Where pancakes are the ultimate tonic to a horrid hangover and a staple on a hearty breakfast menu, crêpes are the refined, ethereal Heathcliffe item; pleasantly surprise in its delicacy.
And yet, while you know they look different (one’s thick, the other’s thin) and also have opposing associations (pancakes = fast, filling grub; crêpes = a carefully cultivated dish that should be savoured), what are the blindingly big differences between the two? Is it the ingredients, the toppings… and which one really is the healthier option?
To find out why that flat pancake really wasn’t a crêpe after all, read on.
As far as ingredients go, there really isn’t much difference. The same cupboard staples – eggs, milk, flour, salt and butter – are the foundations of both pancakes and crêpes.
However, there is one outlier – and that’s baking powder. Baking powder is used in pancakes as a leavener, which is why they are much denser and fluffier than crêpes. That’s also why the batter of a crêpe has a higher liquid to flour ratio. (If you’re unsure, pancake batter should drip like double cream; crêpes should have the viscosity of single cream).
If you’re making crêpes for yourself, you’ll also have to consider resting time. While this isn’t essential when making pancakes, crêpe mixtures need to rest for at least one hour after it is whipped up. This helps to give it that smooth, thin texture when it’s poured out into the pan.
In the instance that a crêpe recipe is too thick, water can be added to loosen up the mixture, while you would want to just add milk to a pancake recipe in the same scenario.
You only need to glance at a cookbook to know that pancakes are the thicker sisters (on account of the baking powder).
As a result, crêpes are much thinner and, because they are cooked on the flat edges of the pan, are crispier. In fact, the word ‘crêpe’ comes from the Latin ‘crispa’, meaning ‘curled’. You’ll know the sign of a good crêpe is the edges wave in a slaloming serenade at the edge of your plate.
The texture and mouthfeel of pancakes, on the other hand, is much denser and claggy. As the name suggests, it’s a flattened cake made in a pan, which means you get the same filling taste and texture from the batter as a traditional cake – it’s just in a different form. You’ll also find pancakes are often served in a stack (one on top of the other), while crêpes are folded loosely side by side on the plate.
What’s healthier: crêpes or pancakes?
A single crêpe has less fat and calories than pancakes because they don’t have the baking powder and, so, are less dense. However, they’re not less calorific if you’re stacking up double the amount of crêpes vs pancakes, so bear this in mind before you get carried away.
And, of course, it depends on which toppings you add. A topping of berries and cinnamon, for instance, will always be healthier than, say, a tablespoon of Nutella and lashings of table sugar.
(A top tip is to use cocoa powder or cacao nibs in place of unhealthy chocolate spreads or milk chocolate chunks – you’ll never notice the difference).
Now you know the difference, it’s time to get cooking. Which will you be serving up this Sunday?