Crêpes à la Sauce Camembert

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A crêpe or crepe  is a type of very thin pancake. Crêpes are usually of two types: crêpes sucrées  or sweet crepes, which are made with white flour and eaten for dessert;  and crêpes salées also known as    savoury galettes,  that are made with buckwheat flour and filled with savory fixings.

In terms of culinary etymology, crêpes belong to the general category of ancient Greek Tiganitai, from Greek tiganos (τίγανος), meaning “frying pan”, which in English is literally translated to Pancakes. The French term, crêpe, derives from the Latin crispa, meaning with “creases”. The name “galette” came from the French word galet (“pebble”) since the first gallettes were made on a large pebble heated in a fire.

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While crêpes are often associated with Brittany, a region in the northwest  of France, they are also enjoyed throughout France, Belgium, Canada, and many parts  of Europe, North Africa, Lebanon, and Argentina.

Preparing crêpes at home is also common, and very easy.  As a home cook, you have the ultimate freedom to use whatever fillings you like. In this way, crêpes salées become a wrapper for all types of leftovers. It should be noted that the addition of an egg almost always improves a savory crêpe.

This is an Americanized recipe where the crepe batter needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before cooking the crepes. As the batter chills, the flour expands and absorbs the liquid, which helps produce tender crepes. You can cook the crepes in advance and fill them just before serving.
Recipe Adapted from
Williams-Sonoma
2019

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3  tablespoons olive oil
3/4  pound white button mushrooms, sliced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 pound thick-cut baked ham, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Camembert cheese, rind removed, diced
4 green onions, white and light green portions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the milk. Add the 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and whisk until the batter is smooth. Stir in the canola oil. Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight before making the crepes.

In a crepe pan over medium heat, melt 1/4 Tbs. of the butter. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan, then quickly tilt and turn the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter evenly to the edges. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the crepe and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a warm plate. Repeat to make 12 crepes.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add half of the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon the salt and pepper and sauté until the mushrooms are dark brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Push the mushrooms to the side of the pan, add the remaining mushrooms, and sauté until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are dark brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the ham to the pan and sauté until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the ham to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining 1 cup milk and whisk in the 3 tablespoons of flour. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and cheese and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the ham, mushrooms, green onions and parsley and stir until heated through. Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling in the middle of each crepe and roll the crepe around the filling.

Cook’s Notes:

When making crêpes, you make your batter ahead of time. The night before is ideal, but at least two hours in advance is required.If you are making the crêpesbatter the night before, refrigerate it, and then let it come to room temperature before cooking. You want to give it time to relax into itself, and for the flour to absorb the liquid evenly. If the batter looks a little dry after this resting period, it’s ok to add a bit more liquid.

Another great thing: crepes freeze incredibly well. My suggestion is to make the entire batch at once, even if you will have extra. Simply layer what you won’t eat between parchment paper, move to a sealed plastic bag, and voila! Now you have crêpes for the next time too.

Sources:

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, XIV, 645c; Galen, On the Properties of Foods, I, 3.

Cristina Sciarra (2012). “All About Crêpes“.The Roaming Kitchen.
Accessed October 19, 2019.

Williams-Sonoma (2019) Crepes a la Camembert.  Accessed September 10, 2019

 

 

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Croque Madame

Bonjour !

Je vous présente la tartine du petit déjeuner ultime… la Croque Madame!

The croque madame, the classic French ham and cheese sandwich covered in cheesy bechamel, with a fried egg placed on top of it. Ham and cheese never tasted so good!

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Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces Gruyère, grated
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Twelve 3/4 inch-thick slices pain de mie or Pullman bread, toasted
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 slices baked ham, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 eggs

Directions:
Heat butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 6–8 minutes. Add ½ cup grated Gruyère and the Parmesan, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Heat broiler to high. Place 6 slices bread on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and spread 1 tablespoon mustard over each. Top with 2 slices ham and remaining Gruyère. Broil until cheese begins to melt, 1–2 minutes. Top with remaining bread slices, then pour a generous amount of béchamel on top of each sandwich. Broil until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned, about 3–4 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron  skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Place an egg on top of each sandwich, and serve hot.

