The origins of this deliciously sweet and sticky crepe recipe made with a boozy orange liqueur twist is hotly disputed. The more romantic of the stories lingering in the mists of time goes like this:
Back in 1895, a 14-year-old assistant waiter called Henri Charpentier working at Monte Carlo’s Café de Paris was serving up a dessert to the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), among whose party was a French lady called Suzette.
In preparing the crepes at the table, some cordials caught fire, giving the dish a somewhat accidentally alcoholic twist. Upon the Prince’s delight at the sweet taste he was asked to rename this dessert to crepes Suzette. The young waiter would later write in this autobiography: “Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilised gentleman.” Such modesty!
The alternative version of events, which contradicts young Henri’s tale even in the prestigious Larousse Gastronomique culinary bible, states that the dish was named in honour of A French actress called Suzanne Reichenberg – aka Suzette on stage – who was playing a maid serving up crepes in an 1897 play at the Comedie Francaise.
The crepes were provided by a local restaurateur who decided to flambee them both to grab the audience’s gaze and to keep them warm for the actors who would be scoffing them.
There are several variations on a theme when it comes to recipes. But we like this straightforward one by James Martin of Saturday Morning Kitchen. Bon appetit!
For the crêpes
125g/4½oz plain flour
1 free-range egg
1 tsp melted butter
300ml/10½fl oz milk
butter, for frying
For the sauce
50g/1¾oz unsalted butter
1 orange, zest and juice
2 oranges, juice only
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp orange liqueur
2 tbsp brandy
For the crêpes, place the flour into a bowl. Add the egg, melted butter and milk and whisk to a smooth batter. Set aside for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
Heat a frying pan until medium hot, melt a little butter in the pan, then add a ladle of batter and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip and cook for a further minute.
Slide the crêpe from the pan and place on greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining batter, layering the crêpes with greaseproof paper as you go. The crêpes can be chilled or frozen at this point and used later.
For the sauce, heat a frying pan until hot, add the butter, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice and the caster sugar.
Cook for a few minutes until just thickened and bubbling, then remove the pan from the heat.
Fold the crêpes into quarters and carefully lay into the hot sauce.
Return the pan to the heat then add the orange liqueur and brandy and flame to burn off the alcohol.
(CAUTION: Keep your face and hair away from the flames. Do not leave the pan unattended.)
Cook for a couple of minutes until the crêpes are heated through.
To serve, spoon the crêpes onto serving plates and spoon the sauce over the top.