Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooking with Rox!

My long-lost Aunt Roxy (my dad’s sister), as I have said many times, has more creativity in a hair on her damn head than I do in my whole body. She recently revamped her blog The Artful Rabbit to show everything and the kitchen sink-she writes, makes sculptures, paints, does jewelry, photography, poetry, and cooks, and probably much more that I don’t even know about!

One of the only good things I can remember about my dad’s grandparents is that they are great cooks-especially when it came to baking (and grandma ALWAYS had vanilla ice cream and cake cones on hand). I remember as a kid my dad also toiled around the kitchen making fudge and other things full of chocolate goodness.

Last week Aunt Rox posted a step-by-step recipe on her blog on how to make a crepe cake, and it looked so damn good I asked her if I could share it on my blog. She also peppered in some pictures and history of my grandparents (her parents), which I rarely hear about. So enjoy! IT LOOKS SO GOOD!!!


Blueberry and Lemon cream crepe cake

I have been cooking for a really long time and I never plan to stop. The first thing I learned to make was Hollandaise sauce, standing on a chair by the Mixmaster when I was six years old. I could hardly read recipes but I loved being in the kitchen.

My mother was a demented tyrant, but boy could she cook, and she cooked with love and passion. My dad was a talented part-time pastry chef and my granny was a cook who worked every day but Mondays until she was well over 80.

Mon Cher Papa, who wore always wore a beret after visiting France!

My granny, cooking in her restaurant circa 1955

I come by my cooking chops honestly and I have actually cooked professionally in the restaurant world in my checkered past.

My Cowgirl Mama about 1944

My favorite things are dishes that are spectacular, pretty easy to prepare and will get the cook a lot of compliments!

I think there's a lot of mystery and almost fear around the art of cooking and cooking well. There are a lot of 'secrets' and 'shortcuts' that you only learn through trial and error, practice, or if somebody shares their 'ah ha' moments with you.

One of the things I am asked to make again and again is the crepe cake that is shown here. It is spectacular no matter what fruit and filling you use, tastes amazing and is a lot easier than it looks once you master a few tricks of the trade.

I worked at one of the first crepe houses in Houston a long, long time ago. Liliane's Maison de Crepe. Liliane was a cranky round Frenchwoman with a glorious accent, an amazing laugh and a chef who had tantrums. I think my experience at Liliane's is what made me fall in love with all things French.

The restaurant had a tiny old gay French piano player who tinkled the ivories in the dining room while wearing a velvet smoking jacket, a maître d' who was always fighting with the waiters, and the best crepes I have ever tasted. My sons were small and I was working two jobs, but this job? I loved it… So in honor or Madame Liliane, Crepes!

I chose to make Blueberry and Lemon crepes for this foray, but in the spring I get asked again and again for a birthday crepe cake stuffed with fresh strawberries, vanilla crème and almonds. In the summer, peaches with amaretto are amazing, and raspberries and nutella are another possibility. If you can think of something yummy, you can take the basic concept and go crazy.

I always rummage around and gather up my ingredients first. Make your fillings–or in the lazy woman's world, peel the top off the vanilla pudding containers hee hee. Today I did make lemon pudding–from a box. I used canned blueberry pie filling BUT I took about two cups of fresh blue berries, stemmed and checked them good for nasty berries, and  dumped them into a bowl with the filling. Canned pie filling is great for making your fresh berries stick in your crepe stack. You get the punch of fresh fruit and the cake doesn't slip slide away.

I always rummage up my ingredients first in case I am out of something, I find out in time to fix it

Basic Sweet Batter Ingredients:

4 eggs

2/3 cup half & half (or milk)

2/3 cup water

1 1/2 cups flour, all purpose pre-sifted

2 tablespoons butter melted

4 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons of appropriate liquor, such as cognac

2 teaspoons vanilla

For your crepes:

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, a whisk works wonderfully well, add half and half and water and whisk until its all blended.

Gradually whisk in the flour.

Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until the batter looks like melted ice cream in thickness and consistency. Thick and creamy-but not too thick is what you are going for.

Alcohol: I choose the liquor based on A) what I’m making and B) what I have on hand.  In this case, I chose triple sec because I liked the flavor profile with the lemon layers. I like Amaretto with peaches and cognac with strawberries-don’t be afraid to experiment.

Adding my alcohol of choice-it gives a little flavor but mostly helps add color to the crepes as they cook.

Okay, you have your batter made, your fillings prepared and waiting in bowls for use in a little while. This is the part where it gets fun. I am lucky enough to have the World's Most Fantastic Crepe Pan. I have had it since before my son Joshua was born and he is well over 30 at this point, so the pan is well seasoned. Its a Taylor and Ng pan and they probably don't even make them anymore BUT there are nice crepe pans out there. If you like crepes, go buy one. My entire family knows there will be blood shed if they wash my pan. It only needs wiping off and hanging back up at this stage of its life.

