The Best Nutella Crepe
On a gray day like this, I get nostalgic for Paris. There are so many things I love about that beautiful city, and admittedly, many of them are food-related. A perfectly ripe apricot at a summertime market. A flaky croissant from Poujauran. A still-warm baguette l'ancien from Jean Millet (well worth the wait in line). A glass of bubbly on the terrace at Le Fumoir. A whimsically flavored–and perfectly executed–macaron from Pierre Hermé. Perhaps my favorite thing of all, however, is a 3 Euro takeout treat found all over Paris: a piping hot crêpe oozing with Nutella.
After extensive taste-testing, however, I have realized that a crêpe is not a crêpe. There are the crêpes that are too dry, too soggy, that skimp on the Nutella, or–worst of all–the crêpes that are made in advance and and sit in a limp pile for hours, merely reheated when you order. I've found perfection only once, in a nondescript spot on the Boulevard St. Germain, near Cluny. I stumbled upon Crépuscule many years ago while studying at the Sorbonne–one perfectly browned Nutella-filled crêpe from their takeout window was all it took for me to fall hopelessly in love.
A couple of things set their crêpes apart: 1) they brown their crêpes just long enough for them to remain slightly crisp on the outside. Being a sucker for texture, I love the contrast between the crisp exterior and the creamy hazelnut filling. 2) They have a secret ingredient in their batter: sucre vanille. These little packets of vanilla sugar are sold all over France and are often used in baked goods, giving it an extra vanilla boost. I've bought vanilla sugar in France to make the recipe at home, but if you can't find it, you can substitute vanilla extract. 3) They have achieved the perfect Nutella-to-crêpe ratio. As in, they smooth the Nutella evenly over half the crêpe, so you get an equal spread of Nutella on every single bite. Heaven.
I continue to return to my favorite spot every time I return to Paris, and the crêpes are always just as good. Nutella is clearly my favorite filling, but they also have other delicious options: lemon and sugar, rich chocolate sauce, or butter and jam. And on the savory side, they've got all manner of hearty gallettes, the traditional Breton pancakes made with buckwheat flour. Ham, cheese, and egg is a classic, but I love their goat cheese and spinach gallette for a light lunch.
Even if you never come to Paris, crêpes are amazingly easy–and cheap–to make at home. You just need a flat-bottomed crêpe pan (ideally) or a thin-bottomed non-stick skillet (you can get one for less that $20 here). There are special wooden sticks sold in France to flip your crêpes, but you can just use a nonstick spatula. (Or, of you get really good, you can flip them in the air like the pros). The key when making crêpes is to blend the batter really well so there are no lumps (a blender is great for this), to let it sit in the fridge an hour before cooking, and to learn the proper pan rotation so the batter spreads thinly and evenly. This will all take a bit of practice, but after you've tried it a time or two, you'll be hooked.
Crêpes are great party food–make a stack as people arrive and lay out a variety of toppings so everyone can assemble their own dessert. Your friends will definitely be impressed that you made them from scratch! Though the recipe below is for dessert crepes, be sure to try my recipe for buckwheat galettes so you can experiment with savory fillings as well. Bon appetit![recipe:best-nutella-crepe-recipe]