Tomorrow really is Super Tuesday: Not only is it the date on which primaries or caucuses will be held in 24 states (including the crucial one here in California), but it's also Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent.
In England and here in the U.S., many churches mark the day with pancake suppers; it's also a day when people who don't ordinarily make crepes will get out their battered French crepe pans to make the thin French pancakes. As I wrote a year ago in a story about crepes, the tradition was born from kitchen economy: Cooks made pancakes or crepes in order to use up eggs, butter and milk before Lent.
So when a reader -- who also happens to be a Lutheran minister -- e-mailed me his recipe for sourdough crepes after he'd read my recent sourdough starter story, it seemed perfect timing. Sourdough pancakes are fantastic, but I'd never thought of using starter in crepes. Remembering the buckwheat galettes that are traditional in Brittany, I took my white sourdough starter and fed it with buckwheat flour instead. Over the weekend as it grew and grew, the deep, nutty flavor of the buckwheat deepened; this morning, the starter was thick and alive, the texture of French buttercream.
Pastor Dan Hooper's recipe calls for beating 4 eggs in a bowl, whisking in 1 1/2 cups of active starter, adding 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, then letting the mixture stand for an hour. I used my buckwheat starter, fed the night before with equal parts by weight of organic buckwheat flour and water; I also used fleur de sel for the salt.
While I was waiting for the batter to rest, I whipped up some Chantilly cream laced with lemon peel and apples sautéed until they caramelized (flambéed with Armagnac, finished with lemon juice and a little more fleur de sel).
The crepes were amazing. The starter made the batter a fantastic consistency, creamy and elastic; and the flavor of the sourdough was a perfect match for the buckwheat. Because of this elasticity, the batter also swirled easily, effortlessly, on the crepe pan -- holding together without tearing, even though the batter was quite thin. The edges cooked into lacy filigrees, and the center bubbled up almost immediately -- and this with buckwheat batter, which I've always had more difficulty with than batter made with AP flour.
The crepes were yummy with the apples and cream, or try them with grated Gruyère cheese and thinly sliced ham. Personally, I'm going to cut mine into donkey and elephant shapes for a snack while the returns come in. Well, maybe not: Crepes are already shaped like Os, aren't they?
-- Amy Scattergood
Photos by Amy Scattergood