Beer Crêpes: A Pancake By Any Other Name

Cooking with Beer by | Jan 2011 | Issue #48

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

Each cuisine has its own version of the pancake. In Poland, it’s a nalesniki; the Hungarians have palacsinta; the Italians, clatita. The people of Vietnam call their pancake a bánh xèo; the Hispanic, a tortilla; and the Mu Shu wrapper is associated with China. Indians have the dosa and the French have the crêpe. The classic crêpe can be simple in taste, however, using a malt-flavored beverage instead of water in the base recipe creates a unique wrap that can be filled with many different combinations of flavor and texture. Crêpes can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, or a late-night snack after an evening at the bar.

Samosa Crêpe
Filled with IPA curried potatoes, peas, cilantro hop raita and caramelized onions. Cooking the potatoes in a beer curry and adding the other traditional flavors found in an Indian samosa creates a flavor-filled crêpe.

Serves: 4 as an entrée

IPA Curried Potato Ingredients:
2 lb. potato, Yukon gold, Idaho or fingerling, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
12 oz. India Pale Ale, like Russian River Pliny or Firestone Walker Union Jack
2 tbsp. curry powder, Madras or other curry blend
1 tbsp. kosher salt
3–4 cup water, cold

IPA Curried Potato Directions:
In a medium-size pot, add the prepared potatoes, IPA, curry powder, salt and water, making sure that the potatoes are fully covered by an inch with liquid (adding more water if needed). Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the liquid from the potatoes and add back to the pot. Cook for another few minutes, stirring to evaporate any remaining liquid. Pour the potatoes into a bowl and set aside.

Cilantro Hop Yogurt Raita Ingredients:
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 tbsp. hops, Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, or Fuggle
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or more if tastes desire
1 cup yogurt, whole milk, plain

Cilantro Hop Yogurt Raita Directions:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the cilantro, hops of choice, salt and yogurt. Pulse to chop and then mix until the ingredients have a slightly chunky, pesto-like consistency. Scrape into a serving container.

Samosa Ingredients:
1 cup peas, blanched or frozen thawed
3 tbsp. glee, clarified butter, or mustard seed oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp. garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 each onions, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
1–2 each chilies, fresh, jalapeño/Thai/Serrano (optional)
1 batch Herbed Pale Ale Crêpes or Rye Ale Crêpes (see below)

Samosa Directions:
Blanch the peas (cooking in boiling water for 2 minutes) and set aside in a bowl.

To make the caramelized onions, prepare the ingredients and measure each of them out. In a Dutch oven or large sauté pan over high heat, melt the glee or butter. Once the pan is hot, add the cumin and coriander seeds to the hot oil and lightly shake the pan. Once the spices start to pop, add the ginger, garlic, salt and turmeric, cooking for another 30 seconds. Then add the spiced onions and stir well.

Cook on high for about 8 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium, stirring the onions every 30 seconds or so. Continue to cook for another 5–8 minutes, until the onions are a medium-brown color, and very tender and sweet. Remove from the heat and place into a bowl.

To make the Samosa Crêpes, lay a cooked crêpe down on a cutting board. Place about 2 tablespoons of the cooked IPA Curried Potatoes on one half of the circle, sprinkle with some cooked peas and caramelized onions. Lightly sauce the top layer with the Cilantro Hop Yogurt Raita. Fold over the uncovered half of the crêpe and make a taco-like shape, then fold in half again, making a triangle wedge. Serve three to a plate and garnish with a few spoonfuls of the Cilantro Hop Yogurt Raita.

Savory Beer Crêpes
This base crêpe recipe is simple, and produces a tender and flavorful French crêpe. There are endless variations on this crêpe recipe, as are the options for delicious fillings.

Makes: 12 crêpes, 8 inches in size

2 each jumbo eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup beer
3 tbsp. butter, unsalted, melted
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup all purpose flour

In the pitcher of a blender, combine the eggs, cream, beer of choice, melted butter and salt. Blend on high speed for 1 minute, allowing the liquid ingredients to blend together. Turn off the blender and add the flour. Pulse until the batter has no more lumps and blend for 1 minute. Pour the crêpe batter mixture into a clean pitcher or quart-size Mason jar, seal and place into the refrigerator for at least an hour (up to 48 hours) before use. Allowing the batter to sit for an extended period of time will typically result in a better final product.

