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Fascinating Facts About French Crepes You Didn’t Know But Wish You Did

By Annie André

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You know they taste good but how much do you really know about crepes; France’s second favourite desert? Want to learn more? Here are some fun and fascinating facts about French crepes you you didn’t know you wanted to know. 

 

Fun Facts About Crepes You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Know.

There’s no denying it!

Crepes are popular in France. They’ve become as much a symbol of French culture and French pride as croissants, baguettes and the Eiffel tower.

There are crepe restaurants (“crèperies”) dedicated to creating delicious crepes filled with hundreds of different fillings. When the weather permits, street vendors sell crepes on street corners to starry-eyed tourists and hungry children. There’s even a special day in French culture dedicated to eating crepes in France.

Let’s explore some of the many fascinating crepe facts you didn’t know you wanted to learn. 

Who invented crêpes? Or where do crêpes come from? 

The first crepes, the paper-thin ones we know today, first appeared in Brittany France in the 13th century. They were and still are made of buckwheat, which was introduced to France after the crusades in Asia.  This buckwheat galette was the beginning of the famous Breton galette. 

Prior to the 13th century, crepes were made with a thick dough of water and various crushed cereals, which produced a thick breadlike crepe.

Where does the word crêpe come from?

Crepe paper, crepey skin,  silk crepe, and French crêpes! All four of these things describe something thin with a wrinkled or crinkly surface.

The term crêpe, in both English and French, can trace its roots back to old french “crespe,” meaning crispy or wavy and derive from the Latin “crispa,” meaning “curly.”

True to its name, crepes have crispy edges that sometimes curl up with a crepey textured surface. 

Why is there an accent above the letter “ê” in the word crêpe?

The correct way to write the word crepe in French is crêpe.

The little pointy hat above the letter “ê” is called a circumflex, and it tells you two things.

  1. How to pronounce the “e,” and
  2. It indicates the historical presence of a letter, often the letter “s,” that is no longer pronounced because it was deleted over the course of the evolution of a language.

As I mentioned before, the word crêpe derives from old French “crespe”, so the circumflex above the ê indicates that there was at one point an “s” in the word but was dropped. 

French crepe facts: Why is there a little hat above the letter "e" in the word Crêpe?

Here are some other examples of words with a circumflex over the “e”

  • hôpital – “hospital”
  • honnête – “honest”
  • côte – “coast”
  • pâté – “paste”
  • île – “isle”
  • ancêtre – “ancestor”
  • forêt – “forest”

You’ve been pronouncing crêpe wrong:

In English, it’s perfectly fine to say crepe wit the long “a” sound like in the word “APE”; however, in French, “crêpe” is pronounced “K-R-E-P” (rhymes with YEP). 

Without the circumflex above the letter “e,” it would be pronounced completely different in French.

Click play below to hear how Crêpe is pronounced in French.

Crepe expressions in French:

Here are some fun French crepe expressions. Some are well known throughout France, while others are regional. 

La crêpe du chat : Literally “the cat’s crepe”. It’s either a failed crepe or the last crepe made with the last of the crepe batter which usually comes out small and irregular shaped, not round. So ugly it’s only good for the cat. 

Retourner quelqu’un comme une crêpe: “Flip someone like a pancake”.  This French expression uses the image of a pancake flipped over and flattened to give the imge of a person getting knocked down, completely flattened on the floor.

Faire la crêpe au soleil: “To do the crepe in the sun”. This cute expression simply means to lie in the sun and tan. 

Faire la crêpe à la plage: “To do the crepe at the beach”. Another expression about tanning. This one is used to give you the imagery that someone is tanning at the beach on their stomach and flipped over onto their back like a crepe is flipped and cooked in a pan. 

Retourner comme une crêpe: “To flip over like a crepe”. This French expression means to make someone quickly change their mind. 

When is Crepe Day (jour des crêpes)?

