Mille Crêpe Cake

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Mille. What is that – a million? Well, a thousand, but still, a lot. A Mille crêpe cake is one created from stacked crêpes that form layers. In between the crêpes can be just about anything from jam, curd, mousse, marscapone, whipped cream, pastry cream, and much more. The flavor possibilities are endless, with fruits or chocolate or nuts included.

Here are photos I discovered on Pinterest of Mille Crêpe cakes; photo credits below.

Aren’t they just stunning?

Just recently, my blogger friend Suzanne, from A Pug in the Kitchen, wrote a post that really spoke to me. She wrote about challenging herself in the kitchen, so as to present posts of her creations that were much more than “everyday” food.

All of us who follow Suzanne love her blog just as it is, plus admire her tireless work as a passionate animal advocate as well, but I completely understood what she was saying.

I actually went through this quite a few years ago, before I began my blog. It stemmed from the fact that my daughters had moved away, I had retired from catering, and I was only cooking for my husband. His meal requirements are simple, which is fine, but I missed the creativity from the years I cooked for others. And you can only have so many parties!

So I began making dishes that were “out of my comfort zone,” so to speak. One Christmas I made a yule log, for example, and it came out pretty darn well! And all of that led to me starting this blog almost four years ago, where I’m able to make dishes I consider fun, and use ingredients I personally love.

The only negative with food blogging, when there’s no one around to eat what you make, is that you must eat it all yourself, or feed friends who have similar tastes. That is challenging when my favorite foods are snails, steak tartare, pigs feet, pork belly, stinky cheese, and everything liver.

In any case, what also seemed poignant in Suzanne’s blog post was that she planned on taking a whole day off of work in order to make a Mocha Daquoise for her upcoming birthday!

I also had an April birthday, and I’d pondered making a Mille Crêpe cake for so long, that I decided it was finally time! In all honestly, Suzanne has a much bigger challenge on her hands.

To make this cake one must first make crêpes. Then I had to figure out a filling.


The very top middle photo is by Honestly Yum, and the filling is a mixture of marscapone and dulce de leche. I happened to have chestnut cream in my pantry. Mixed and lightened with marscapone will make a perfect filling.

For the top? So many options, but I thought of simply melted dark chocolate. Done.

Just to see if she had a Mille Crêpe in her book, I looked at Dorie Greenspan’s book “Around my French Table.”

She doesn’t have an actual cake recipe, but she had this to say.

To me, that sealed the deal. No recipe is really needed. Turns out this may not be as challenging as I previously thought, but still a little more attention to detail than what I typically put into a dish.

To make the crêpes, I followed my own recipe, adding a little vanilla extract. You might have your own tried-and-true recipe; just make sure you get 18 – 20 crêpes for the cake.


For the filling, I mixed together 32 ounces of marscapone and 12 ounces of chestnut cream, both at room temperature.

After refrigerating the crêpes overnight, I began the ordeal of stacking and filing them. It didn’t start well.

My filling was a bit on the thick side, even though it was at room temperature. At that point I probably should have added some whipped cream, but I didn’t. I pursued. I discovered that pressing with the top crêpe with my fingers was the best way to get the filling spread evenly, all the way to the edges.

This is important otherwise the cake would be domed in the middle. This was definitely tedious, but I persisted.

I covered the cake with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Then I proceeded to melt 12 ounces of dark, bittersweet chocolate. One bit of advice I read in a cookbook is that when you are tempering chocolate, you are melting it. You are not cooking it. I always have remembered that, and even if it takes a bit longer, I melt chocolate over very low heat.

Now comes the challenging part for me, as I am no pastry chef. If you haven’t figured that out already, you will definitely come to that conclusion on your own.

I gently poured the chocolate over the cake, and let some dribble down the sides. Then I refrigerated the cake for 30 minutes.

The cake sliced easily enough, although the hard chocolate shell wanted to crack.

That was when I realized I should have made a chocolate ganache instead of using melted chocolate. Oh well.

The cake itself was delicious, although a ganache would have made the “icing” more pleasant.

Will I make a mille crepe cake again? Probably not. But I’m glad I made it and survived my challenge. It was truly delicious. And, I ended up with a birthday cake that was just as enjoyable the next morning with coffee!