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Galettes des rois

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Photo Credit: Dominique Ansel Bakery, 2018

 

Starting in late December, pastry shops in Paris start jumping the gun, and windows and showcases begin filling up with Galettes des rois, or King Cakes, in anticipation of the celebration of Epiphany, held on January 6th.

 The French have been serving up galette des rois since the 14th-century. Traditionally, the  season of the galetter des rois begins on Twelfth Night and ends on Shrove Tuesday.  The cake is served on January 6th – the 12th day of Christmas – to celebrate the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the Wise Men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, who travelled  from the three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe, to the manger in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, to present their gifts.

Today, it’s eaten throughout the month of January and is simply a festive way to celebrate the new year with family and friends, regardless of religious background.

Composed of a puff pastry cake, with a small charm, the fève, hidden inside, it is usually filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. But more gourmet versions are available for us to enjoy, with chocolate, apple or candied fruits. Every year, the leading French pâtissiers offer exclusive creations for the tradition of crowning the one who finds the fève.

The Fève

Like many Christian festivals, the date of Epiphany corresponds to what was originally a pagan festival. In the past, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the festival of the winter solstice, at which a king or queen was chosen for one day, by means of a  fèves : a white or black bean baked inside a loaf of bread and the person who found the bean was crowned king for the day.

The item baked into the cake is called a fève, which means “bean”, a broad bean to be exact, which was the original king selector. In the 18th century, the fève was a porcelain figurine representing the nativity, in particular, the Baby Jesus. At the end of the 19th century, the beans were replaced by porcelain figurines. Even though the trinkets in the cake are no longer beans, they are still called fèves. They might be tiny santons (nativity figures), cartoon characters, or any number of other things. There are collectors of these fèves and even a fève museum.

Galette des Rois - 3 feves
If you are lucky, you might find a fève like one of these in your slice of cake.

Today, the fèves get more and more creative as well: some boulangeries (bakeries) create special collections of fèves depicting modern themes from great works of art, to classic movie stars, or even popular cartoon characters. Naturally, if you are making your own galette, you will  need to buy your own fève, which can be bought here: http://www.fevesdumonde.com.

Nowadays there is a wide range of different fèves which are much sought-after by collectors. The family tradition is for everyone to gather together to cut the famous cake. The youngest child goes under the table and points out the guests, who are then given their portion of the cake. A cardboard crown is supplied with the cake. The one who finds the fève is crowned and chooses his or her queen or king.

The Christian church changed the solstice celebration to the Epiphany and fixed the date as the 6th of January. With the “king for a day” theme already established, it became the time to remember the kings who presented gifts to the baby Jesus. Over the years, the bean-in-the-bread turned into a bean-in-the-cake and became known as the galette des rois, “cake of the kings”.

Cake vs. Pie

In 16th century Paris, this king cake was at the center of a conflict between the boulangeries (bakeries) and the patisseries (cake shops). They each wanted the sole rights to make and sell it. The cake shops won, but the bakeries weren’t about to give up so easily. If they were forbidden to make king cakes, then they would make king pies. And this is why  there are two very  distinct versions of king cake today.

In the south of France,  you will be eating a circular  cake made of  a sweet brioche-style  dough with a hollow circle in the center. The cake is then  covered with a variety of  candied fruits.

In northern France, the galette des rois favored by most of the  French populous is  in its simple version that looks more like a pie made of a pâte feuilleté, flaky puff pastry,  filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. The galette is then decorated  with notches incised across the top of  it and browned in the oven.

It is said that frangipane was invented as  scent to perfume the leather gloves of King Louis XIII that were  made by a Florentine nobleman, the Marquis of Frangipani. Soon after Frangipani, living in France, released his fragrance made from bitter almonds to the public and  the local patisseries created a cream made with milk, sugar, flour, eggs, butter and ground almonds. They named it frangipane. Little could 16th century Frangipani, have guessed  that the  scent  would inspire pastry chefs for centuries to follow.

