an emblem of French culture, celebrating one of its most famous regions, Brittany. Whether you like it sweet, savoury or even the American version of it "pancakes," you will not be able to ignore this iconic aspect of French culture.
Do you want to explore more traditional french dishes and experience the true France? Best of France has got you covered. Take a look at our Food Boxes. It will transport straight to Paris, Brittany or the Champagne region. Buckle up, the journey is only getting started!