Saturday, March 8, 2014

Found! Chocolate Crepes from the Eighth Grade!

Beautiful, sophisticated chocolate crepes.
Back in August 2013, while preparing Zucchini Crepes, I reminisced fondly about a chocolate crepe I ate in eighth grade French class, made by one Carrie S. So how cool to get an email from her sister Erin S., who had found the original recipe  – yes, the very one Carrie elegantly rode all the way to an A+ for a class project back in 1988!

I can see myself eating those crepes in Mrs. Collins’ second period French class, having walked down the hall from Pre-Algebra, and hoping against hope the boy I had a crush on would say hello when we passed. (He didn’t.) I was wearing an acid-washed miniskirt, oversize hot pink polo shirt and Keds – an outfit I had sweated over for hours the night before. But though it contained a requisite number of trendy items, it somehow still left me feeling unfashionable. My hair was long and permed and my bangs would not behave, no matter how much time I spent with the curling iron and hairspray. (Oh how I envied the bangs of Kristi K., who sometimes took pity on me after P.E. and coiled them expertly around her own curling iron, teasing and spraying without fumbling or questioning herself the way I did every morning.)

At 14, I had about as much experience with French food as I did with that boy in the hallway. That is to say: Precious little. Loading up my plastic fork with Carrie's class project, I felt like I was the only person in the whole world who didn't know what the heck was coming next, both taste- and life-wise. 

Erin found the original recipe from 1978!
The fact that I'm still waxing rhapsodic about a dessert eaten 26 years ago should give you some clue to how good they were, right? Those crepes were loaded, not just with a rich and decadent chocolate mouse, but, it seemed to me, with the possibility of an entire world I was just about to discover.

So though I never wish to relive the awkward age of 14, I was thrilled to revisit these crepes. Turns out, Carrie used a Bon Appetit recipe from 1978 which is still good enough to make time stand still.

Then, as now, I was intoxicated by the pure over-the-top chocolateness of these crepes. And I was delighted to find out that they’re fairly easy to make. The batter, in fact, whips up quickly in the blender. There are several periods of chilling or waiting required, though, so this is not a recipe for the spur-of-the-moment.

That said, these crepes are kind of crazy-perfect for a busy cook (or eighth grade French student) because they are meant to be stored in the freezer until you need them. (Pause for just a moment while I contemplate being the kind of woman who keeps homemade French crepes in her deep freezer for whenever a craving, or nostalgia, strikes. So much more sophisticated than fish sticks. Sigh.)

Easy enough for an eighth grader, easy enough for you!
Batter ready, you swirl it around a hot buttered skillet or crepe pan. Though Bon Appetit says to cook the crepe for at least a minute, I found I liked the texture at 30 seconds a little more. If you’ve used enough butter, they should flip out of the pan easily. Take the recommendation to cool on waxed paper to heart; these are very fragile and tear easily.

Erin also found the mouse recipe her sister used, though it isn't the one referenced in the original Bon Appetit recipe. It requires a few more steps, but isn't difficult. A stand mixer will make short work of all the whipping required -- of egg whites, egg yolks and whipping cream. It's so light and fluffy and deluxe-tasting, and definitely worth making on its own.

Once everything is thoroughly chilled, assembly is straightforward. I used about 2 T. of mouse on each crepe, though if you don't mind a little "squidging," add more. And though the original version comes with instructions to top with crème anglaise, I skipped this step, and not just because I’m lazy. In all honesty, I remember Carrie S. serving hers with whipped cream, which I’ve done here, too. But if you want to gild the lily or you've got your own class project coming up, by all means whip up the crème.

Taste memory is a powerful one. Taking a bite, I felt for that 14 year old, self-conscious and unsure. I closed my eyes and sent a silent message of compassion back through the ether. Then I took another bite, thankful I could have my crepe and eat it too -- in the here and now.

Look at my lovely line of crepes!
Frozen Chocolate Crepes (Bon Appetit, Dec. 1978)
Makes 12 crepes

1 c. milk
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 T. unsweetened cocoa
1 T. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla


With blender (do not use food processor): Combine first 7 ingredients and mix on low speed about 30 seconds just until combined; do not overblend.

Allow batter to stand one hour before making crepes.

Place 8-inch crepe pan or skillet over high heat and brush lightly with butter. When butter is sizzling but not brown pour about 1/4 c. batter into the skillet. Quickly lift pan off heat and swirl to coat bottom and sides, pouring excess batter back into bowl. Return to heat and cook about 1 minute until bottom darkens slightly and looks dry. Watch carefully, since both cocoa and sugar can cause crepes to burn easily. Turn crepe onto paper towel or waxed paper. Continue until all batter is used, brushing pan with butter as needed.

When crepes are cooled, place about 1 heaping tablespoon mouse on each and roll cigar-fashion. Place seam-side down on baking sheet and freeze. When firm, wrap carefully and keep in freezer until ready to serve. Filled crepes may be wrapped and frozen up to 1 month.

Wait a minute ... rum and coffee for eighth graders?!
Chocolate Mouse
1 T. butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs, separated
1/2 c. sugar, divided
2 T. dark rum
1 T. strong coffee
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

In small saucepan over low heat melt butter and chocolate. Stir until smooth; set aside. In small bowl, beat (egg) whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 1/4 c. sugar until stiff peaks form; set aside. In large bowl, beat yolks with remaining 1/4 c. sugar until lemon-colored and light. Beat in rum and coffee. With rubber spatula fold in (cooled) chocolate mixture, then gently fold in egg white mixture and whipped cream just to blend. Serves 4.

·      The handwritten note at the top of the mouse recipe says it's from the legendary Lutece, where it sold for $6.50.
·        If you're wary of using raw eggs, try this alternate recipe from Bon Appetit's website: Chocolate Mouse. The texture is very different than the Lutece recipe, however -- more like peanut butter -- so you'll need to play around with quantity when filling your crepes.
·      I don’t have a crepe pan, but given how much I loved these I may put one on my wish list. I used a small non-stick skillet and buttered it well before every crepe.
·        It's true -- these really do go into the freezer until you're ready to serve. (I froze them on a Silpat until firm, then wrapped each individually in plastic wrap and stored inside a freezer bag.) You may find you like the texture straight out of the chill, or you may want to defrost a bit on the counter top. Either way, you're going to win points for classiest freezer contents ever.

Why Don’t You …
·      Experiment with variations on the filling? How about sweet cream and berries? Or lemon curd folded into whipped cream? Or Nutella with chopped hazlenuts?
·    Give thanks that 14 is behind you? For that matter, give thanks that 1988 is, too!

Hmmm, what to do with the leftover mouse ...