Although crepes are consumed all year round in France, it’s tradition to eat crepes on February 2nd during the religious holiday of “La Chandeleur,” aka “Candlemas,” aka “jour des crêpes.” Some folks celebrate eating crepes all the way through Mardi-Gras. 

La Chandeleur is precisely 40 days after Christmas, which also happens to be groundhog day. You can read about La Chandeleur here.

Fun Fact: Many countries and cultures eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent, also called ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday.’ 

The French celebrate La Chandeleur on February 2nd by eating Crepes which also happens to be groundhog day in other parts of the world

What’s the difference between a crepe and a pancake?:

The batter for a crepe is very thin with a syrupy, cream-like consistency. There are also no leavening ingredients like baking soda or baking powder in crepes, which is the main reason French crepes are so thin compared to fluffy pancakes.

Another difference between crepes and pancakes is that crepes are usually topped with a delicious filling such as sugar, jam or Nutella and folded into a triangle-like shape. 

French crepe facts: What's the difference between a crepe and a pancake?

Have you tried Blinis- the cousin of crepes and pancakes?

Originally from Russia, Blinis are quite popular in France.  Blinis resemble tiny pancakes, and you can buy them premade at almost every grocery store in France in packets of 4 or more. 

Some people make them at home using a blini pan.

French crepe facts: Blinis are the cousin of pancakes and crepes
This is a screenshot of an ad from French Grocery store Monoprix.

Blinis are prepared similarly to pancakes, but the batter is slightly thicker which produces a more breadlike pancake. They’re often served at parties, (à l’apéro) as finger food topped with sweet or savoury toppings such as creme fraiche, smoked salmon or cucumbers but you can top them with pretty much anything you like. 

French Blini's are a popular food choice at French New Years Eve dinner parties
Image and recipe courtesey of ““Cuisine en couleurs”

There are two types of Crepes in France with two different names

Crêpe sucré (sweet crepe) and crêpe salée (salty crepe / savoury crepe). One is a dessert made with white flour and the other is a made of buckwheat served for dinner or lunch as a meal. 

1) Une Crêpe sucré: made with white flour is usually filled with something sweet. 

When you say the word crêpe in France, most French people will automatically know you are talking about “les Crêpes de “froment”: Literally “wheat flour crêpes. These buttery, golden crepes are the ones most of the world knows and loves. They are always filled with something sweet and folded. We’ll get into the fillings in minutes. 

Because these wheat cakes are filled with sweet fillings, never savoury, they are usually served as a dessert or sold as streetfood snacks. 

crepe day, the French groundhog day
Crêpe de froment: crepes made with white flour. I think we made about 50 this day.

2) Une galette: Made with dark buckwheat flour always filled with something salty/savoury.

The second type of crepe is a buckwheat crepe, originally from upper Brittany France and it’s always served with a savoury filling, never sweet. 

You could say that buckwheat crepes are France’s answer to the pizza because they are usually garnished with anything from eggs, meat, cheese and fish, to vegetables and even salad. The most famous galette filling is probably “une Galette Complète,” which consists of grated Emmental cheese, ham and an egg all folded within the buckwheat crepe in such a way that the egg is partially visible on top. 

Because “Les galettes” are a savoury dish, it’s usually served as the main course for lunch or diner in restaurants and creperies around France. It’s not uncommon to eat a sweet crepe for dessert after a galette meal. 

A popular galette (buckwheat crepe) is the Galette complète, filled with ham, emmental cheese and a sunny side egg.
Galette Complète (buckwheat crepe filled with ham, Emmental cheese and an egg)

Is it a galette or a crepe? The great debate!

A crepe is a crêpe is a crepe! Or is it? 

There are a few names French people use to refer to crepes and buckwheat crepes, depending on what region of France you’re in. 

Sweet crepes: The crepes made with white flour filled with sweet fillings:

Crepes sucrée, crêpe de froment, crêpe bretonnes

Buckwheat crepes: The savoury crepes made with buckwheat, filled with ham, cheese and other savoury fillings.

