When we lived in Cambridge, New Zealand, we had a Saturday morning pastime of walking through the morning markets for an authentic French crêpe. Beneath the red and blue striped umbrella l’homme français would pour his mix over the great flat plates, smoothing it out with his wooden tool, flipping it not a moment too early with his long spatula.
With a steaming fresh espresso in his hand (double shot flat white no less) Jesse’s eyes would light up as the crêpier spread over the thick Nutella and slices of banana, fold it in half and in half again, and pass the crêpe of goodness to his outstretched hand.
This was date morning.
We recreate it here in Norman Wells, in our home. There is no crêpier in town. No great hotplates where batter bubbles beneath the French flag. No perfectly pressured espresso from a local cafe. Instead we walk around the block, thick scarves and fur hoods pressed close to our faces as we brave the -20˚ winds that Spring brings, and return to our home where the Italian press bubbles away and the crêpes come fresh off our own cast iron pan, to be topped with lemon and sugar (mine) or Nutella and banana (his).
For his birthday last week, we celebrated with all his favorites. Mille crêpe, a stack of banana crêpes layered between a tangy but sweet cream cheese Nutella mix, topped with dark chocolate shavings and candied hazelnuts. Served, of course, with freshly pressed Italian espresso.
I made a similar mille crêpe over a year ago, that time it had a crisp bruléed top and a chocolate liqueur syrup to pour over. That was back when we first began learning French. Now, we have a week to go until we travel through French Quebec, hoping to converse in what little French we have picked up, and enjoy some fresh crêpes and decent espresso on our morning date.
Banana & Nutella Crêpe Cake with Candied Hazelnuts
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan
1 large ripe banana, pureed (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup (235 ml) milk
3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons (25 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Nutella cream cheese yogurt filling
8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, well-softened
1 cup natural, unsweetened yogurt
1/3 cup Nutella
Make the crêpe batter: Blend banana in a food processor until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until well combined. Transfer batter, which will look pretty thin, to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, preferably overnight, and up to two days. When you remove the batter, it will seem surprisingly thick. Stir it to redistribute the ingredients before using it.
Cook the crêpes: Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once heated, brush pan thinly with melted butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet, swirling it until it evenly coats the bottom and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden and the top is set, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the crêpe and cook it for 30 seconds on the other side, before transferring it to a plate to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. You can stack your crepes and they should not stick together. Let crepes cool completely.
Make filling: Whip cream cheese until fluffy, then beat in yogurt. When fully combined, fold in the Nutella and whisk until smooth and fluffy.
Assemble crepe cake: Lay first crepe on a cake plate or serving platter. Spread with 1/4 cup of the Nutella-cream cheese filling. Repeat until all crepes have been used. Top the final crepe with Nutella, shaved chocolate and candied hazelnuts.
Recipe from Martha Stewart
5 – 8 hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Thread each hazelnut onto tip of a long wooden skewer; set aside. Place a cutting board or a stack of heavy books along the edge of a countertop; this is to hold the skewers while the caramel hardens on the hazelnuts.
Cook sugar and water in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming. Let boil until syrup turns light amber, about 5 minutes; remove from heat. Let stand until slightly cooled, 8 to 10 minutes.
Dip 1 skewered hazelnut into syrup, coating completely and letting excess syrup drip back into pan. When dripping syrup becomes a thin string, secure end of skewer under cutting board, letting caramel string drip over edge onto sheet. Repeat with remaining hazelnuts. Let stand until caramel has hardened, about 5 minutes. Break strings to about 4 inches. Carefully remove skewers and place atop crêpe cake.