Vegan Crêpes: Vive la fête de la Chandeleur!!

You just have to love a country where there is a holiday dedicated to crêpes!

Having grown up in the United States, I have always associated February 2nd with Groundhog Day, the ridiculous holiday where we’re supposed to hover around the groundhog hole, watching with bated breath to see whether or not the almighty groundhog with his super powers will grant a reprieve of spring, or scurry back into his hole condemning us to further endure blizzards and sub-zero temps…yeah, let me tell you a little something: where I grew up the groundhog would have had to do some serious winter weight lifting in his snug little den before trying to somehow clear a path through the four feet of snow covering his doorway.

As a young child I found this holiday to be completely unfair because we all knew that the groundhog wouldn’t whip out his sunglasses and SPF 15, but that in other parts of the world it was indeed beginning to look like spring. I felt somehow robbed of a holiday with this bogus excuse of an event. I am now, however, happy to report that I have been vindicated, and I now await the arrival of February 2nd impatiently, and even circle the day on my calendar- heck, I even put little hearts and smiley faces next to the 2nd now!

Why? Well, because my dear readers, here in France, we love a party. Our divorce rates are among the lowest, and we also have less heart disease, obesity and other yuckies when compared to other comparably economically-developed countries (whatever that means). It’s not simply due to the red wine my friends (though that must play a part!), it’s the joie de vivre. There are frequent holidays, vacations, fêtes- you name it, and it helps reduce your stress level when you know something fun is on the horizon, and really, what can be more fun than a big ‘ole crêpe party? (OK, there are obviously things which are far more fun than chowing down on crêpes, but bare with me…)

La Fête de la Chandeleur (pronounced like the first name Chandler in English, but with a sh sound in the beginning, like shandler) was the clever work of a Kabylie-born pope, Pope Gélase, in the 5th century. At this point I just have to say, wow! an Algerian-born Catholic pope- who knew! (for the record there have been three popes born on the continent of Africa. And no, I’m not Catholic.) So good Pope Gélase was really quite a trail-blazer as far as popes go, a sort of PR guy if you will. You can read up on him on-line as I did, and you’ll find that much of his decision making became a bit of a template for decisions to be made later down the line. He realized, as did many other important peeps in the Catholic religion such as St. Martin de Tours, that if you wanted to get the new converts to stop celebrating their pagan holidays and buckle down and get with Catholicism, you had to give them a good reason. This usually meant slightly shifting actual Christian holidays so that they would coincide with the pagan ones, in this case Lupercales. (There were actually three or four pagan holidays celebrated on February 2nd here in France and in Europe, but you hungry folks want the crêpe recipe already so I’ll make this brief.) These early February holidays were all about light, luces, chandelles, candles, et. all- help us to feel like the light will return after these hard winter months! In fact, la Chandeleur is actually considered the last of the “Christmas Feasts”, and in many villages the traditional holiday Nativity scene isn’t taken down until after this holiday. So there you go, a pathetically cursory lesson in history to prepare you for the crêpe feast!

My big let-down with the majority of vegan crêpe recipes I have tried is that they are either 1) too fragile to be eaten like real crêpes and must be rolled and filled and placed in a casserole dish and served up as a sort of dish; or 2) they are too greasy. Well, I’m sorry to say that the recipe I’m about to share with you falls into the second category. They are a wee bit slishy, but they are very, very yummy. Real, authentic crêpes are almost paper-thin and much less shiny than these puppies, but I attended a little crêpe soirée to celebrate the 2nd of February and brought along my batter, and the non-vegans vouched for the yummy factor. Also to note, this is a sucrée or sweet batter, so leave out the agave, sugar and vanilla if you want to start with some salée or salty crêpes with sautéed mushrooms and onions for example. Or, if you’re feeling spunky and have a little free time you can be truly authentic and substitute the all-purpose unbleached white flour for buckwheat flour to make what we call here galettes, the usually salty crêpes which precede the sweet ones.

Shellyfish’s Vegan Crêpes

  • 2 cups “milk” (if going with the sweet crêpes you can use vanilla-flavoured. If making the galette variation, you will probably need more here. )
  • 1/4 cup buttery vegan spread, melted or veg oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup (you can also use maple if you prefer)
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (again, substitute buckwheat for galettes, and leave out the sugar & vanilla.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

You can be all technical and make a little mound with the flour and then try to put everything in the middle like in a little well and then try to mix, but that is entirely too time-consuming for me, and with these ingredients, makes no difference at all. Once things are nicely mixed, but your bowl in the fridge for at least two hours. Yes. Do this. If you don’t, you’ll be all upset that they are sticking to the pan and they are too thick and blady-blah-blah. Another little trick is to be sure that your pan is nice and hot, and put way less batter than you think you need, swirling the pan around to nicely cover the bottom. Remember, these aren’t pancakes, so really, you don’t need much batter.

The batter doesn’t keep, so if you have too much make your crêpes, then pile them together on a plate and cover with cling-wrap and put in the fridge, they’ll keep rather nicely there, but generally the are gobbled up before you’re forced to such extreme measures! Monsieur Fish likes to sprinkle sugar on them, true gourmands will enjoy spreading Nutella or a chocolaty spread on them- but watch vegans, these are not for you! There are some yummy vegan alternatives depending on where you live, though. We also like thinly-sliced banana and vegan whipped cream- the possibilities are only as limited as your pantry (and the room in your tummy!).

Enjoy your crêpes!