Hefeweizen Crêpe | Use 3/4 cup of Hefeweizen like Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen or Ayinger Bräu Weisse. Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

Herbed Pale Ale Crêpe | Use 3/4 cup of Pale Ale, like Firestone Walker Pale 31 or Ithaca Beer Co. Finger Lakes Pale Ale. Mix as recipe describes. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped chives, Italian leaf parsley and thyme leaves mixed together and whisk into the batter just before making the crêpes.

Buckwheat Bock Crêpe | Use 3/4 cup of bock lager, such as Shiner Bock or Samuel Adams Winter Lager. Substitute 1/3 of the all-purpose flour with buckwheat flour.

Brown Ale Crêpe with Mushroom Powder | Pulse 2 tablespoons of dried mushrooms (mixed or porcini) to a powder in the blender. Add liquids to the pitcher, then follow the above instructions. Use 3/4 cup of a Brown Ale, like Sierra Nevada Tumbler or New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale, adding a touch of umami to the finished crêpe.

Rye Ale Crêpe | Use 3/4 cup of Rye Ale, like Founders Red’s Rye PA or Two Brothers Brewing Co. Cane & Ebel. Substitute 1/3 of the all-purpose flour with rye flour.

Oatmeal Stout Crêpe | Use 3/4 cup of Oatmeal Stout like Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout or New Holland The Poet. Substitute 1/3 of the all-purpose flour with oat flour (or ground oat flakes). Add 1 teaspoon of thyme to the batter after it has been blended to keep the integrity of the herb in the mixture.

Sweet Beer Crêpes
These crêpes lend themselves more to breakfast or dessert.

Makes: 12 crêpes, 8 inches in size

2 each eggs, jumbo, room temperature
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup beer
3 tbsp. butter, unsalted, melted
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup flour, all purpose
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, bourbon

In the pitcher of a blender, add the eggs, cream, beer of choice, melted butter and salt. Blend on high speed for 1 minute, allowing the liquid ingredients to blend together. Turn off the blender and add the flour, sugar and vanilla. Pulse until the batter has no lumps and blend for 1 minute. Pour the crêpe batter mixture into a clean pitcher or quart-size Mason jar, seal and place into the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 48 hours.

Malted Milk Stout Crêpes | Add 3/4 cup of Milk Stout, Oatmeal Stout or chocolate. Add 1/4 cup of Ovaltine Malt Beverage powder to the flour. Substitute the sugar with 2 tablespoons of lactose (milk sugar) or malted milk powder.

Chocolate Cherry Crêpes | Add 3/4 cup of Kriek like Lindemans Kriek. Add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder. Add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract.

Wit Crêpes | Add 3/4 cup of Wit-style ale. Add 1 teaspoon of grated orange, tangerine or blood orange zest. Add 1 teaspoon of coriander that has been toasted and ground fine. Replace the sugar for an orange blossom honey.

Spiced Pumpkin Crêpes | Add 3/4 cup of Pumpkin Ale. Add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Substitute the sugar for brown sugar. Add 1/4 cup of pumpkin purée.

Flemish-Style Sweet and Sour Pork Crêpes
With a Rodenbach Grand Cru sauce. Riffing off Chinese sweet and sour pork, these crêpes make for a great fusion dish.

Serves: 6 as an entrée

Rodenbach Grand Cru Marinade for Pork Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup Rodenbach Grand Cru or other Flemish Red Ale
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. soy or tamari sauce, low sodium
1 tsp. ginger, fresh, peeled and minced
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. orange peel, dried
2 lb. pork, preferably shoulder or butt, cut into half-inch cubes
1/2 cup corn starch
oil to fry

In a non-reactive container, add the Rodenbach, vinegar, soy, ginger, orange peel and coriander; stir to combine. Add the cubed pork, toss to coat, seal and let marinate for at least 4 hours (overnight is preferred).

Remove the pork for the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Add the pork to a bowl and toss with corn starch to coat. Add the pork cubes to 350˚F oil and fry until crispy and fully cooked, about 4–5 minutes. Remove the pork and place it on a rack with a paper bag underneath to catch any dripping oil. Keep warm.

