Published September 1, 2006.
Old-school French restaurants have mastered the fiery theatrics of this tableside treat for two. Could we adapt this classic for the home cook—and a tableful of hungry guests?
This dish—a sophisticated combination of crêpes, oranges, liqueur, and a showy flambé—makes a great dessert, but recipes are usually designed just for two (not enough for a dinner party) and most home cooks are wary of flambés.
We wanted to develop a recipe that was not only suitable for six guests, but also comfortably guided the home cook through the flambé process.
The science of flambé is simple enough: when alcohol is ignited, it reaches a temperature of about 500 degrees which causes a reaction in its sugars, producing complex flavors—but first the alcohol needs to ignite. The customary procedure is to ignite the liquor after the crêpes have been sauced, but we found that the additional crêpes in the pan absorbed the alcohol too quickly, making ignition impossible. We solved the dilemma by reversing the process. We started by flambéing the alcohol alone in the skillet, which delivered great flavor along with predictable flames, and then built the sauce after the flames had died. But our large number of crêpes caused a second problem: they became bloated and soggy. We looked to another classic French dessert, crème brûlée, for the answer. Before saucing, we sprinkled our crêpes with sugar and broiled them, forming a crunchy, sugary barrier that provided partial protection from the sauce.list of recipes