I first experienced buckwheat crepes at the Breizh Café, a famous creperie in Paris that specializes in crepes from Britany in the Northwest corner of France. The batter, made only with eggs, buckwheat flour, water, and salt, is thin and earthy tasting, with beautiful brown, lacy edges when cooked.
While you can fill it with a myriad of fillings, a crepe filled with ham and cheese and topped with an egg, called Galette Complète, is the legendary Breton crepe and makes a substantial meal for lunch, brunch, or any time of day you have an itch to travel without getting on a plane.
I've taken a few liberties here in making this famous crepe. For a touch of green, I've added asparagus, and for ease, I've provided instructions for a half-moon shaped crepe instead of the traditional square. If you're feeling confident don't let that hold you back; make the crepes in a square—instructions are provided for you at the end of the recipe.
A Simple, Make-Ahead Crepe Batter
Most crepes are made of a simple, thin batter of water or milk, flour, eggs, and salt, and sometimes butter. There is no leavening involved and the batter is much thinner than pancake batter, so it glides across a hot pan in a thin layer, just the right thickness to give the filling its due. Adding a little sparkling water to the batter aerates it with tiny bubbles.
The batter is quick and easy to make; just whisk all the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour so the flour can become fully hydrated. Sizes range from tiny 4-inch rounds to 12-inch or larger crepes, suitable for an appetizer, a mini dessert, or a filling meal. Commonly, crepes are made with wheat flour, but these Crepes Bretonnes are made with buckwheat flour.
Buckwheat Flour Makes Crepes Gluten Free
Buckwheat has been grown in Britany since the Middle Ages. It may surprise you but there is no actual ‘wheat’ in buckwheat; it is not even a grain at all. The flour, both dark and light, is made from the seeds of an herb in the knotweed family that grows best in poor soil without pesticides or fertilizer.
In addition to its clean cultivation formula, buckwheat is a treasure trove of nutrition. I prefer the lighter colored buckwheat over the dark gray flour for the home kitchen. It just looks prettier.
Mix and Match Fillings
The fillings can be as exotic as the ones mentioned above served at the Breizh Café, but they're like pizza toppings. If a combination sounds good to you, go for it! Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Cooked spinach and goat cheese
- Smoked salmon and whipped cream cheese and chives
- Mixed seafood in a curry sauce
You get the idea. They can be as fancy or as unfancy as your mood takes you.
Tips for Making the Perfect Crepes
- Whisk the batter vigorously so there are no lumps. It should be just slightly thinner than heavy cream.
- Let the batter hydrate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or for up to two days in the fridge. If you've ever noticed pancake batter becoming thicker as it sits, it's because the flour slowly absorbs the liquid, and the batter thickens.
- Prep the filling ingredients before you begin and have them at the ready.
- Use a non-stick pan, heat it over high heat, and then smear it lightly over the bottom of the pan with the end of a stick of butter, or brush with melted butter. The key is to keep the butter coating light.
- Start with medium-high heat, then adjust the heat to medium or medium-low as the crepe cooks.
- Optional: Test the batter. Before you cook the first full-size crepe, ladle about 1/4 cup into the pan and swirl it around. It should glide quickly and easily over the bottom in a thin layer. If it seems thick, thin the batter with water and try again. You should expect to have a starter crepe that you may not use and that's okay!
- Use a ladle or a measuring cup with a spout to add the batter to the pan to control the portion size.
- Use a silicone spatula to loosen the edges and fold the crepe.
Big on Buckwheat? Try These Recipes!
Buckwheat Crepes with Egg, Ham, Cheese, and Asparagus
For the crepe batter
1 1/4 cups still water
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (180g) buckwheat flour
1/4 to 1/3 cup sparkling water, plus additional sparkling water as needed
For the crepe filling
1 teaspoon salt
12 asparagus, peeled if thick
Approximately 2 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
4 large eggs
4 ounces (2 cups) grated Gruyere cheese
4 thin slices ham, each cut or torn into 2 to 3 pieces
Make the crepe batter:
In a large bowl, whisk to combine the still water, eggs, and salt.
Gradually whisk in the flour until the batter is smooth and a few bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the sparkling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight, to allow the flour to fully hydrate.
Remove the batter from the refrigerator. It should be much thinner than pancake batter. Add more sparkling water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter is slightly thinner than heavy cream.
Cook the asparagus:
In a large skillet, bring 1 inch of water and the salt to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
With tongs, transfer to a cutting board and cut the spears into thirds. Set aside some of the asparagus for garnish and use the rest for the crepe filling.
Cook the first crepe:
Set a 10 to 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and warm until hot. Scrape the end of a stick of butter over the hot pan to lightly coat it.
Ladle in 1/2 cup of the batter and quickly tilt the pan in a circular motion to thinly cover the surface of the pan. If the batter is too thick, it won't spread quickly. Thin the batter with water, a tablespoon or so at a time, and try again with another crepe, or test with a small amount of batter first to make sure it is thin enough. Don't worry if it takes few tries; you should have plenty of batter.
Set the pan back on the burner and decrease the heat to medium. Cook for a few seconds, or until the crepe starts to set. Remove the pan from the heat.
Fill the crepe:
Break an egg onto one side of the crepe and use the back of a spoon to spread the egg white so the egg will cook in the time it takes for the cheese to melt.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese around the egg and arrange ham pieces from 1 slice of ham and about 6 pieces of the asparagus around it.
The filling should be on one side of the crepe. If necessary, gently nudge the egg to the middle of one side and use the filling to keep it in place. You will fold the other side over the filling.
Return the pan to low heat. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the egg whites are cooked. The yolk will still be soft.
Fold the crepe:
With a flexible rubber spatula, loosen the edges of the crepe all around the pan. Fold the unfilled side over the filling. Slide a large spatula under the crepe and transfer it to a plate. Top with the reserved asparagus for garnish.
Finish cooking and filling the remaining crepes one at a time:
Repeat with remaining batter, eggs, ham, cheese, and asparagus to make more crepes.
Serve immediately, or if you want to serve them all at once, keep them in a 200ºF oven while you make the remaining crepes.
Alternate method to make a traditional style square galette complète:
Follow the steps above but in Step 4, place the egg in the middle of the crepe. Spread out the white as directed above. Surround the yolk with the cheese, ham, and asparagus. If the egg moves to one side, use your fingers to make a moat of filling around the yolk and gently guide the yolk to the center. When the egg is cooked and the cheese melts, fold the crepe on all 4 sides towards the center to make a square with the yolk peeking out in the middle.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 40g||51%|
|Saturated Fat 18g||92%|
|Total Carbohydrate 36g||13%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||19%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||17%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|