What is a crêpe?
A crêpe is a very thin pancake; so if you can make pancakes, you can make crêpes. The main difference (aside from thickness) is that one normally adds ingredients to the top of a pancake (e.g. butter, sugar, or maple syrup) but with crêpes one places the ingredients to be added in the centre of the crêpe and then either roll up the crêpe or fold it into a packet.
There are two types of crêpe recipes: those for the crêpe itself (the pancake) and those for the filling that goes in or on the crêpe.
In terms of the crêpe pancake itself, there are 3 approaches:
One can buy ready made crêpes, or
One can buy the mix and make the crêpes. The ready-made mix can either be based on white flour (in France this would go by the name "Préparation pour crêpes"), or it can be based on buckwheat (in France this would go by the name Préparation pour crêpes as Sarrasin"). Personally I prefer the former as more refined, but for those who like a more rustic taste the latter is also popular.
One can make the crêpes from scratch. A recipe for this is Crêpe Recipe.
In terms of the crêpe filling/sauce, the most well known and popular recipe is:
Favourite variations of this are:
Types of crêpes
In terms of crêpe recipes, there are two sets of ingredients:
Ingredients used in making the crêpe (pancake) itself. For example, one can use refined flour or whole wheat flour. However, there are only a few variations, so after you've learned two or three recipes you've mastered this aspect of crêpe making.
Ingredients placed on top of the crêpe, before rolling or folding it up. In other words, crêpe fillings. Here there are dozens of different possibilities. They fall into two general categories: sweet ingredients (which are used to make dessert crêpes) and non-sweet ingredients (which are used to make snacks or meals).
Common fillings for dessert crêpes include: sugar and lemon juice, jam, melted chocolate, ice cream, nutella (a chocolate and nut pastes), various soft fruits. In the case of fruit fillings, cinnamon is sometimes added as well. It is also very common to have a filling of sugar plus a liquor (e.g. sugar and Grand Marnier).
If the crêpe is to be served as the main meal rather than a dessert, the fillings are more substantial. For example: cheese (usually grated), ham, eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, or meats. In this case, the main meal would typically consist of two or three crêpes.
Crêpes are also often served as a snack or as fast food. For example, just as one might find a hotdog or hamburger stand on the streets of USA cities, one will often see a small crêpe stand on the sidewalk of Paris or other French cities. There one can order a variety of dessert or non-dessert crêpes, which are prepared on the spot. Similarly, at the larger fairs or markets, one might find crêpes for sale.
How to Make Crêpes
Making a crêpe consists of three steps:
Make the Batter. One makes a batter, which is similar to that of a North American pancake batter. The difference is that pancakes are fairly thick (about a centimeter) but crêpes are quite thin, so the batter for a crêpe is not as heavy as for a pancake because it must be thinly spread.
Cook. One then fries the batter to cook it, in much the same way as one cooks pancakes. This can be done in a frying pan (a heavy pan, such as an iron skillet is preferable). However, it is much easier if one uses a Crêpe Maker, as it can be difficult to make the crêpes sufficiently thin if using an ordinary frying pan.
Add Ingredients. Once the crêpe is cooked, remove and put it on a plate. Then add the ingredients to the centre of the crêpe and either roll the crêpe up or fold it over. It is now ready to serve.
With a frying pan or Crêpe Maker, one can only make one standard-sized crêpe at a time. So if you need more than a few crêpes, you may want to make then in advance (an hour before or even the day before) and then simply reheat them before serving.
If you find making crêpes in a frying pan difficult (I do), then you may want to consider a Crêpe Maker. Having tried both methods, I'm a firm believer in the latter.