18 July 2007

La Pinay (with how-to)

(Crêpes au Chocolat avec des Mangues et le Nutella) The days are done when Café Breton was the only crêperie around: small, trendier, and less quaint shops have sprung in Power Plant, Shangri-La, and other malls. Is this a move towards the Philippines having a crêpe stand every block, like in Paris? Of course not. When you talk about a crêpe in the Philippines, those other shops don't come to mind, it's still Café Breton. They may not have "advanced" fillings like "Crème Brulée" but each of their offerings has a personality, no matter how simple their construction. The quintessential Filipino crêpe is their creation and the most famous one on the menu-- La Pinay, literally translated to "The Filipina (woman)." I wanted to make one, but it would be useless to make something that's P126 (about $3) unless I added a unique touch. So I thought, let's not give the tongue a break. My version will be mangoes on chocolate on chocolate with mangoes on mangoes, meaning this one is a CHOCOLATE crêpe filled with mangoes, slathered with Nutella, on a bed of mango slices, with Mango ice cream on top. Not many people in other countries are going to think the combination of chocolate and mango is intuitive, but in a tropical country like ours, you make do with what you have, and if what you have is decadent tropical heaven, then hey, you didn't do too bad. (Instructions follow)
La Pinay (Chocolate Crepes with Mangoes and Nutella)
I've made crêpes a few times before but it's only now that I developed a foolproof way of making them. My previous attempts were either thick or torn. (By the way, my choice of filling in the past? Stewed apples.)
Begin with all your instruments. I have a nylon spatula and a nonstick frying pan. You don't even need a crêpe rake (the wooden thingy above). Without breaking any copyright laws, the batter is 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, 3 1/2 tbsp Valrhona cocoa, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 3 tbsp beer (I used San Mig Light), and 2 tbsp melted butter. Mix the dry together, whisk the wet together, then combine and refrigerate overnight. Easy. This crêpe recipe is from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, by the way. Make sure the batter has no large bubbles by banging the bowl against the counter. Ideally this is in a pitcher or, in my case, a bowl with a spout.

Grease your nonstick or crêpe pan. I used Pam baking spray and spread it with a small bit of a paper towel. I do this before each crêpe to make sure that there are no cooked bits stuck to the pan, because that becomes a point of non-nonstickiness, which means a potential tear. Over medium-high heat, heat up your pan. Take it off the heat and pour in a good amount of batter-- we're talking 80% surface coverage or more-- then swirl the pan around to make as layer as thin as possible, then pour the batter back in the bowl to keep the layer thin. It will set in a matter of seconds.

It's important to pour a lot in because if there's not enough batter to complete a clean circle, there will be holes, and holes mean a potential tear when flipping the crêpe, like this:

This wasn't in the recipe, but here's how I did mine: I turned the heat back to low, then placed the pan to further cook the crêpe. Cut the tail off from pouring the batter and discard it. Notice that the surface is lifted by coalescing bubbles on the underside. This helps towards making sure the crêpe is totally free of the pan.

I turned off the heat to make the next step easier, because I am a wimp. Ideally, you can flip the crêpe while it's still hot to save time, but I wanted perfect crêpes, so I waited until it was cool enough (but not cold, mind you) to handle with my bare hands. Take a strong edge (probably the edge from where you cut the tail off) and loosen the whole crêpe free of the pan, then flip it. This whole time, the heat is off.

I obviously didn't use just one hand, but the other hand was taking a picture. It's important to use both hands to reduce the pressure on the crêpe. If you use a tool like the spatula for example, it maximizes the pressure on a point on the edge of the spatula, tearing the crêpe, like so:

Almost done! Over low heat, cook the other side for a few seconds (it's already set anyway) to ensure thorough cooking. I used coalescing bubbles as a hint again, but really this is just to make sure no one is eating something batter-y.

Stack them in between wax paper, or in my case, foil. Not the most environmentally sound solution, but when the crêpes are cool, they will stick to each other and you will kill yourself if you don't do this.

This isn't really that hard, but it does take a lot of patience, wiping down the pan in between each crêpe, and waiting for each crêpe to set and cool before flipping. But once you've mastered it, you may just be one of those people setting up their own crêpe stand (just always offer Nutella, please). Meanwhile, remember what they always say: the first crêpe you make is always a dud.

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