Ground Hog Day is this Thursday. Pretty exciting day for some, apparently. I’ve never been a big fan, probably because the tradition doesn’t involve food or festivities (at least not that I am aware of) and usually passes with nothing more than a quiet mention on the radio or a comment in passing at the dinner table.
Chandeleur, par contre, is a day the festivities of which I would never choose to forget and that even in Kentucky I plan to celebrate this week.
(For those of you who aren’t aware, we Americans used to celebrate Candlemas too, until it was replaced by Ground Hog Day, for shame.)
It is the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, a date that falls around forty days after Christmas, as the Old Testament tradition of presenting a newborn boy accompanied by an offering of two turtledoves prescribes. The feast as celebrated by the Church requires that blessed lamps (chandelles) be lit in place of torches inside churches to bring special attention to Christ as the light of the world.
The feast as celebrated dans la famille requires crêpes.
Crêpes with cheese. Crêpes with ham. Crêpes with spinach. For dessert, crêpes with sugar, crêpes with Nutella, crêpes with jam. Big crêpes, small crêpes. Stacks and stacks of crêpes.
Legend has it that by their round and golden form crêpes symbolize the disk of the sun, evoking the imminent return of spring (and linking this day to Ground Hog tradition). Christians also say that Pope Gélase I, who instituted the celebration in the fifth century, distributed crêpes to pilgrims arriving in Rome.
Just as there are superstitions associated with our esteemed little rodent, folklore has developed to include predictions for the new year. If one holds a gold coin, or more commonly a piece of change, in the writing hand and succeeds in flipping a crêpe with the other hand, the year is predicted to be prosperous. And, if the first crêpe that is cooked is then placed in an armoire for safe keeping, the year’s harvest is sure to be plentiful. (I have not yet met anyone who observes this tradition, which seems more likely to attract mice than to please the harvest fates.)
This week, my French meetup group has planned a Chandeleur celebration in Louisville. Although I’m only in charge of bringing the cheese, I want to share a special dessert crêpes recipe with you, in case you want to celebrate the French way too.
For the batter:
- 1/3 cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¾ cups (430 ml) whole milk, plus extra as needed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Suzette Butter (explained below)
- 6 tablespoons (90 ml) brandy
- 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
- Thin strips of orange zest for garnish
To make the Suzette Butter, you’ll need
- 1 orange
- ½ cup (125 g) butter
- 1/3 cup (90 g) sugar
Let’s start with the Suzette Butter. Grate the zest from the orange. Cut the orange in half and extract the juice. In a food processor, combine the orange zest, butter, and sugar, and process until completely blended. With the motor running, slowly add the orange juice and process again until blended. Use at once, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Continue reading