So you got that hotcake craving out of your system last month on Pancake Day and are now in search of something new and, dare we say it, more refined. Eggs, milk, flour, salt and perhaps a spoon of baking powder and sugar, et voilà: a batter. Some may argue crêpes are just the skinny counterpart to the fluffier cake, but be careful – there are chefs around the city who argue that these ratio-differing siblings cannot be any more divergent, as they come from entirely different pans.
Pastry chef Charles Quek is of that mindset: ‘The crêpe and pancake are like an apple and an orange. You usually pour things onto the pancakes, and it is more spongy because it has more flour, while the crêpe is more pliable – you can [slather on and] roll ingredients up in it.’ Quek makes a Mille (‘thousand’ in French) cake at his bakery. For this painstaking dessert, he alternates 20 layers of crêpe with deft spreads of pastry cream that contains a splash of Kirsch liqueur and flecks of vanilla from pods, finishing things off with caramelised sugar on top. The result is a light, delicate cake that holds itself upright just fine on the plate, but melts into smooth sheets at the bite. ‘The sheets are made using a speciality crêpe pan that gets it [to] an even thickness. You can’t fnd [his cake] anywhere in Singapore, definitely not at pancake shops [as pancakes are] too thick for the Mille cake,’ Quek notes. (#01-06 Clementi Arcade, 41 Sunset Way; 6762 8019, www.charlesclassiccakes.com)
Deep in the core of the city, Geraldine Porte and Stephane Meunier of Entre-nous Crêperie serve savoury (galette) and sweet crêpes ($7.20-$14.50). ‘I don’t mind pancakes once in a while [but] they are very different to the paper-thin crêpes we serve,’ she says, before admitting that she has never had a savoury pancake. This clean-lined, black-and-white interior shophouse furnished with only the basics differentiates their selection by using organic buckwheat, wheat flour and only le Gall butter from Brittany. Porte claims the beurre de baratte – a French churned butter – as one of the best in the world. Indeed, the salted-butter caramel pancakes are très fragrant and contain a drool-worthy balance of salty and sweet. They are thin and crisp on the edges, but not quite as paper-thin as Porte describes. (#01- 01, 27 Seah St; 6333 4671, www.entrenous.sg)
The Japanese seem to have also perfected their version of the thin batter: the crêpes at Mazazu are equally thin, but still pliable even when it cools. Like its French counterparts, this Asian variant is served sweet and savoury, but much unlike the former these are usually filled with products like pristine white whipped cream – Mazazu’s is lighter than most, made with vegetable fat – or salad dressed with mayonnaise. While we were not able to take a peek at the recipe, we’re told that it includes a mix of minerals like zinc, no artificial sweeteners, and uses wheat flour, soy milk and a minimal amount of eggs to draw health-conscious eaters. How do these match up with pancakes? ‘They are totally different,’ the manager replies. ‘The pancake is very fluffy; ours is closer to the [thinness of] popiah [skins]. You can’t compare the two.’ (Meidi-Ya, #B1-30/30A Liang Court, 177 River Valley Rd; 6337 1404; www.mazazu.com.sg)
Crêperie des Arts
Breton Johan Aubertin of mariner-themed Crêperie des Arts says comparing the two is like ‘comparing a prata to a thosai – they are eaten on different occasions. Pancakes are much more filling, get soggy more quickly and are typically eaten for breakfast, while crêpes and galettes are much more subtle in taste and can to be eaten as a meal on their own.’ Like Entre-nous Crêperie, this dimly lit, low-ceilinged, two-storeyed shophouse (with alfresco seating) adorned with fishermen’s nets and models of boats makes its own galettes ($16-$27) with buckwheat flour, so it is gluten free and much easier on the stomach. Aubertin likes to pair his crêpes – both sweet and savoury – with one of his dozen wines, as well as a handful of British and French ciders. Now that is sure to satiate a craving, maybe two. (44 Prinsep St; 6333 5330)