January 30, 2011
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When I was a child and we still spoke predominantly French at home we called French toast crêpes doré, “golden pancakes” (we called any pancakes crêpes). My paternal grandmother in New England called them toast doré, “toast” being a perfectly good French Canadian word in that part of the country. Only later did I learn that the correct name was pain doré, “golden bread,” and that in France and Louisiana they are called pain perdu or “lost bread” referring to the custom of making them with stale, or lost, bread. I got to thinking one day about the possibility of pancakes being used in place of bread for French toast, real crêpes doré. An online search turned up no recipes for crêpes doré but I did come across one for crêpes sucrée, doré de Bretagne, “Breton sweet golden crepes.” (Perhaps it is coincidence but my grandmother’s family has Breton roots.) But, alas, “golden” refers to the amount of egg in the pancakes, not to their being dipped in egg. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create real crêpes doré, and to make them gluten-free using buckwheat flour. To make them light and fluffy I leavened them with yeast, similar to blini, rather than baking powder. And I used buttermilk to give the flavor a bit more depth. The results were even better than I expected!
A note on the flour: I combined ordinary stone-ground buckwheat flour from Hodgson Mill with the lighter white buckwheat flour from Bouchard Family Farms in Maine. The latter is only sold in New England and parts of upstate New York—it is available online but at an outrageous price—so if you can not get it either use all ordinary buckwheat flour or a 50/50 mix of buckwheat and all-purpose flour if gluten is not an issue.
- 1 cup warm water, 105° to 115°
- ¼ tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. dry yeast
- ¼ cup buckwheat flour
- ¼ cup white buckwheat flour
- 1 Tbsp. dry buttermilk powder (or replace ⅓ cup of the water with liquid buttermilk)
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- Oil to cook
- Powdered sugar (or maple syrup) and butter to serve
Put one half of the water into a small warmed bowl and stir in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to proof for about 10 minutes.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture and one of the eggs. Slowly add the remaining water until the batter is a good consistency (I know that is rather vague but I don’t know how else to describe it). Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 10 to 20 minutes. In a separate shallow bowl beat the two remaining eggs with the milk and vanilla.
Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium-high until droplets of water sizzle across the surface. Working in batches if necessary make two large pancakes with the batter (or four if that is easier). Turn when the surface is covered with bubbles and begins to dry a bit, about 2 minutes, and cook for about the same time on the other side. Add a bit more oil between batches if needed. Set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.
Carefully dip each pancake—they are quite delicate and tear easily—in the egg mixture, covering each side well, return to the griddle, and cook for about 1 minute per side. To serve, dust generously with powdered sugar and top with a pat of butter.