9notcrepepanNot a crepe pan doesn't begin to cover it…

I am assuming you don't have a pan like I do, so I wanted to prove to you and to me that you can make great crepes with a junky pan. I got out my most evilly used old Teflon warhorse that suffered through years of teenage cooking and should probably be thrown away at this point. When you start hunting through your skillets the trick is choose one that is NOT heavy. You have to pick it up and move it around so weight is one of the secret tricks. You don't need a great big huge skillet, just a fairly flat one with about a six inch wide bottom.

I always melt a little extra butter when I'm melting the crepe batter butter. Dip a paper towel into the butter and swab your pan/skillet with it. Put the pan on medium heat and let it sizzle. Choose a measuring cup that is about 1/3 of a cup. Fill it with batter use trick number two: PICK UP the pan and remove it from the heat while you pour in the batter. This keeps the batter from cooking and sticking instantly so you can roll it around to cover the pan bottom.

The good pan and the good little helper on the floor in the background.

Rotate the pan, roll it around in your hand to spread the batter around the bottom. Yes, the first two or three crepes will be a mess until you figure out the motion that lets you swirl the batter around the pan bottom.

Put the pan back on the heat.

Wait until the top of the crepe looks dry, crepes don't have holes that bubble up like a big fat flapjack so dry is your key word. Use a really good METAL spatula to flip the crepes over. Plastic spatulas just don't get the job done here. They tear your crepes and don't slide under neatly. The crepe is going to flip just fine, you can even use your fingers. ow! hot! hot! to straighten out any that do an El Foldo on you. Relax, enjoy, find the rhythm. It only takes about 10 or 15 seconds to get the second side done.

Use your spatula to pick it up and put it on a plate. Stack your crepes any which way, they don't stick together and you can unpeel them when you build your cake. Start again, get your batter, pick up pan, rotate it, put it down, etc.etc. Re-butter your pan when you need to, about every 3rd or 4th crepe for a 'virgin pan'. You are done with this phase and you have a lovely big stack of crepes.  

Move to the assembly process, the best part–no wait, that's eating it. Put down a crepe on whatever plate you are serving from, spread a layer of the first filling. Plop down another crepe, spread a layer of the next filling, keep going. Trick 3: If you are using fruit filling, mound it in the middle and put the next crepe on top of it. Use your hand and push straight down to spread the filling. If you do it this way you won't have filling running out the sides and plopping on the plate.

Fruit filling piled in the middle of the crepe.

Press down on the piled up filling firmly and evenly through the next crepe.

Lemon layer

Keep going until your stack is stacked. I always save one crepe and enough filling to roll it up and have a good taste of my efforts.

I keep those handy dandy little roasting skewers around and stick four or five into the finished cake top. It keeps it from sliding until it gets good and chilled and it also helps when you have to transport a crepe cake. Bamboo skewers work just as well and they keep the plastic wrap from clinging to your pretty cake top. I put one last dollop of filling and some slivered almonds on mine and popped it into the fridge to cool thoroughly.

Skewers help avoid the sliding cake catastrophe.

Here is how it looked three hours later. The fun part is when you slice one of these and carefully slide a slice out. They are so pretty! They look archaeological with all their layers and people are always so surprised when something that looks like a pancake is so stunningly beautiful. They also taste amazing. This one is light and airy with the berries and lemon, not heavy at all. I'm sure being so light and airy it has no calories at all….bon appetit!

Lovely slice of crepe cake.

The finished cake ready to serve.

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  1. Great story and recipe all in one. Love it.

  2. Looks yummy, will have to try it. Thanks.

  3. You Aunt is made of Awesome! YAY!

    This looks delicious - my beloved MIL loves crepes so this is a must do for her.

    Thank you!

  4. I don't know what I like better: the story with photos or the recipe with photos!

  5. that looks spectacular! and delish!!!
    amy loves crepes so i'll have to ask if she wants to attempt this sometime. yummm...

  6. OMG that looks so freakin good...I think i'm over this diet now! *licks the screen*

  7. love the black and whites and the family history, very cool :)

  8. hungry...gotta go! great post tho'

    Bruce Johnson JADIP
    Evil Twin
    stupid stuff I see and hear
    The Dreamodeling Guy
    The Guy Book
    The Guy Book

  9. Thanks for sharing your Aunty's crepe recipe with us. It looks really good (I've got that tablecloth with the olives on, by the way!). I will certainly be trying this out, because, as she says, you can put all sorts of combinations together.

  10. Hed, this was a great post. My husband specialized in french cooking and he was known for his crepes. He made crepes with these fillings and sauces but not as a cake. He hired a couple bakers and chefs from Nice France and learned from them. He and your family would have had many fun cook fests!!

  11. Glad you all liked it :)

    She did say that you could use sugar free pudding and reduced-fat ingredients to make it a little more on the "healthy" side. I may just do that!

  12. That looks absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe & story! :)


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