Other variations of the galette can be found as well, from shortbread-style, popular in Western France, to those that have alternate fillings, such as chocolat-poire (chocolate-pear) or raspberry. Abroad, the famous galette des rois has a lot of fans, notably at Belgian and Dutch tables. There are customs of eating king cakes  in a number of countries with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season; in other places, such as New York, London and Berlin In New Orleans, Louisiana,   king cakes are  associated with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras and Carnival.

Modern Traditions

The cake with the fève is a long-standing tradition which is still very popular today. At January gatherings, when it is time to serve the cake, the youngest child gets under the table. Tradition also dictates that when serving galette des rois, the host or hostess cuts the entire cake  such that each guest receives a slice, plus an extra, symbolic slice for any unexpected visitor, or poor person, that should pass by. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to “tirer les rois,” – or “draw the kings” – from the cake. The  child is then asked by the host or hostess, “Who is this piece for?” The child calls out a name and the cake is distributed according to his instructions. This way there can be no cheating, as the child cannot see the fève and play favorites. Everyone chews their piece of cake very slowly, to avoid cracking a tooth, until the fève is found.

Whoever finds the fève becomes the king (or queen) for the day. They get to wear a paper crown which is supplied with the cake, if bought from a French bakery. The king’s  or queen’s responsibility is to bring another king cake to the next gathering – and that probably means the following week because the French eat these cakes during the entire month of January. This way everyone gets a chance to find the fève, wear the crown, and be king or queen of the party.

The Christian church changed the solstice celebration to the Epiphany and fixed the date as the 6th of January. With the “king for a day” theme already established, it became the time to remember the kings who presented gifts to the baby Jesus. Over the years, the bean-in-the-bread turned into a bean-in-the-cake and became known as the galette des rois, “cake of the kings”.

The pleasure brought by a galette des rois isn’t merely due to its delicious taste – it’s also the anticipation of wondering whether you will be the lucky one to discover la fève, a tiny charm, buried inside one of the slices. The good thing about making your  galette own is that you can customize the  almond filling, to your taste. So who will become king or queen for the day at your house? Bake a galette and have a little fun with the family. Make a foil or paper crown to place atop the cake before eating it (if you buy it at a bakery in France, they will provide the crown).

If you are lucky enough to find the fève, you’re “king for a day” and take your place in a 700-year old French tradition.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
For the Almond filling:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill® Almond Flour
½ cup granulated sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
⅛ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons Finlandia® Butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Courvoisier® Cognac (or rum)
teaspoon almond extract
teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sheets puff pastry
2-3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 whole almond, or small dried apricot fruit if desired (the fève)
Water, for sealing

For the Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon light cream

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt. Cut in the butter until incorporated. Stir in the egg, cognac almond extract, vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the two pastry sheets to 10-inch squares. Using a pie plate or other round object, cut 2 10-inch circles.

Place one circle on your lined baking sheet. Spread the apricot jam in the center, leaving a 2 inch edge. Top with the chilled almond filling. Place the almond in the filling, if desired.

Brush water over the edge of the bottom circle. Top with the second pastry circle and pinch along the edge to seal.

To crimp, use your thumb and pointer finger together, pressing the back of a paring knife into the edge to create the crease. Continue around the entire tart.

Galette des Rois

Whisk together the egg yolk and cream. Brush over the entire tart. Decorate the tart by scoring the tart with a pairing knife to leave indentations.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

King cakes of the type locally called “French style” on display at the chain bakery/restaurant “La Madeline” branch in Carrollton, New Orleans. Note they come with cardboard “crowns” to be worn by whoever gets the slice with the token and becomes monarch of the event.

 

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All photographs and content are copyright protected. Photography credits from other sources are noted were applicable. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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