Most of France, except for parts of Brittany agrees on the following three names for savoury buckwheat crepes

  1. Une galette de sarrasin: (sarrasin is the term for buckwheat in French).
  2. Une galette de blé noir: (blé noir literally means black flour, which is another name used for buckwheat).
  3. Une galette Bretonne: (Named after its place of birth, Brittany) Not to be confused with Crêpes bretonnes which is not a buckwheat crepe, it’s a normal crepe with a sweet filling. 

Then there’s Brittany, in Northern France, the birthplace of crepes. There is fierce division over whether a buckwheat crepe should be called a crepe or a galette. Some call it galette and some call it crepe. 

Regional newspaper Ouest-France invited people on Twitter to vote for whether they called a savoury buckwheat crepe a crêpe or a galette, which resulted in an intense debate and divide. Apparently it just depends on what region of Brittany you are in. (source in French)

Crepe or galette: parts of France argue over whether a salty crepe, buckwheat crepe should be called a galette or a crepe

The debate of the name of popular French foods is not limited to just crepes and galettes. There is also fierce debate over what to call “pain au chocolate”. That famous French pastry filled with chocolate. Is it chocolatine or pain au chocolate? You can hop over to my article 44 Fascinating French Croissant Facts For Curious Foodies & Francophiles to learn more. Map of France showing the different names for chocolate croissants across France

What is the origin of the word “Galette”?

The word “Galette,” is from old French “gale,” which was the word for a “smooth, round, flat pebble”.  In modern French, the word for pebble is “Galet” (pronounced Gah-Lay).

Galette is a French cuisine term that confuses some people who don’t speak French because it can be used in cooking directions to describe a flat round shape and to describe any flat round pastry or cake. 

For instance, these are all galettes because of their shape. 

Epiphany day and King cake in France. How 3 kings day is celebrated
Photo galette des rois, with an almond paste filling made at home/ © AnnieAndre.com

Where is the crepe capital of the world

There’s no doubt that Brittany is considered the crepe capital of the world- it’s where they originated from back in the 1300s.

Depending on who you talk to, some people think Quimper, Brittany’s oldest city is the crepe capital, specifically, Place au Beurre (Butter Square!), which should be renamed Place aux Crêperies because this medieval square is filled with tiny creperies serving up some of the most delicious crepes in the country.

Some say the city of St.-Malo, also in Brittany is the crepe capital of the world. They seem to have more crêperies per capita than any other city in France. 

Quimper is the oldest city in Brittany France region which some consider to be the capital of crepes.

Where is the oldest crêperie, still running in France?

I had to do a little sleuthing to figure this one out. But I think I found two of the oldest creperie in France, both located in the Brittany region of France. 

 

  1. 1898, Creperie Gourlan: located in a small town called Plonevez-Porzay. (Finistère department of Brittany in north-western France.) 
  2. 1880, Crêperie Saint-Marc: Located in Quimper (In the department of Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany France)

photo of One of the oldest crêperies in France: Creperie Gourlan 1898

Here are France’s favourites crepe fillings:

According to a study conducted in 2016 by Statista, the most popular crepe toppings preferred by French people is a “crêpe au sucre” which might surprise some people. Simply take a normal crepe, sprinkle granulated sugar on it, fold and eat. Sometimes, people squeeze some lemon juice over the sugar before folding and eating. 

In a close second place is jam, followed by Nutella, chocolate, cider, honey, fruits, caramel and maple syrup. Syrup surprised me because, I’ve lived in France for many years, and I’ve never seen syrup as an option at any creperies, and none of my friends here in France even own a bottle of syrup. 

Most popular crepe toppings preferred by the French

Crepes are not breakfast food in France. 

Many visitors to France, mistakenly think crepes are a breakfast food, but that’s not the case. 

Sweet Crepes and savoury buckwheat crepe are almost always served for lunch and dinner- Sweet crepes for dessert or as a snack and buckwheat crepes as a main meal at a restaurant or creperie. 