The green matcha cake is from http://matchatearecipes.co.uk/post/122421717800/matcha-mille-cake
The black and white cake is from https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyhorng/awaken-your-dessert-love-sensors-with-this-black-white-mille?sub=4201473_8372322&utm_term=.nnJJKl0pQ#.vbZNyXZOz
The red velvet cake is from https://www.sweetandsavorybyshinee.com/
The Boston cream cake is from http://www.willcookforsmiles.com/2013/08/boston-cream-crepe-cake.html

Chicken Poach

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There are times when it’s easy to purchase a rotisserie chicken, cut up the meat, and use it in soup, a salad, or in enchiladas. Sure, it saves time, but I’ve never purchased one that wasn’t overcooked. Delis have different temperature guidelines than I do.

Roasting your own chicken is simple, and I don’t think there’s anything much more wonderful than serving a just-roasted chicken.

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However, there are two benefits to poaching a chicken. One is the lovely tender meat, and the second is the wonderful poaching liquid. And there are so many different ways to create a flavorful broth besides the basic onion, carrot, and celery. So I take my chicken poaching quite seriously!

Poaching a chicken takes a few hours from start to finish, but it’s not all active work. I recommend that you have a plan for the poached chicken. You can use the meat in a bastilla, pictured at the top, in soups, stews, crêpes and enchiladas, a byriana, a curry – the possibilities are endless.

Then I would also recommend that you have a plan for the remaining chicken broth. It can be used for cooking legumes and grains, as a base for soups and stews, or reduced and even frozen for future use.

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Chicken Poach

1 whole chicken
3-4 carrots, cleaned, halved
3-4 stalks celery, cleaned, chopped coarsely
A few ripe tomatoes, halved (optional)
Bunch of parsley*
1 large onion, quartered
Garlic cloves, halved
Whole peppercorns
Bay leaves

Remove the plastic bag of innards from the chicken. Then rinse the chicken and place the chicken in a large and deep pot. I prefer a pasta cooker because you can remove the chicken and vegetables without further straining the broth.

If your husband isn’t watching, add the innards to the pot. If he’s eyeing you, save the innards for the dogs.

Add the remaining ingredients, adjusting for your tastes.

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If you are not using a pasta cooker, you can use a muslin bag for your seasonings.

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Add water to cover the chicken. Place the pot on the stove, bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. I like to poach a chicken for about 1 1/2 hours; you can’t overcook the chicken but you want to maintain the volume of water.

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For additional ingredients, consider fresh herbs like sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Or use whole cumin and coriander seeds. It all depends what you want the remaining broth to taste like. These additions have little effect on the chicken’s flavor, but significantly flavor the broth.

Once the chicken is poached, remove the lid and let the pot rest until the chicken can be handled safely. If you’re using a pasta cooker, gently remove the insert and let the broth drain. Save the broth! Never discard it.

Carefully place the chicken on a cutting board to further cool.

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If everything was cooked in one pot, remove the muslin bag and let the broth cool. Taste the broth and reduce it if the flavor needs to concentrate. It can also be salted at this point if desired.

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Remove the meat from the bones. It will be delicate light and dark meat.

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From this small-sized chicken, I ended up with 1 pound 4 ounces of meat.
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If you want to enhance your broth, place the chicken bones in the broth and simmer for a while. Another thing that I’ve done is to blend the cooled broth along with the carrots, celery, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. The parsley is optional. That way, the broth is already more soupy, and the vegetables don’t go to waste.

Enjoy your poached chicken and home-made chicken broth!

* If you will be using the chicken broth for a Southwestern or Mexican dish, I suggest substituting cilantro for parsley.

Cheese Blintzes

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With every season change, I go through recipes that I have saved since I was very young. It started when I would cut up recipes from McCall’s magazine and glue them on large index cards for my mother. Then I started doing it for myself.
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As I just turned 60 years old, you can only guess at how old many of these recipes are!

Recently I came across this old McCall’s recipe for blintzes. It gave me the idea to make blintzes for when I have overnight company soon.
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Blintzes can be made the day before and re-heated gently the next morning. Plus, the little blintz packages are so pretty – much prettier than some breakfast casserole.

You need three parts to make blintzes. You need the crêpes, filling and sauce.

Cheese Blintzes with Strawberry Coulis

Sauce:
12 ounces fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sugar or to taste
2 tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice

Filling:
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
Few drops of orange oil or 1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Melted butter, optional
Cinnamon sugar, optional

Crêpes; make a quadruple recipe.

To make the sauce, place the three ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then blend with an immersion blender. Cover and refrigerate if not using right away.
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To make the filling, place the cottage cheese in a food processor jar and process until smooth.

