It’s hard not to be drawn to a recipe by a beautiful photograph. Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent, and Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way have all escaped from my kitchen shelves to my coffee table (where both the books and I feel they belong). Not surprisingly, Santiago Soto Monllor won this year’s James Beard award for Best Photography for Seven Fires.
Still, despite the incredible food images in print and on line, it was the Chilean name, panqueques celestinos for crêpes filled with dulce de leche that caught my eye. Pale blue heaven wrapped in a crêpe? It had to be dulce de leche.
Popular in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, I always order them at Che Tito’s, the Argentinian restaurant I visit whenever I’m home. A non-descript spot wedged between a pet store and a frame shop, it’s a pizza place that grills an incredible churrasco de entraña, there’s usually a soccer game playing on the big screen tv, and it’s always full but you never have to wait for a table, the restaurant just magically expands.
With the grilling season in full swing, I thought it would be a good time learn how to make them myself. Though there are several versions, including a great one in Seven Fires I referred to often (that can be made at home or over a wood fire of course), I consulted the always calm and cool Julia Child, the politely short-tempered Madame E. Saint-Ange of La Bonne Cuisine, and the cheerful Maria Baez Kijac for the crêpes. A seemingly simple task that’s tripped me up before, Julia explained the importance of letting the batter rest, allowing the flour particles to expand insuring a tender and light result, Madame Saint-Ange emphasized using just the necessary amount or clarified butter or purified fat so that your crepes don’t have that “sweaty, unpleasant look” (author’s emphasis), and Baez Kijac’s advised how to work ahead to keep the summertime living easy. More text than illustration, I love these books too for what they don’t have. With a few helpful details that describe the why as well as the how, they helped me find my own way to an image that started with a couple of words.
Panqueques Celestinos/Panqueques de Dulce de Leche
For the crêpes, I followed Julia Child’s recipe for Pâte à Crêpes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Quickly blended then allowed to rest, I used half the batter for dessert and used the remaining crêpes for leftovers.
1 cup cold water
1 cup cold milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons clarified butter or canola oil or more as needed
1 cup dulce de leche
Put the liquids, eggs, salt, flour and melted butter in a blender jar. Cover and blend at highest speed for 1 minute. Scape down the sides with a rubber scraper as needed and blend for 2 to 3 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet or crêpe pan over moderately high heat. Brush with about tablespoon of clarified butter or oil. Take pan off heat and, holding the handle of the pan, pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the middle of the pan. Tilt the pan in all directions to so that batter evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Return to heat and cook for 30 to 60 seconds until lightly browned. Turn and cook on the other side an additional 30 seconds. Cool on a rack before stacking on a plate. Add more butter or oil as needed and repeat with remaining batter.*
Spread crêpes with heaping tablespoon of dulce de leche. Roll jelly-roll style or fold in half. You can also add toasted walnuts or pecans, shredded coconut or chocolate sauce. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or whipped cream and serve.
*Crêpes can be kept in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. They can also be made in advance and reheated before using or frozen. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator then reheat in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.
Makes 12-16 crêpes.