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Crepes Suzette

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The French... have surrounded food with so much commentary, learning and connoisseurship as to clothe it in the vestments of civilization itself... Cooking is viewed as a major art form: innovations are celebrated and talked about as though they were phrases in the development of a style of painting or poetry... A meal at a truly great restaurant is a sort of theatre you can eat.
- Richard Bernstein, The Fragile Glory

French Cuisine

French cooking is considered by many to be the standard against which all other cuisines are measured. This standard was introduced into the French courts by Catherine de Medici in the 1500s, and later perfected by Auguste Escoffier, considered the 'Father of French Cuisine'.

Cooking traditions have developed and been perfected over the centuries turning French cooking into an art form. Many elaborate and seemingly complicated techniques are employed which are, to a French chef, basic methodology. This is true of even the simplest of dishes, which require careful preparation and great attention to detail. One such dish is the crêpe, a fine French pancake.

The Galette

Before the crêpe came the coarser galette, a usually savoury pancake made with buckwheat. This grows in barren conditions and is therefore a hardier crop, making it suitable as a poor man's grain. It is thought that the hearty galette arose as a staple food centuries ago in Brittany1, where it is still served, often with a beaker of fresh Breton cider.

Over the years, the galette has evolved, been refined and sweetened, with wheat replacing the coarse buckwheat. Today a French Crêpe is a thin wheat pancake usually served sweet.

The Crêpe

Although they are considered a breakfast dish, and usually served sweet, crêpes are a versatile menu item, suitable for any meal of the day and adaptable to any occasion.

Crêpes are served as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, appetiser, dessert, as an entrée, or even a side dish. Crêpes can be found gracing the menus of the most elegant of French restaurants as well as the humblest of roadside crêperies. They can be folded into triangles, half-moons or cups. Crêpes may also be stacked or (more commonly) filled and rolled into a cylinder. They are often simply drizzled with a luscious sauce.

Crêpes are served with a vast medley of sauces, flavours and fillings. These are usually sweet and in combination, such as sugar and lemon, fruit and jam or compôtes, chocolate and banana, nuts and honey, shredded coconut and chocolate sauce, syrup and ice-cream...

Crêpes are not, however, only served sweet, they are also offered with various savoury fillings including vegetables, meats, cheese, seafood, more eggs or patés. Some popular combinations are: asparagus and Brie; paté and spring onions; broccoli and melted Camembert (or Emmental) cheese; ham and Gruyère cheese; Mozzarella and tomato and basil leaves, etc. The choice of filling and presentation is limited only by the imagination of the palate.

Crêpes Suzette

The world-famous citrus-flavoured Crêpes Suzette is a favourite at elegant French restaurants, often served at the tableside with much pyrotechnic Gallic flair, flamboyantly flambéed in Grand Marnier and accompanied by much 'ooh-ing' and 'aah-ing'.

Crêpes Suzette Claims to Fame

Named by a Future King

In fact, it appears this elegant and celebrated dish first came into existence during a potentially career-crunching series of faux pas by the 14-year-old apprentice, Henri Charpentier, in Paris in 1895. He was apparently making dessert for the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), who is credited with naming the Crêpe for his host's daughter. According to Charpentier's memoirs in Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier:

It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavours I had ever tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste... He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and... made him a curtsey. 'Will you,' said His Majesty, 'change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?' Thus was born and baptised this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jewelled ring, a panama hat and a cane.

Sung by Kenneth on Parky

On 13 October, 1979, Kenneth Williams sang 'Crêpes Suzette' on Michael Parkinson's chat show:

Double Entendre, Restaurant,
Jacques Cousteau, Yves Saint Laurent,
Ou est la plume de ma tante?
C'est la vie my Crêpe Suzette

Has a Beautiful Namesake

A decorative plant, a hosta, is named Crêpe Suzette.

... and a Pretty Doll

The Strawberry Shortcake dolls also feature a Crêpes Suzette claim to fame:

In all, by 1983 the 'regular line' consisted of 19 dolls, five who were international friends. Their names were Café Olé with Burrito Donkey; Mint Tulip with Marshland Mallard; Almond Tea with Marza Panda; Crêpe Suzette with Éclair Poodle; and Lem and Ada with Sugarwoofer Dog.

... and was included in the MIT SlugFest

In 1983, Crêpes Suzette was entered into the MIT Slugfest Hall Feed, a massive cook-off where students feed each other in the mess halls. The MIT SlugFest Recipe feeds 60.