French crepe facts: savoury foods such as eggs and bacon or sausages are not a breakfast food in France. Neither are crepes.
This is from a restaurant in Montpellier France that specializes in non-French breakfast food items. They receive a lot of clients from England, Ireland, Canada, the US and loads of French people. It’s called Bonobo, and it’s wonderful. Be prepare to stand in line. 

If crepes are not for breakfast, what does a typical French breakfast look like?

A typical French breakfast rarely, if ever, consists of savoury foods such as eggs, bacon or sausage, common in many Anglo-Saxon countries. 

If you pop into a restaurant that serves breakfast in France, the menu will most likely have croissants, baguettes served with a side of jam, butter or honey. Other breakfast foods typically found at French bakeries include pain au chocolat and various viennoiseries.  And of course, you’ll see orange juice, tea and coffee, but not those big coffee mugs unless you ask for a cappuccino.  

At home, parents serve their kids cereal with milk, or pain au lait (“Milk Bread,” a slightly sweet, brioche-like roll) with a spread (“pâte à tartiner”) such as the one from the famous Nutella brand. 

French people don't eat eggs, pancakes or bacon for breakfast. Think continental instead

Crepes are France’s second favourite sweet dessert:

According to journalise Leslie Gagois in his 2015 book titled “The 100 favorite dishes of the French”(Les 100 plats préférés des Français), crepes are Frances second favourite desert right after “le fondant au chocolat” (chocolate fondant cake).

Chocolate fondant cake is France's favourite desert, followed by crepes
Recipe for “15 MINUTE CHOCOLATE FONDANT” and photo are from Sorted Food.

You need a crepe pan or crepe griddle.

Ok, you don’t NEED a crepe pan, but having the right equipment and tools makes the process of making perfectly symmetrical, thin, crepes with crispy edges much more easily. Here are a few of the tools that most French homes use to create crepes

Crepe pan= You can use a non-stick crepe pan or enamelled cast iron crepe pan. Enamel pans combine the heat distribution benefits of an iron pan with non-stick properties. Or you could use an electric crepe griddle

Champagne Gold Crepe Pan with Crepe Spreader
$29.99

This 8-Inch Non-stick crepe pan by Chefmade is the perfect pan for budget-minded chefs who want to make the perfect crepe. Works on Gas, Induction and, Electric Cookers. It has an Insulating Silicone Handle so you don't burn your hands while flipping crepes or pancakes.

Comes with a Crepe spreader = Rozell / rateau, made of bamboo.

Shop Now Learn More
09/27/2020 11:30 am UTC

Crepe griddle = Galetiere/ Billig: Usually electric. it’s a machine with a flat surface that heats up, similar to the ones you see street vendors use in France. 

Crepe spreader = Rozell / rateau: The crepe spreader is essential in spreading the crepe batter evenly on a crepe maker to create super think crepes

Crepe Spatula = Spatule / Spanell: Traditionally made of wood, this accessory allows you to peel off the edges of the crepe before turning it over on the billig without burning your fingers. If you don’t have one, you can use an icing spatula or fish spatula.

Ladle = La louche: To ladle the crepe batter onto the crepe maker. Choose your ladle according to the size of your crepe maker.

Crepes are popular street food in France:

When the weather permits, it’s not uncommon to find little street stalls selling crepes for a few euros throughout some cities and towns in France. 

Street vendor in Paris called Captn Crepe

“Une Crêperie” is an establishment that mainly serves crepes:

A crêperie can be a street vendor selling crepes as street food or a more formal sit-down restaurant or café. Crêperies are typical in France, especially in Brittany; however, they can be found throughout France and in many other countries.

In addition to crepes and galettes, many sit down crêperies offer a diverse selection of food such as baked goods, baguettes, salads, beverages and more. 

Wheat Crepes weren’t introduced until the 1900s:

White flour used to be an expensive luxury item. It wasn’t until wheat flour became affordable in the 1900s that it became a popular flour used in crepes. Prior to that, people used the more affordable buckwheat flour- les galettes. 

