Love is a fire of flaming brandy
Upon a crepe suzette
Crepes Suzette may be the most well travelled of all French desserts. It has achieved it’s status as a cliché much like New England Clam Chowder or Chicken a la King has. It has been said that crepes Suzette are served more often outside of France than actually in France. While the exact origins will never be known there are plenty of popular stories and some great theories.
The most prevalent story is that of Henri Charpentier who at the tender age of 16 created it supposedly created it by accident. Henri had arrived on the shores of the United States in 1905 and said, “It was seven years earlier, in 1898, that I served crepe Suzette for the Prince of Wales, on the terrace of the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo.” In his biography, Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, he recounts “It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had every tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste . . . He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crepes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little shirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crepes Princesse to Crepes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”
In truth it is very impossible that such a young man would have been allowed to serve such an important dignitary anything. He could have been present but that is about it. The more likely origins are it was prepared in a household kitchen. Robert Courtine writes in ‘The Hundred Glories of French Cooking’, “There are hundreds of recipes for pancakes. But their workaday, family origins argue overwhelmingly in favor of the simplest of them all, the pancake our grandmothers made, in every moment inevitably the best: flour, milk, eggs, a discreet flavoring of orange blossom with it’s hint of rum.”
I recently attended the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle, Washington and received this lovely crepe pan from the good people at Anolon as a gift. Anolon was a proud sponsor of the conference. I got the crepe pan after attending a great session on ‘How to Create standout holiday content’ with Irvin Lin (Eat the Love) and Sarah Flotard (Sarah Flotard Photography). Decades ago I had done research for DuPont testing several different pans in my commercial kitchen without knowing which pans were which. The anolon prototypes were always the favorite of all the cooks. They could take a beating and never lose their non-stick quality or have it’s surface flake off like other teflon pans did. I remember the day DuPont wanted the pans back with my notes. The sadness I felt packing up my favorite pan was like watching a father send his only child dragged off to war wondering if he will ever see it again. OK, that was a bit dramatic. At any rate, I feel like the pan has come back home. I immediately put it to good use making crepes for my family.
- 2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 4 farm fresh eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 ounce melted butter
- 1 quart whole milk
- Put the flour in a large metal bowl.
- Whisk eggs, salt, butter and milk together.
- Pour egg mixture into flour and whisk together thoroughly. Strain mixture into a clean container and let rest for one hour.
- 1 recipe crepe batter (see above)
- 2 oranges, zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons Orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Curacao, etc)
- 4 tablespoons room temperature butter
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- Add one tablespoon of Orange liqueur and one oranges worth of zest and juice to the crepe batter.
- Cook crepes on your beautiful Anolon pan. I usually keep a stick of butter out and rub it quickly in the hot pan to lightly oil before each crepe. When the pan is hot pour two ounces of batter in a swirl the pan around so that the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan. It may take a few crepes to get the technique down pat but once you do you will be making crepes like a pro. Besides, the “mistakes” make great snacks while no one is watching.
- Cook two to three crepes per person.
- Mix remaining orange juice and zest with 1 tablespoon of orange liqueur, soft butter and powdered sugar.
- Smear a spoonful of orange butter in each crepe and fold crepe into quarters.
- Arrange in a buttered, oven proof dish.
- Bake at 400 degrees for five minutes, or till warm.
- Serve immediately.