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A Fresh Look at Crepes

By Annie Petito Published

Brittany, France, is famous for buckwheat crepes filled with savory ingredients.
 Once you’ve mastered them, it’s easy to swap in other whole-grain flours.

Brittany, France, is renowned for its crepes—but not only the lightly sweet, relatively neutral type that you might sprinkle with sugar or smear with jam. Galettes bretonnes are dark and savory, with a distinctive earthiness that makes them an integral part of a dish, not just an understated wrapper. That’s because they are made from rich, mineral‑y buckwheat, which thrives in the cool Breton climate. A galette complète is the classic preparation; it consists of a crepe glossed with salted butter and folded around salty‑nutty ham and Gruyère and an oozy egg.

Crepes are simply thin, unleavened pancakes, and after a bit of practice—our recipes yield two more crepes than are needed for the fillings—you’ll be able to cook them with confidence. They also keep beautifully, and a stash of savory crepes can be a secret weapon for a stylish meal in a hurry.

I suspected that simply swapping buckwheat for all-purpose flour in our sweet crepe recipe wouldn’t be exactly right, since buckwheat is unrelated to wheat and is gluten-free, but doing so would at least get the development process started. I whisked buckwheat flour together with salt (omitting the sugar), milk, eggs, and melted salted butter and then heated a nonstick skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Thorough heating is imperative for even browning. I swirled 1⁄3 cup of batter around the pan to create a thin pancake, and when the surface was dry and the edges were browned, I loosened the sides with a rubber spatula and flipped the crepe with my fingertips to brown the second side.

With a little practice, it's easy to turn out a stack of perfectly cooked crepes.

Due to the lack of structure-forming gluten, these crepes had little flexibility and the dry fragility of burnt parchment. This explained why many recipes call for blending in some gluten-forming all-purpose flour. I followed suit, ultimately finding that a mixture with 75 percent buckwheat flour and 25 percent all-purpose flour yielded tender yet resilient crepes.

The all-purpose flour also helped balance the buckwheat’s robust flavor. But for some, its mineral‑y, bitter edge was still too strong, so I doubled the butter and salt, which made the crepes nutty and smooth.

Associate Editor Annie Petito takes notes on crepes made with different ratios of buckwheat to all-purpose flour.

Instead of building each galette complète individually in a skillet (the typical approach), I assembled four on a baking sheet and popped them into a hot oven.

With my galettes complètes complete, I saw an opportunity to experiment with other whole‑grain flours. Rye and whole‑wheat seemed ideal, since both have loads of character. And because these flours are gluten‑forming, I suspected that I might be able to use 100 percent rye flour or 100 percent whole‑wheat flour in my recipe. A few tests proved that I was correct; after adjusting the hydration levels, I was churning out stacks of big‑personality crepes—and fresh fillings to go with them.

The buckwheat, whole-wheat, and rye crepes each paired well with all the fillings I came up with, but I particularly like the rye crepes with a smoked salmon, pickled shallot, and caper-studded crème fraîche combo inspired by blini toppings. The earthy whole-wheat crepes are a lovely match for a rich mixture of cremini mushrooms and asparagus bound with cream and Pecorino Romano cheese; they are also terrific stuffed with garlicky sautéed cherry tomatoes and lemony ricotta cheese.

Recipe Buckwheat Crepes with Ham, Egg, and Cheese (Galettes Complètes)

Brittany, France, is famous for buckwheat crepes filled with savory ingredients. Once you've mastered them, it's easy to swap in other whole-grain flours.

Recipe Rye Crepes with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Pickled Shallots

Brittany, France, is famous for buckwheat crepes filled with savory ingredients. Once you've mastered them, it's easy to swap in other whole-grain flours.

Recipe Whole-Wheat Crepes with Creamy Sautéed Mushrooms and Asparagus

Brittany, France, is famous for buckwheat crepes filled with savory ingredients. Once you've mastered them, it's easy to swap in other whole-grain flours.