Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Green Tea Mille Crepes: An Experiment Based On Somebody Else's Experiment

Update (4/22/2013): I tried this recipe for a second time and got better results.

I'm not the only baker who gets a type of recipe stuck in their brain and then has to make multiple versions of it.  I am also susceptible to food porn: pictures of somebody else's food creation that is so beautiful, you must try the recipe yourself.  Take a look at this:

Matcha mille crepes (from Zen Can Cook).
It's a green tea crepe cake with orange pastry cream filling.  This is the third mille crepe version that Zen blogged about.  He got the same "must make different flavors!" bug that I get.  Of course I had to make this cake.

Every European culture has their own version of crepes.  In my father's family, we eat blintzes, which are basically crepes filled with a sweet cheese mixture and then fried.  We also eat the classic French version of crepes, especially since there are a bunch of crepe restaurants in Berkeley (Crepes A Go Go, Crepevine, etc.).  These are more on the American side of what a crepe should be: larger and with more fillings than you'd get in France.  I'm an American so I don't complain.

So I'd been eating crepes for years but I'd never tried to make them.  I knew from the start that there would be a serious problem: I can't flip anything in a pan.  Pancakes and omelettes become smashed messes when I try to flip them.  I also don't have a crepe pan, which is a thin frying pan with a completely flat bottom and almost no outer rim (see this for an example).  I didn't know if the pan was necessary or not.  This entire thing was going to be an adventure, and if it didn't work I would hopefully have some delicious, smushed crepes to eat at the end.

I wasn't sure about Zen's recipe for pastry cream, so I decided to use a pastry cream recipe from a reliable cookbook (the Silver Palate cookbook).  That turned out to be a mistake because the texture didn't work, even though it tasted really good.  The basic problem is that you need a very firm pastry cream to hold up the crepes as they are stacked, and this pastry cream never got solid enough.  My crepe stack turned into a leaning tower of crepes, and ended up with the crepes slipping off the top completely.  I refrigerated the pastry cream overnight, but that didn't solve the problem.  Zen's pastry cream recipe has more eggs to solidify it and is a better choice for this type of recipe.  (Yet another lesson in why I should try the original recipe once before I start messing with it.)

Tips:  I used Cointreau when I made the crepe batter just because I like Cointreau, but you don't need to use any alcohol if you don't want to.  You can use beer instead of water if you happen to have half a cup of beer lying around but it's not necessary.  I used water and the batter was fine.

Make sure to refrigerate the batter for an hour or so.  You can mix the batter by hand easily as well, so you can just use one bowl for this entire part of the recipe.

You really do want to use those exact ingredients for the pastry cream.  Six eggs may seem like a lot but you need them to make a really solid version of pastry cream.

You can flavor the pastry cream with whatever you like.  Zen used an orange flavoring but you could easily do vanilla (like I did) or any other flavor that you think goes will with green tea.  Just swap out the orange zest for either another flavor extract or use a different spice or zest.  You can even use chocolate if you want to.

It took me a couple of tries to figure out how to fry the crepes.  I used a smaller, non-stick frying pan because I was worried that the crepes would stick to cast iron.  I also used a two tablespoon measuring spoon to put exactly two tablespoons of batter in for each crepe.  The crepes do begin to cook quickly so you must pick the pan up and slowly swirl it around to spread the batter so it cooks evenly.  If you've ever seen somebody make crepes, you will end up using that exact hand motion.

I used an ordinary spatula to flip the crepes.  It's just like flipping a pancake.  If you flip it too high above the pan, it will splatter when it lands.  I also used too much butter at the beginning.  You don't need much, but I thought better safe than sorry.

You should get between 15 and 20 crepes from the batter.  With two tablespoons per crepe, I got 20 crepes.

The pastry cream needs time to cool down, so you should make the cream before the crepe batter.  By the time you finish frying all of the crepes, the pastry cream will be close to room temperature.  Make sure to stir it occasionally while it's cooling so that the heat in the middle of the bowl can escape.  The pastry cream needs to be slightly warmer than room temperature when you stir in the butter and flavoring.  You don't want the butter to be melted immediately, but it will melt and be incorporated as you stir.  This will keep the nice texture of the pastry cream.

Adding in the whipped cream to the pastry cream will make it lighter, which is why it's optional.  Keep in mind that you will have leftover pastry cream at the end, so you may want to use it for something else and the whipped cream can bulk it out.

Make sure that the crepes have cooled to room temperature and the pastry cream has either cooled to room temperature or has been refrigerated.  If either the crepes or pastry cream are warm, the stack will not stay put and will slide.  Once you have stacked the crepes, put the cake in the fridge if you're not serving it right away to keep it in place.

Green Tea (Match) Mille Crepes (Crepe Cake)
From Zen Can Cook

For the crepes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (or beer)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons matcha powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau or Grand-Marnier

For the pastry cream:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temp’
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 tablespoon Grand-Marnier (optional)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped (optional)

To serve:

  • Candied orange zest (optional)

To make the crepes:

  • Combine all the ingredients by hand or in the bowl of a blender. Mix until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Place a 6-inch nonstick or seasoned crepe pan over medium heat. Using a paper towel, coat the pan with a little butter.
  • Pour about 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Lift, tilt and rotate the pan so that the batter forms an even, very thin layer. Cook until golden. Turn the crepe over and cook a little longer. Remove the crepe to a piece of wax paper. Continue cooking the rest of the crepes.

To make the orange pastry cream:

  • In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat.
  • Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl. Drizzle a quarter of the hot milk and whisk vigorously. Pour the rest of the milk and keep whisking. Return the custard to the pan and add the vanilla extract and orange zest. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil while whisking energetically for 1 or 2 minutes. The mixture will be thick. Stir in the Grand Marnier if using.
  • Set the bottom of the pot in a ice-water bath to cool, stirring frequently so that the mixture remains smooth. Cool to 140 F (warm to the touch) and stir in the butter and the orange zest until completely incorporated. Cool and refrigerate.
  • When ready to use, place the put the pastry cream in a food processor and process for 10 seconds for the best consistency. Fold in the whipped cream if using.

To assemble:

  • Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream. Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 15 to 20.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve cold. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch. Slice like a cake. Serve with candied orange zest.


Getting ready to fry the crepes.  That's a 2 tablespoon measuring spoon.

I used exactly 2 tablespoons of batter per crepe.

First attempt at flipping a crepe.

Second attempt at flipping a crepe.

After four tries, I finally got it figured out!

Beautiful properly flipped crepe.

I eventually got 17 non-smushed crepes.

My solution to the leaning problem: chopsticks.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jae, today I'm collecting cake recipes. Please drop me a line on if you are ok with me linking to your post in my blog (Carole's Chatter). Cheers