Food & Drink

Test Kitchen: Make your own crepe batter to avoid lumps

One secret to lump-free crepe batter is sifting the flour.
One secret to lump-free crepe batter is sifting the flour. Tribune News Service

QUESTION: What is the secret to lump-free crepe batter?

– Chris Renteria, Dearborn, Mich.

ANSWER: Ahhh, crepes. A great treat whether you fill them with a sweet or savory filling or fold them and drizzle with chocolate.

While you can buy a crepe mix that needs additional liquid ingredients, I prefer making my own. (More on this later). But, yes, sometimes lumps of flour just happen with crepe batters. In fact, many recipes call for straining the batter to catch any lumps.

But you can prevent those lumps. As with cake batters, lumps can form if you don’t sift the flour. If a recipe doesn’t call for sifting the flour, just give a few whisks (use a wire whisk) in the bowl. Flour settles when it’s stored, and whisking aerates it. You can do this with the crepe mix, too.

If the crepe batter is under mixed, you could see some lumps. So mix thoroughly.

With many batters, ingredient temperature is key to a smooth texture. Have you ever added cold cream cheese to a cheesecake batter to find it doesn’t mix in quite right? You’ll see little specks of cream cheese in the batter because it is too cold.

In the case of a crepe batter that requires melted butter – as in today’s recipe – it’s best to melt it and let it cool. If you add piping hot butter to a flour mixture with cold milk, there’s a chance some of it will become solid and clump up. And when you do add the butter, drizzle it in slowly while stirring.

Lumps of flour can also form even when the above precautions are taken. If this happens, you can strain the batter through a sieve, leaving the tiny lumps behind. Straining also helps achieve proper texture. Crepe batter should be thin – thinner than pancake batter. If it coats the back of a spoon and drips off in a thin stream, it’s good.

While you can whisk the batter in a bowl by hand, you must do so vigorously to remove any lumps. A food processor or blender is best for lump-free crepe batter.

Using a blender is my preferred method, which brings me to another important step in crepe making: resting the batter. When making crepes, it’s best to let the batter rest a good hour in the refrigerator and even overnight before using. Again, the blender is perfect because you can store and pour from it. This allows the flour to absorb some of the liquid and gluten that formed when you mix it.

Once you make the batter you will also notice bubbles; when the batter rests, those go away. The result is a crepe that is tender and shouldn’t tear when cooked.

Today’s recipe for basic crepes can be filled with a sweet or savory filling. If you want sweet crepes, see cook’s note.

BASIC CREPES

Preparation time 5 minutes (plus overnight resting time), total time 45 minutes. Adapted from “Crepes” by Lou Seibert Pappas (Chronicle Books, $14.95).

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/3 cup water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter or oil for greasing the pan

In a blender or bowl, place the eggs, milk, water, flour and salt. Mix a few times and drizzle in 2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter. Process the mixture for 15 seconds or until smooth. Stir down the sides and process another 15 seconds. Or mix in a food processor or whisk (sift the flour and salt first) by hand. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight, but no more than 24 hours.

To cook crepes, place a 6- or 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush with a little butter. Take the pan off the heat and pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons of the batter for small crepes or 1/4 cup of the batter for large crepes – tilting the pan so the batter coats the entire bottom of the pan. Cook the crepe 1 minute or until almost dry on the top and lightly browned on the edges. Loosen the edge with a spatula and flip the crepe over. Cook on the other side for about 20 seconds or until lightly browned. Remove the crepe to a platter. Repeat with the remaining batter, giving it a stir after making several crepes and using the butter to grease the pan as needed. Stack the crepes as they are cooked.

Cook’s note: To make dessert crepes, add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and, if desired, 1 tablespoon brandy or amaretto to the batter. Proceed as for making the crepes above.

103 calories (43 percent from fat), 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 107 mg sodium, 53 mg cholesterol, 37 mg calcium, 0 g fiber.

Makes ten 8-inch crepes.

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