Sophie and Mango have got into the pleasing habit of trying out vegan recipes together on a Wednesday evening. This is not exactly a recipe blog, but a catalogue of trial and error, showing our successful and less than successful cooking adventures.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cracking the crepe conundrum

In October, I became the proud owner of a carbon steel crepe pan. Such a wonder this thing is that I cannot tell you - perfect pancakes, almost without fail, almost without oil. So why has it taken so long to blog about it? Not through lack of delicious dishes, that's for sure - possibly more through the embarrassment of having eaten very little else since its arrival.

But wonderful as it was to eat meal after delicious meal rolled into soft, fresh pancakes - vegetable curry with chutney, veggie sausage and tomato with white sauce poured on top, Isa Chandra's sweet potato crepes with coriander-tamarind sauce (the recipe that began the whole debacle) - for me, there was something missing from the equation.

I grew up in a house where, when frying pancakes, the aim of the game was thinness. Thin, crisp, golden brown pancakes (and to clarify, I use the word pancake here as in a British or French pancake, what Americans call crepes), wafery, crinkled at the edges, and not a hint of doughyness. It was this that eluded me. Mango, the non-believer, perfectly content with the crepes of average thickness that we were rolling off the pan week after week, told me again and again that it simply wasn't possible to get the same level of thinness in an eggless pancake. And I was almost ready to believe him. I was so close to giving in and settling for second best.

Until today. Yesterday, we made up a mix on the fly for brunch - I more or less melded two recipes from the Veganomicon and VWAV. The one in VWAV is tried and tested, but savoury - and today we were aiming for sweet, but the Veganomicon offering was over-complicated. So I took a little from each and winged it. Disaster nearly ensued. The first pancake stuck a little, refused to be turned, and wound up as a sticky, partially cooked mess on the plate. Mango thought the mix was too watery, and added more flour and a bit of oil. It worked after this, but the product was a little thick, though tasty. The mix went back in the fridge after we'd eaten our fill, and I brought it out again at dinner, after Mango had gone home. I decided to try to achieve the desired crispness. I turned the heat up under the pan a little more, used a little less batter, got some good swirly wrist action going - and the end result was in fact much improved. There were the beginnings of laciness at the edges, and a slightly more toothy bite to the outer layer.

But when I revisited the batter for the third time this morning - that's when the magic happened. I decided to go completely mad, and thinned the batter down a little more so it was almost back to the original consistency. By now the starch would certainly have swelled enough to be able to handle a bit less saturation. Again I turned the heat up higher than normal, wiped the pan with the barest coating of oil, and swirled in the mix. There it was - the delicate, almost translucent crepe I'd been hoping for. But could I lift it and flip it without incident!? Yes! Once the edges had begun to pull away from the pan, I gently slid the spatula twixt steel and crepe... Ta da! And the proof was in the eating. Crisp, wafer thin, spread with a little apricot jam and a few raisins - delicious.

Admittedly this isn't really an easily replicated recipe as it went through several alterations, but I think the key was in the long refrigeration - giving the ingredients time to bind, thereby gaining that all-important stretchyness. It's certainly going to be worth experimenting with! Now I know it can be done.

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