The Wee Hours

Hey you!

I know you have been swamped with the recent move, the new job and kids, so I imagine you have been getting up earlier and earlier just to get a few things done without a million interruptions.  

I remember when I was younger and my parents would voluntarily get up at 5am, before everyone was awake, even on the weekends.  I always thought that was so bizarre - why wouldn't you sleep for as long as you possibly could?  What could be so important that you would have to get up at 5am to do it?  And is this why they were nearly narcoleptic at 9pm on the couch every night?

Now, I understand.  Now I realize that the only time of the day during which there are no children, and one is not yet worn out by a day with children, is at 5 in the morning.  

Now that I sit on the other side, I have become seriously productive during these pre-dawn hours.  Like this morning:  I paid bills, did two loads of laundry (I mean completely - washed, dried, folded, put away), shopped a little online (for gifts, I swear), wrote some work emails and  booked our flights for a vacation that is 4 months away. It's amazing what one can do armed with a strong cup of coffee and a little morning quiet time.  Because the truth is, if you ask me to do ANY of these things 15 hours later when I have finally wrestled both kids back into bed, I will frown faintly as I ignore you and doze off in front of trashy TV.

As you know from previous letters, on the days I don't go to work, I try to put a little extra effort into breakfast.  It has become a sort of tradition with June and she loves waking up and having a guess at what we might be making.  We've been on a bit of a pancake binge recently - everything from graham cracker pancakes to puffy dutch babies - so, in keeping with the theme, this morning we made crepes.  

Crepes (or as I explained to J, pancake's French and more elegant cousin) are not difficult, but are best made keeping three things in mind:

1. The batter must be thin.  Crepes are NOT pancakes and, as such, should NOT be fluffy.  When cooked, they should be light and thin and, accordingly, so should the batter.  I can't stress it enough: don't be worried when your crepe batter feels only slightly thicker than milk.

2. The batter needs time.   Letting the batter rest at least 30 minutes or an hour before cooking is KEY.  This keeps these very thin crepes from tearing during the flip!

3.  While not necessary, a crepe pan is helpful.  Tygh got me this one a few years back and it is perfection.  Haven't had a bad crepe in it :).  And, full disclosure, I have used it for regular pancakes, grilled cheeses and fried eggs.

There are a gazillion crepe recipes out there, and I have made a good dozen of them. Many of them ask you to blend or food process the ingredients, and you can if you want, but I've had just as much success with a whisk.  My favorite recipe is a little unconventional, as it adds water, but I find the texture and flavor to be just perfect and the results totally reproducible.  These crepes don't have sugar in them, either, so they are easily paired with everything from jam to jambon.

On some sad level, sleeping in as a parent has become a bit like getting drunk as a parent: you love it while it's happening and perhaps even miss the freedom it represents, but you always pay for it later.   Because, eventually, the kids wake up and you aren't ready for them, so you have to brush your teeth while you pee and somebody watches and then try to make breakfast while simultaneously dressing yourself and a smaller someone else who is probably arguing with you about which water cup she wants.  You just start the day a step behind.  So, I guess I owe my parents an apology for thinking they were lunatics.  I should have just pitied them more. Cause now, I realize they were just trying to cram their own daily needs into the two short childless hours before dawn.  

Les Crepes

This recipe is from Alton Brown, whose TV show and approach is basically The Food Network's version of America's Test Kitchen.  He loves to figure out how to make the best fill-in-the-blank and will take you through all the steps and chemistry to get there with the exact results you're looking for.. 

2 large eggs

3/4 C milk (I use whole milk)

1/2 C water

1 C all purpose flour

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients by whisk or in blender/food processor, pulsing to combine.  Let sit for 1 hour and up to two days.

Heat small non-stick pan or crepe pan over medium heat.  Coat with butter or non-stick spray, if desired.  Pour a small amount of batter into the center of the pan, swirling quickly to coat the whole pan.  Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip.  Cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from the pan and top or fill as desired.  Tygh loves lemon juice and sugar.  June loves Nutella.  I say, why choose?

Crepes can be made ahead and stored well-wrapped for up to 3 days.  Can technically freeze them, too, but honestly it takes just as much effort to thaw the things as it would to make a fresh batch.