Sunday, February 27, 2011

Orange crepes for Maslenitsa

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Though Maslenitsa (pancake week) officially starts on February 28 we had our first pancakes yesterday as we just couldn't wait any more. Maslenitsa is a genius holiday for me. It comes from before Christianity times when people were praying to the Sun. Another name for the holiday is pancake week and that's exactly what it stands for. It's a whole week of making and eating pancakes. And each of them is a little sun in your plate.

Isn't it a brilliant idea to give yourself a week of delicious pancakes? They are so much fun to make at home with your friends, family and kids. In many Russian families grannies will be making Russian blini (traditional thick pancakes with a myriad holes in each). In my family it's my dad who is making those this time and here they are.

Then blini get wrapped, folded and dipped into thousand delicious complements from butter with red caviar, fried onions with mushrooms, minced meat, chicken and mashed potatoes to sour cream, honey, sweet condensed milk, fruit jams, apples and raisins. They get teared, jammed, snatched out of somebody else's plate and eaten, eaten and eaten again!

Having said all that, I'm a fan of Maslenitsa, but my favorite pancakes are still French crepes. They are so incredibly thin, delicate and melting in your mouth that nothing can ever compare with them. Creperie de Paris is my favorite Moscow cafe to have crepes out. However for this Maslenitsa I making them at home. I'll be making very special crepes. They are especially thin, very rich and incredibly crisp on the side. I first made them long ago following my favorite Le Cordon Bleu Dessert Techniques and since then I haven't tried any tastier crepes. Making them takes some time so they are best for a holiday when you are not in a hurry.

Delicious crepes with orange and chantilly cream (recipe adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Dessert Techniques)

For the crepes:
100 gr flour
70 gr sugar
1/2 tea spoon of salt
4 eggs
100 ml heavy cream
200 ml milk
30 gr butter
1 tbs whiskey
butter and vegetable oil for frying

For the topping:
200 ml heavy cream
30 gr icing sugar
1 tea spoon Cointreau or Orange blossom water
4 oranges
2 tbs sugar (for decoration)

The easiest and trouble-less way to make the batter is to use a blender or food processor. However you can make it without using one following the same steps (you just might need to run the batter through a sieve at the end to get even texture). Combine the flour, sugar, salt and eggs and mix together to reach even texture. Add the milk, cream, melted butter (make sure it's not very hot) and whiskey. Mix again till the batter is even, cover and set aside.

For the topping finely grate zest from 1/2 of an orange. Whip the 200 ml of cream with 30 gr icing sugar till the cream holds stiff peaks. Add the orange zest and Cointreau or Orange blossom water, mix well, cover and place into the fridge.


To make the orange zest decor (you can easily skip this step if you consider this decor excessive) strip off the zest from 1 orange using vegetable peeler and cut it into thin strips with a knife (or use a special zester like this one). Place the zest stripes into a small pan, add 2 tbs of sugar and 1/2 cup of water and bring to boil. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes than remove from heat, cover and let cool.

Get the flash out of the oranges. First using a small and sharp knife remove the skin together with the outer membrane. Then (with a knife again) take each segment out of the membrane. Cover the orange and place in the fridge.


Now the only thing left is to bake the pancakes. Set a medium size skillet (or pancake pan) over medium heat and let it heat well. Add a tbs of vegetable oil and a bit of batter. Let both melt together and heat well. Pour in 2 tbs of batter, turn the pan around tilting it so that the batter evenly covers the bottom. Cook around 2 minutes from the one side till the edge gets golden brown. Then get the spatula under the pancake and flip it over. Cook for 1-2 minutes from the other side and slide off the pan onto a plate, cover and keep warm.

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The first pancake will sometimes come out wrong. That's exactly what happened to me yesterday. We even have a proverb (первый блин комом) stipulating that this always happens. So don't worry, really. You might need to practice on your first 2-3 pancakes before you get how to deal with them. If you see your pancakes break too easily, add 1 tbs of flour to the batter. The beautiful thing is that those first pancakes (no matter their shape) are the most delicious and you don't have to share them with anyone!

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Now you're just 5 minutes away from your well deserved rest. Just fold a pancake on a serving plate. Place several orange segments on top of it. Spoon over some whipped cream and decorate with orange zest strips. Sit down, breath out and enjoy.

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Related posts and pages:

Crepes & Pancakes
Half-a-teaspoon pancake baking class
Crepe Suzette is burning!