When it comes to French desserts, one of the most spectacular has to be the crêpe suzette. And that is even before you set it on fire. Flambée comes from the French verb “flamber” which means to set a flame.
In French cuisine, the process of flambée involves covering the crêpe with alcohol spirits and lightly setting it aflame for a few minutes. The result is quite striking and wonderous. (It is not very child-friendly though, more on that later.)
The original crêpe suzette recipe is said to have been created accidentally. Legend has it that a 14-year old waiter named Henri Charpentier, at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, was preparing to serve the crêpes to the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1895, when the dish accidentally caught fire.
After putting the fire out, he realized that the resulting medley of flavors was even better than before. Prince Edward loved it and insisted that the dish be named after a lovely French woman at the table, a lady named Suzette. And thus was born the Crêpe Suzette.
Now, there are a few holes in this story, namely that it is highly doubtful a 14-year old would have been allowed to serve the future King of England, but I digress!
It is also highly unlikely that the original recipe would call for the Grand Marnier to be set on fire in front of guests, rather than being cooked on the stove in the kitchen.
All this logic is no reason to discount the romance of it all however, especially when we have now an excellent dessert to go with the story.
Crêpes in France
Crêpes are the French version of pancakes, but unlike pancakes, they can be sweet or savory. Sweet crêpes like the ones in a crêpe suzette are made from regular all-purpose flour, while savory crêpes are made from buckwheat flour. You can all sorts of ingredients to savory crêpes from spinach to ham, to eggs.
☞ READ MORE: The Savory Crêpe Recipe: Galette Bretonne
Dessert crêpes similarly can easily be topped with chocolate, fruit, ice cream etc. I’ve used the traditional ingredients here in the recipe for crêpe suzette, but don’t hesitate to add some raspberries, other fruit or even ice cream, if that is what catches your fancy!
One of the quirkier celebrations in France, la Chandeleur (“Candlemas” in English) entirely centers around crêpes. (Assuming you are not going to church that is.) It is practically mandatory during Chandeleur to gather at a friend’s house in the afternoon, and eat copious amounts of home-made crêpes topped with syrup (flambée or not), and down it with a pitcher of cider.
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Cooking without alcohol
The crêpe flambée is traditionally drenched with Grand Marnier, but you can also cook it without alcohol.
Crêpes are regularly served, not just as a dessert, but also as an afternoon snack. It is a staple for young children during their gôuter after-school. With an orange juice syrup, the crêpe suzette can be easily adapted for those who prefer not to use alcohol. I’ve included this alternative in the recipe below.
Frequently asked questions
For the Crêpe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 tablespoons (50g) melted better
- 2 tablespoons of rhum (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of orange juice (alternative to rhum)
- pinch of salt
- canola oil (or butter) to grease the pan
For the Syrup
- 3/4 cup of Grand Marnier
- 1 cup of orange juice and 1 lemon (alternatives to Grand Marnier)
- 100g in butter
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 sachet of vanilla sugar
- In a bowl, mix together the flour, milk, eggs, butter, rhum (or orange juice), and salt.
- Whisk vigorously until the batter is completely smooth.
- Let the mixture rest for at least 15 minutes in the fridge.
- At medium heat, grease the skillet with the canola oil.
- Scoop a portion of the mixture into the skillet to cook the crêpe, flipping it over with a spatula to each side after 1-2 minutes. Remove from skillet when golden brown.
- Repeat with the remaining mixture to make the rest of the crêpes (should be 4-6 crêpes in total).
- Fold the crêpes and place them in individual serving plates.
- To make the syrup, heat the butter and sugar in a saucepan.
- Lower the heat and mix in the Grand Marnier into the saucepan so that it warms lightly.
- (Alternative to step 9: Lower the heat and add in the orange juice, lemon juice, and some lemon zest to the saucepan, so that it warms lightly.)
- Pour the syrup onto each crêpe and serve to guests.
- (Optional) With a long matchstick, light the Grand Marnier to lightly flambée, taking care not to burn yourself.
This recipe should make around 4-6 crêpes. Please adjust quantities for additional servings.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 480Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 166mgSodium: 288mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 10g
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French recipes that are easy to prepare. And if you like crêpes, try our savory crêpe recipe that will make a perfect main dish before the crêpe suzette.
Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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