Crêpes Suzette Recipe

(Makes Four)

To avoid confusion, do be aware that there is no single recipe for Crêpes Suzette. The only thing that is certain is that it uses eggs, flour, sugar, butter, citrus and Cognac, and is flambéed in Grand Marnier. Some recipes call for a bewildering mix of liqueurs, others insist on separating the yolk from the white. A few recipes will call on tangerines or bitter oranges, others ask for Orange Blossom Water and icing sugar.

Despite the often accompanying hoo-haa, it is quite possible to make Crêpes Suzette at home. In fact, so long as you stick to the basic underlying premises of: batter consistency, pan heat and ladle quantity, the quantities in the recipe are fairly forgiving and absolute precision is unnecessary. The ingredients in this recipe are simple and the process perfectly safe and manageable - assuming you leave out the fireworks:

Crêpes Batter:

  • 125g of flour: ¼ lb
  • 50g of sugar: 1¾ oz
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50cl of milk: 1 pint
  • 25g of butter: 7/8 oz

Suzette Sauce:

  • 200g of unsalted butter: ½ lb
  • 80g of sugar: 3 oz
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of fine brandy


  • In a bowl, mix the Suzette sauce until it is all dissolved and combined. It may be easier if you melt the butter gently first. Set aside for drizzling over the cooked crêpes.
  • In a large mixing bowl mix crêpe batter until it is smooth and pours like a heavy liquid2. Start with the wet ingredients first and slowly add the flour at the end (leave out the butter for now, it goes in just before cooking). Using a whisk will aerate the batter and produce a lacier, lighter texture of crêpes.
  • Heat a large flat bottomed frying pan on high. When it is sufficiently hot, turn the heat down a little to medium high and melt the butter in the pan. Pour it into the batter just before beginning to cook the crêpes, leaving the residue in the pan. Your pan is ready to receive its first ladleful of batter.
  • Using a ladle, pour about a quarter of the batter into the pan and tilt around in a circular motion, thinly coating the entire bottom of the pan.
  • After a minute or two, the edges will begin to crisp. Gently lift the edge of the crêpe with a spatula and flip it over.
  • When both sides are golden brown, remove the crêpe to a plate.
  • Repeat.
  • When the crêpes are ready to serve, roll them one by one (some fold them in four instead) and drizzle the sauce over them before serving.

Crêpes Suzette (dairy free version)


Crêpes Batter:

  • 125g of flour: ¼ lb
  • 50g of sugar: 1¾ oz
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50cl of water: 1 pint
  • 25g of vegan margarine: 7/8 oz

Suzette Sauce:

  • 200g of vegan margarine: ½ lb
  • 80g of sugar: 3 oz
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of fine brandy


  • Cook and serve as described above.

Tips for Success

For a particularly successful batch of crêpes, make sure the batter is cold and the pan hot before beginning to cook. Refrigerate the mixture ahead of time. If you want to make the crêpes before you need them, place them flat on a dish with a paper towel or greaseproof sheet separating them from each other. Cover with a slightly damp dishcloth and place in a cool dry place. Crêpes can be frozen this way also but do seal them in a plastic bag first.

A heavy bottomed pan, such as an old fashioned cast iron skillet, is best but a good quality regular non-stick pan works well also. Either way, it is important to make sure the pan is flat-bottomed and hot before starting, but not too hot. The crêpes will scorch on a very high heat, yet if the pan is not hot enough the crêpes will stick and frustrate. The best way to get around this is to heat the pan on high then turn the heat down to medium high. Many chefs keep a muslin cloth (or kitchen towel) soaked in melted butter or oil ready to periodically recoat the pan; this is helpful if you are planning on making a dozen or more crêpes.

For an orange flavour, use Cointreau with the brandy and add orange zest to the sauce. If you insist on the pyrotechnic display, pour warmed Grand Marnier over your finished (also warm) crêpes and immediately3 set alight with a long matchstick. For those who want the fireworks without the alcohol content, soak a few sugar cubes in warmed Grand Marnier and place around the serving dish to be set alight. Either way, please stand well back.

1Brittany, in the northwest corner of France, is called Bretagne in French and the adjective is Breton.2Like oil, for example3The alcohol will not ignite if it has cooled down, nor if it has been allowed to dissipate.

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