If you have studied classical French pastry, people often expect you to make frilly fantastical cakes. I, however, tend to turn my nose up at these fancy-for-the-sake-of-being-fancy confections. Not just because they’re not my aesthetic taste, (and they’re usually not) but more because I think that food, when executed well, can be stunningly beautiful without three layers of fondant and a marzipan bow. So when it is time to make something that needs a spectacular presentation, (a lovely dessert or decadent breakfast for your valentine perhaps?) I like to create ornamental presentations that work with the particular qualities of the food. Then the ornament is part of the dish, not just extra fluff.
I had a hunch that the pretty, irregular edges of crepes might just make a lovely leaf or petal. And I had also ran across a paper art technique that I thought might be useful in food. Put the two together and you get crepe roses! They look complicated, but they’re really not difficult to make. And you won’t need lots of special equipment, either. If you have a non-stick or cast iron pan, a squeeze bottle (reused ketchup bottles work well), paper coffee filters and a sharp knife, you’re in business. The flavors in this dish were inspired by the classic crepes suzette. But my take is a bit lighter and brighter than its gloriously buttery grandparent. And I threw in some cardamom and orange flower water too, just because they are delicious.
3 small Blood Oranges
3/4 c. flour
1 1/4 c. milk
1 T. butter, melted
1 T sugar
the zest from 1 orange
1/2 t. orange flower water (optional)
1/2 t. vanilla extract
Cardamom Blood Orange Sauce:
2/3 c. blood orange juice
3 cardamom pods
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. Butter
at least a dozen roses, in this case that will serve two people.
Mix crepe batter:
Beat the egg together with the milk, sugar,salt, zest and flavorings. Add the flour a little at a time, whisking vigorously to avoid getting any lumps. Once all of the flour is incorporated, whisk in the melted butter. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours. Overnight is even better.
Cut oranges into supremes:
Cut two blood oranges into supremes. Set aside the supremes and the resulting orange juice. You can do this a day or so ahead of time, just store the orange supremes covered in the refrigerator.
Cook orange juice with spices:
Crush cardamom pods and remove the seeds from their shells. Add cardamom seeds along with sugar and orange juice to a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture has lost about half of its volume, it should be slightly thickened and syrupy. Remove from heat. Let cardamom sit in the syrup to infuse while you cook the crepes.
Place a non-stick or cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat. Lightly coat the surface with butter. Pour about half of your crepe batter into a squeeze bottle. It usually takes a few crepes to make sure that the pan is at the right temperature. Squeeze your crepe batter out in a spiral around the pan. I found it easiest to trace around the outside edge of the pan and then just move up and make a little hook in the center of the circle. You want your crepe line to be about an inch wide, but don’t worry about making it perfect. The organic shape of the rose comes from these imperfections.
Use a thin metal spatula to take a peek at the under surface of the crepe to see if the crepe is browning correctly. Ideally, your crepe should be golden in some parts and still pale in others. When your crepe has cooked through, run your metal spatula all the way around the spiral to loosen it form the pan. I found it easiest to fold the crepe in order to lift it out. Because of the shape there isn’t a clear-cut folding plan, just fold things over until
you can lift it all with your spatula. Immediately transfer to a round paper coffee filter. Once the crepe has cooled enough to handle, carefully unfold it and return to its spiral shape. Place another coffee filter on top of this crepe, so that you can stack the next one on top. Keep going this way until all the crepes are cooked.
Take a spiral off of your stack and set it on a flat work surface. Starting at the outside, roll the spiral up toward the middle. Start rolling rather tightly, but loosen up as you go. When you are satisfied with how the rose looks, turn it over onto it’s side and cut a flat place for the rose to sit. You can either place the rose exactly where you want to plate it now, or place it in a deep oven dish lined with parchment paper.
Strain out the cardamom seeds and return your syrup to a saucepan. Rinse out your squeeze bottle. Reheat the orange syrup until boiling. Remove from the heat and throw in the butter. Whisk vigorously until the butter is incorporated. The mixture should turn slightly opaque. Pour the sauce into your squeeze bottle. You can make the syrup portion of this sauce ahead of time, but once the butter has been whisked in it needs to be kept warm.
Arrange roses and orange supremes on plates. If you like, you can reheat the crepe roses on the plate just before you serve them. Or you can heat them in the oven and transfer them to their plates. Squeeze sauce over the roses, making sure that some of the sauce gets into the petals.