The oldest crepes recipe is from the 14the century:

Le Ménagier de Paris, “The Parisian Household” Book, is an anonymous French medieval guidebook from 1393, written in the voice of an elderly Parisian to his fifteen-year-old bride on how a woman should behave. It’s what you might call a medieval woman’s magazine, which contained fashion, gardening and housekeeping tips, poems, prayers, moral instruction, and various recipes.

One of those recipes was a crepe recipe. The original recipe called for flour, eggs, water, wine and salt and butter for the pan. 

French crepe facts: le menagier de paris has the oldest crepe recipe dating back to the 1300s

You can read “Le Ménagier de Paris on Project Gutenberg for free.

There are only 5 ingredients in a traditional French crepe recipe:

A typical French crepe recipe usually contains 5 basic ingredients: flour, milk, eggs, butter and sometimes salt. If you’re making dessert crepes, it’s not uncommon to add sugar or orange zest or vanilla extract. It’s a matter of taste. Just use the base recipe and add what you want.

Crepe making secrets

The secret ingredient is lots of eggs: Many chefs agree, the extra eggs in a crepe batter are one of the secrets to a great tasting crepe. 

Pour melted butter into the batter: Browned butter gives the crepe it’s distinctive nutty butter flavour.

Let the batter sit: Crepe recipes often say to let the batter rest for 30 minutes, which results in an even flatter crepe, unlike pancake batter, which is usually used immediately. (if you’re in a hurry it’s ok to use the batter right away).

Crepes are extremely easy to make

You don’t have to fly to France to try a real French crepe because they are straightforward and quick to make at home. You probably have all the ingredients you need already in your pantry.

*Like all recipes, there are always variations. Take this recipe and adjust it to your liking. Just make sure the batter is runny; otherwise, the crepes will come out too thick.

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This recipe makes approximately 8 large or 12 small crêpes

Keep in mind that crepes cook extremely fast. Don’t cook them for more than a minute on each side or until lightly golden. Also, pay attention to the order of operations. Don’t throw everything in at once.

INGREDIENTS

250 grams of white flour (2 cups flour)

4 eggs (You can use 3 to 5 eggs)

500 ML Milk which is (1/2 litre) or about ( 2 1/2 cups)

30 grams melted  butter (1/4 stick which is about 1 oz. or 2 TBSP) 

Pinch of salt (this brings out the flavours, but you can omit if you like)

OPTIONAL: If making dessert crepes

20 grams sugar ( 2 tablespoons of sugar)

zest of an orange or lemon

Vanilla extract

Cooking Instructions

  • Mix the flour, pinch of salt in a bowl. (If making dessert crepes you can add sugar)
  • Make a hole in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Start whisking immediately while adding milk a little bit at a time. If you let it sit, you will get lumps.
  • Stir in the melted butter. Some recipes add oil, but I prefer butter. The batter should be runny. The biggest mistake people make is making the batter too thick.
  • Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. (some people like to put the batter in the fridge, but I let it sit at room temperature.
  • Heat a crêpe pan or deep, non-stick pan, greased with a little butter.
  • Pour in a ladle of the batter while holding the pan and tilting left and right so that the batter spreads out thinly on the pan. You want the crepe to be as thin as possible. I sometimes use a crepe rake to spread my crepe, which results in a perfectly thin crepe, and then I use a crepe knife to flip the crepes, but these tools aren’t necessary. I just find it easier to use them. (See 2nd video below for a demonstration on how to use a crepe spreader and crepe knife.)
  • Cook over medium heat until the crêpe comes away from the rim, about one minute or until the crêpe is golden brown.
  • Stack the crepes on a plate or cover with aluminum to keep warm or whatever method you want to use.
  • Serve with Nutella, sugar, lemon, strawberry confiture or whatever else you want then fold into a delicious treat.

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French crepe facts: Crepe tools for making crepes include a crepe spreader and wooden crepe spatula.

Consider sharing this post about interesting crepe facts on Pinterest

Fascinating crepe facts you didn't know but wish you did pin

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