Known as Quaresima, or the “40” days in Italian, Lent is observed by many in Italy. Carnevale, celebrated the days before Lent begins, is filled with traditional foods varied from town to town.
When I was growing up, my Nonna would always make Crepes on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. We continued that custom during all my growing up years and for as long as I can remember. I carried that tradition into my married life and, over the years with our children.
They looked forward to that Tuesday for many reasons and it became to be called Pancake Tuesday. We still enjoy this custom in our house and now celebrate with some of our grandchildren.
Here is a recipe that I have followed for years, and it makes about a dozen or so crepes.
We have to triple the recipe for our family but I make the mixture one batch at a time. For some reason it works out better that way.
4 Eggs – room temperature if possible
1 Cup Whole Milk
½ Cup Flour
1 Tb Sugar
1 Pinch Salt
3 Tbs Butter – unsalted and cut into cubes
1 Cup Raspberry Jam – mixed with butter and a little vanilla
1 Tsp Vanilla
Nutella to warm for filling.
Cottage cheese at room temperature for filling.
Warm syrup for pouring.
A variety of jams, jellies and preserves.
NOTE: Preheat your oven to about 200º and line a baking pan with wax paper or parchment paper.
You only want to keep the crepes warm until you are ready to use them.
My grandmother, Nonna Giovanna, who lived on a farm in New Jersey, did this all by hand with a metal whisk. And she would be patiently mixing up a batch of a few dozen. I can still picture her with the large bowl in the crook of her left arm just steadily beating away. If we were at home in the City, my Little Nonna or my Mother would use a hand held stirrer with the little wheel on the side that you turned to spin the tines. I, on the other hand, admit that I don’t have the patience of either Grandmother nor the tenacity, so I use a blender, add the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse a few times and then scrape down the inside of the jar. Then blend again until it all forms a smooth batter and let it sit for another few minutes, maybe 15-20. Preheat a 10-inch non-stick pan or skillet over medium-low heat. If you have a crepe pan, all the better. Add a cube of butter to the pan and when the butter has melted, quickly add ¼ cup (I use a metal measuring cup with a handle) of batter and quickly tilt the pan so that an even coating forms on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1 minute until it is slightly browned and set. Carefully loosen the sides with a spatula and carefully flip it over. Cook for an additional minute. Repeat this process until all the batter and necessary butter has been used.
Meanwhile or beforehand, in a small bowl add some raspberry jam, (whatever quantity you need to fill all the crepes) 1 pat of butter and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Heat this mixture just until it is warm and easy to spread. If two people are working together the crepe process goes easier. As each crepe comes off the pan, slide it on to some wax or parchment paper, spread jam over the entire surface leaving an inch border all around and then roll up like a jelly roll, place in the oven to keep warm. When working alone, just cook all the crepes, lay them out on wax paper, then fill and put into the oven to keep warm until time to be served. Or you can just offer the naked crepes and let everyone fill their own. The children much prefer to fill and roll their own. The grandchildren enjoy filling their own and happily smear the Nutella over all topped with a little jelly and sometimes some syrup.
Our only variation to this recipe is that my Grandmother served the crepes with a homemade, as I recall, prune jam or preserve filling. It was delicious, but I have not been able to duplicate it, so we go with raspberry. Any of your favorites will work.
We usually enjoy the crepes with a side of bacon or sausage since meat will be limited during Lent.