Mille Crêpes

We had guests over for dinner this evening, so I was allowed to make a fancy dessert. The guests were from Japan, so I thought of the mille crêpes cakes I had often had during my stay in Tokyo. The first time I'd seen the cakes was after a particularly bad day at school when I hadn't felt like going straight home and stopped in a chain cafe not far from the subway station. I got my usual iced latte and saw the cake in the display. In Japanese it was ミルクレープ, which I had not identified as French, and assumed the first three characters spelled out "milk", leaving the rest to be "rape". Despite the odd name, it looked really good, so I went ahead and ordered a slice. This misreading affected the intonation with which I ordered the cake, but hey, I'm white, so no one really expects my intonation to be right anyway. I loved my "milk rape" -- light, fluffy crêpes with layers of even lighter, even fluffier vanilla cream inbetween them -- and ended up ordering a slice after a lot of bad days. The strawberry version was delicious too.

When I came back to America, I never saw anywhere selling them, and figured they, like the delicious yuki-ichigo (雪苺娘), were something I would probably not have again. But I thought of them recently when I was trying to come up with an idea for a dessert combining Earl Grey and chocolate. My original idea had been to have chocolate crêpes with Earl Grey cream, but my chocolate crêpes are never as chocolatey as I'd like, though I'd had success with Earl Grey baked goods. I also couldn't think of how to make a really flavourful Earl Grey cream without bergamot essence or something. So I switched it around.

The crêpes are fantastic. Nearly perfect. This recipe is not as light and fluffy as the ones I had in Japan, which made the cake a little harder to cut through with a fork. I think I would need to do something with whipped egg whites to get that softness. The flavour, however, blows Japan's away. (And no one minds using a knife to cut it.) Even without the Earl Grey flavour, this crêpe recipe has a much richer flavour than the almost-fake tasting crêpes sold in Tokyo's street-side stands.

The Japanese recipes I found for Mille Crêpes all used a custard cream as filling, so I just made a custard with some cornstarch, sugar, milk, egg yolks and chocolate chips. It tasted fine, good even, and everyone was suitably impressed, but to perfect the recipe, I would look for something fluffier (a mousse maybe), and flavour it with cocoa powder, to give it a lighter, slightly bitter flavour that would better complement the Earl Grey. Should anyone choose to attempt this, I would recommend they try for what I've described above, but any chocolate mousse or custard would be delicious. I sprinkled cocoa powder on top as a decoration.

Most mille crêpes use a stack of 20 crêpes with cream between each one, but my recipe came up a bit short, and my sister wanted me to set aside a few for her to eat plain, so my cake is not as towering as some I've seen.

Earl Grey Crêpes 
(Recipe based on the recipe for "crêpes de froment" from Cuisine Bretonne.)
Makes about 14 crêpes.
- 2 c. white flour (250 g.)
- 3 T. wheat flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- ½ c. sugar (100 g.)
- ½ c. butter (100 g.)
- about 1 c. cold steeped Earl Grey tea (25 cl.)
- about 1 c. milk (25 cl.)
- 1 t. ground Earl Grey tea leaves
- 1 T. Grand Marnier
- 2 T. brandy

1.Melt the ½ c. butter.
2.Mix the two flours in a large bowl. Form a well in the centre, and add the salt, egg, and sugar, and begin mixing it into the flours, adding the cold tea slowly.
3.Now add the milk to the batter (the exact quantity will depend on the flour) and continue stirring until you have a smooth fluid batter.
4.Add the melted butter along with the ground tea leaves, Grand Marnier, and the brandy. Let the batter rest 2 hours, if possible.

Stir the batter once more before cooking. So, here the recipe and I differ. It wants you to cook the crêpes in a sort of complex way involving semi-salted butter, clarified butter, and half a potato on a long fork, but I do it the way I was shown in France.

I put a pancake griddle (I find the sides of crêpe pans get in the way, and I end up with thick crêpes) on the range on high, then turn it down to medium-high once it's hot enough that water boils immediately on it. I pour a generous amount of oil on a paper towel and wipe the griddle with that to start, and between each crepe, to clear the surface of little stuck bits of the previous crêpe and keep the surface oiled.

I put about 1/3 c. of batter on the griddle, then spread it into a thin circle using one of the wooden tools that came with our wok. (If I were really good, I guess I could use the bottom of the ladle, and it'd be nice if I had one of those flat crêpe tools, but I made do with what I have.) Once the surface is cooked through, I flip it. If it's ready to flip, it'll come up pretty nicely, though I always lose the first one, and often the first two.