February 2nd is a special day in France, as it is the annual celebration of La Chandeleur, also known as “La Fête des Crêpes”. This holiday has its roots in ancient Roman tradition, where it was believed that making and consuming these thin pancakes would bring good luck and prosperity in the year to come.
In France, the tradition of making and eating crêpes on February 2nd dates back to ancient times. This tradition is a way to celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring. On this day, many French people make crêpes at home, often using a special crêpe pan called a “crepière.” The crêpes are typically made with a simple batter of flour, eggs, and milk, and are cooked on one side until they are golden brown.
Once cooked, the pancakes are usually filled with a sweet or savory filling, such as sugar and lemon juice, or ham and cheese. After they are filled, the crêpes are folded and served hot. Many French people also enjoy eating their crêpes with a glass of cider or champagne. This tradition is a beloved part of French culture and is enjoyed by people of all ages. My students look forward to it each year because we make crêpes in the classroom.
Today, La Chandeleur is still celebrated with much fanfare and revelry, as families and friends gather together to enjoy the meal. There is even a traditional way to flip the pancakes to determine whether or not the coming year will be filled with prosperity. Here is a video in simple French that your students can watch to see how crêpes are prepared.
So, how does one go about making the perfect batter? It’s actually quite simple, and all it takes is a few basic ingredients and a bit of practice. When I cook with my students, I do it one of two ways – either I make the batter myself at home (empty 2L soda bottles are perfect to store the batter) OR if I have a particularly responsible group of students, I have them make the batter and bring it in the morning. I don’t have a stove in my classroom, instead I use electric griddles – I have several, funded through a Donors choose project a few years ago. They work well and are easy to clean off.
Depending on the curriculum, your food unit may end up around the same time as la Chandeleur, but it may not. No matter when you make them, your students will definitely enjoy eating them! For intermediate and advanced students, you might enjoy using this episode of the Duolingo French podcast about a man who decided to focus on making the perfect crêpe.
A basic crêpe batter recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and eggs until smooth.
- Gradually add the milk, water, salt, and melted butter, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
- Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours, to allow the flour to absorb the liquid and the batter to thicken.
- When you’re ready to make the crêpes, heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Lightly coat the skillet with a bit of melted butter or cooking spray.
- Pour a small amount of batter into the center of the skillet, then quickly tilt and rotate the pan to evenly distribute the batter and form a thin, even layer.
- Once the edges of the crêpe start to turn brown and lift up, you can turn the crepe and cook the other side.
Top the finished pancake with whatever you like – Nutella, whipped cream, fruit, chocolate. While you can make them with savory ingredients like ham and cheese, these aren’t really crêpes – they are galettes, and the batter is made with buckwheat flour. While I like galettes, I usually just have my students make sweet crêpes as they seem to like those more.