Guest Recipe: Sourdough Crêpes
aka freedom pancakes
This week’s newsletter comes via my friend Peter Barrett—@cookblog on Instagram. When I relaunched Wordloaf last fall, he mentioned that he had a sourdough crêpe recipe that he used all the time, and wondered if I’d be willing to share it with you all. I said yes, of course, because I know his taste in food to be impeccable and his skills in the kitchen to be second-to-none. And also because—duh—it would mean one fewer recipe for me to develop myself. Of course, I had to test the recipe in-house, and the crêpes were as good as he described and as they appear in the gorgeous photos he shared.
Peter calls for “excess” starter here rather than “discard”; I like this nomenclature. “Discard” carries an unwarranted negative connotation for an ingredient that is just as useful as any other. Even if it’s no longer active enough to leaven bread, it remains useful for dishes like this one. And as Peter mentions, the recipe works with starter of nearly any level of activity; how aged it is just changes the results you’ll get. If you don’t happen to have “excess” starter on hand, just make some as described here the day before you want to make crêpes.
I’ll let Peter walk you through the recipe from here.
Crêpes are my favorite use for excess starter. Super easy to make and extremely enjoyable to eat, they’re infinitely adaptable. Sweet or savory, simple or fancy, they’ll accommodate whatever ingredients and ambitions you can muster. A little grated cheese, or leftover roast chicken and greens, or caramelized bananas with chocolate chips and whipped cream, or even a ten-tiered wild mushroom layer cake—there’s almost nothing that these can’t make more elegant, substantial, and delicious.
Makes 4–6 crêpes, depending on the size of your pan
This recipe uses 100% hydration starter (equal weights of flour and water). It can be made using active starter or leftover starter that has been stored for awhile.
The more active your starter, the more bubbly the crêpes will be—almost like enjera if it’s vigorous.
If your starter is a bit sluggish and long in the tooth, add a tablespoon or two of sugar, maple syrup, or honey and let the batter sit on the counter for an hour or more to wake up and get a little bubbly. The sugar will also balance out the sourness that characterizes older starters.
If you want even thinner crêpes that roll up super easily for blintz-type applications, add another egg.
A shot of brandy or eau de vie can also be a nice addition if you’re planning something fruity or chocolatey, or a few drops of vanilla or other extract depending on how you intend to deploy the crêpes. Whether sweet or savory, adding powdered spices to the batter is an excellent way to harmonize with the flavors of your filling.
If you like sweet crêpes, feel free to add some sweetener to the batter. I like mine unsweetened, even if the filling ends up being sweet, because I like the contrast between sweet and sour.
I have a 13-inch cast-iron pan and a 1/2-cup ladle, and that gives me good coverage and thickness. You may want to adjust the volume of batter depending on the size of your pan. (It’ll be closer to 1/4 cup if your pan is a more standard 12 inches in diameter.)
Before cooking the first crêpe, I quickly rub the end of a cold stick of butter around the bottom of the pan. You shouldn't need to add any more fat after that; each crêpe should weep enough butter to lubricate itself as you go. If the bottom of your pan is too oily, the batter won’t flow out to the edges of the pan and get nice and thin.
Don’t be tempted to flip the crêpes early, they are a little fragile until the’ve started to color on the underside.
1-1/2 cups (425g) 100% hydration starter
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) sea salt
4 tablespoons (57g) butter, melted
Whisk the eggs and salt into the starter until thoroughly combined, beating air in for some nice frothy bubbles. Whisk in butter. (There’s no need to let the batter rest at this point since the gluten in your starter is already fully developed.)
Heat a carbon-steel or nonstick skillet, or iron crêpe pan over low heat for at least 10 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and heat pan for 1 minute. Add a small amount of butter or oil to the pan and then wipe pan clean with a paper towel. Pour a ladle of batter into the middle of the pan, and tilt the pan to steer the batter into an even-ish layer all the way around. When the top surface is no longer shiny and the edges are beginning to brown, after about a minute, flip the crêpe and let it cook for another minute or so. Transfer crêpe to a platter and repeat with remaining batter.
After you’ve made your stack of crêpes, return them to the pan one by one (if you want them hot) and fill, fold, and top them however you like. I’m partial to covering half the crêpe with filling, then folding over the other half and pressing down gently, then folding the half circle in half again to get a nicely layered quarter-circle result.