Rodenbach Grand Cru Sauce Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup Rodenbach Grand Cru or another Flemish Red Ale
2 tbsp. orange juice, pulp free
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. honey, local
1/2 tsp. ginger, fresh, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. corn starch

In a saucepan, add the Rodenbach, orange juice, sugar, honey, ginger, salt, and corn starch. Using a whisk, blend well, making sure there are no lumps. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. As the sauce comes to a boil, it will thicken. Once thick with the consistency of a sweet and sour sauce, remove from the heat and set aside, keeping warm.

Remaining Ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 each red onion, peeled and chopped
1 each bell pepper, red or yellow
1 each fennel bulb, heart removed, sliced thin
2 tbsp. almonds, sliced and toasted (more for garnish)
1/2 cup cherries, dried (optional)
1 batch Hefeweizen Crêpe

In a large sauté pan over high heat, add the oil. Add the onions, peppers and fennel, sautéing for 3-4 minutes to lightly cook the vegetables. Add the fried pork, then the toasted almonds and cherries (if using), stirring to even out the mixture. Add about half to 3/4 of the Rodenbach Grand Cru sauce and toss to coat. Remove from heat.

Take a cooked crêpe and lay it on a cutting board. Add about 2 tablespoons of the pork mixture down the center of the crêpe. Then roll the crêpe like a cigar. Place onto a plate with the crêpe seam down. Garnish the crêpes, two per plate, with the remaining sauce and some almond slices. Serve immediately.

How to Cook a Crêpe

Nonstick Sauté Pan:
Place an 8- to 10-inch nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of fat. The fat can be butter, duck fat, bacon grease, schmaltz or oil (olive, vegetable or canola). Swirl the pan to coat evenly with the fat, allowing the fat to melt completely. Once the pan is hot (about 1–2 minutes max) add 1/4 cup of prepared crêpe batter to the center of the pan. Pick up the pan by its handle and, using the wrist, tilt and rotate the pan in a circular motion, making a full rotation in about 10 seconds. Watch the batter as it runs over the surface of the pan. Adjust the angle of the pan to create an even and thin layer over the entire flat surface of the pan. If there are holes or spots missing batter, a small teaspoon can be used to dab with the fresh batter.

Place the pan back on the heat source and let sit for 30–45 seconds. The top of the crêpe should be just dry to the touch. Lightly shake the pan to release the crêpe from the bottom, then flip the crêpe over by flicking the pan from the farthest point to the handle in a sharp toss, or use a spatula. Cook for 10–20 seconds and place the finished crêpe onto a warm plate. Regrease the pan as needed, maybe every fourth crêpe. Continue until all the batter is used.

Upside-down Crêpe Maker:
This is a cool appliance for the avid crêpe lover. The unit is plugged into the wall socket to warm; a light turns on when fully heated. Using a pie plate or shallow container filled with the prepared batter, dip the lightly domed surface into the batter and hold for 5 seconds, rotating the pan in the batter to coat evenly. Then lift the pan out of the batter and let any excess batter drip back into the plate. Flip the pan over and let the crêpe cook until it looks almost dry. Using the finger tips, carefully twist the cooked crêpe free from the dome and place onto a warm plate. Repeat till all the batter has been used.

Electric Crêpe Maker:
Crêpes Makers are often used at farmers markets, fairs or by a street vendor on a popular boardwalk in France. The thermostat can be adjusted to get the perfect temperature for cooking the delicate crêpes. Once heated, apply a thin coat of fat (see above) across the mostly nonstick surface. Add 1/4 cup of crêpe batter and use the wooden crêpe scraper or spreader. To use this wooden dowel-like tool, pull the batter over the surface in a circular motion, laying a thin coat of batter on the entire surface. Once the batter is set, do not go backwards over the crêpe; keep rotating in the same direction to avoid tearing the crêpes. This does take practice, so be prepared for the first couple to be “practice crêpes.” Let cook for 30–45 seconds and remove the crêpe with a wooden spatula. Repeat the process with the remaining crêpe batter.

Crêpes are a great main dish to make ahead of time. They can be prepared hours before the guests or family arrive, and they also freeze well. For freezing, layer the crêpes in a stack, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze up to 2 months in the freezer. To thaw, leave overnight in a refrigerator before using.

Crêpes can also be served hot off the maker one by one, or try involving the guests in the cooking and set up a crêpe bar for individualized crêpes.