Scrape down the sides, then add the remaining ingredients and process until all combined.

Taste the filling. Personally, I prefer the sauce sweeter than the filling; you don’t want a sweet filling and a sweet sauce because this is not dessert. Also, the cinnamon should be fairly strong because it pairs so nicely with the fruit. If you can’t taste it, add some more. There are different grades and potencies of cinnamon.

Cover and refrigerate the filling if you’re not using it right away.

When you are ready to prepare the blintzes, have the crêpes at your work station either just cooked and still slightly warm, or at room temperature, if you made them the day before. If they are too chilled they will break instead of fold. Also have the filling on your work station.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter two baking pans to hold the blintzes in one layer.

Place about one heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of a crêpe.

First fold over the front of the crêpe over the filling, then the left and right sides over the filling, then roll the whole thing over the remaining flap.

Gently pick up the blintz and place in the pan with the folded sides down. Continue with the remaining crêpes and filling.
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If you like, brush the tops of the crêpes with melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or just until golden. They will be puffy, but unfortunately they will unpuff within minutes. That’s ok – they’re still really good.
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Serve with the warm or room temperature strawberry coulis.

If you like, serve with a few fresh berries.

note: Some blintzes are sautéed in butter in a pan instead of baked. Those are also fabulous!
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Crêpes

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I’ve had a love affair with crêpes since I was a little girl, which is when I learned how to make them. I would make a “stack,” sprinkle a little white sugar on them, and eat them just like that for breakfast.

My first introduction to crêpes was when my mother made Crêpes Suzette. My French friend Stéphane from My French Heaven gave me some interesting factoids about this fabulous, flaming dessert and crêpes in general!

♥ Crèpes Suzette is a recent thing: In the early 1900’s, Edward VI was having crêpes in a restaurant on the riviera. The chef had flambéed Grand Marnier with them. Edward asked the waitress what it was but she didn’t have a name for the dish. So the king asked what her name was, which was Suzette. They have been called crêpes Suzette ever since.

♥ As for savory crêpes, they are an ancient specialty from Bretagne. They are made with black wheat and are called galettes. Only the sweet ones can be called crêpes.

A galette with ham and egg

A galette with ham and egg

♥ You eat crêpes with apple cider always as they produce a lot of apples there (Bretagne is close to Normandy).

♥ The restaurants where they serve crêpes only are called crêperies. The best ones have a chef who is a Maître Crêpier.

Photo from retagne by Stephane Gabart

Photo from Bretagne by Stephane Gabart

After seeing the above photo, I put Bretagne on my travel bucket list. Besides, I want to one day try the real deal in a crêperie.

There are many different recipes for crêpe batter, and I’m sure they’re all good. The only rule in making the batter for crêpes, to me, is the consistency. Once you have that, you get proper crêpes. If the batter is too thick, you get pancakes, if it’s too thin, you get mush.

Here is a basic recipe for crêpes, whether you’re going to use them in a sweet or savory manner:

Crêpes
makes about 20

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons oil*
Couple pinches of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

Whisk together the egg, milk, and salt together well in a medium bowl. Gradually add the flour, whisking gently but not over-whisking, until it is all incorporated and there are no flour lumps.


Set the bowl aside for at least 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t thicken. If it does, add a tiny bit of milk or even water to get the consistency back to where it should be.

To prepare to make the crêpes, have a well-seasoned crêpe pan on hand. Mine has angled sides and an 8″ flat bottom, made from steel. I’ve had it for 42 years. I know this, because my mother sent me off to college with the same pan!

Also have on hand some butter, the batter and large spoon (about 1/4 cup capacity is perfect), a spatula, and a plate on which to place the cooked crêpes. I always use a very sturdy but thin, flat spatula to help lift the thin pancakes.

Heat a little dab of butter over medium-high heat in the crêpe pan. I personally prefer butter because of the flavor. You might have to start with about a teaspoon of butter, and subsequently use about 1/2 teaspoon per crêpe.

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Before starting, give the crêpe batter a whisk. Now is the time to test its thickness. Add a little liquid if necessary.

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When the butter is hot, add a full spoonful, or approximately 1/4 cup of batter, to the pan. With the other hand, turn and tilt the pan until the crêpe batter has covered the whole bottom of the pan. Cook for no more than 30 seconds, then turn over gently with the spatula and cook for no more than 10 seconds. Place immediately on the plate by sliding or flipping over.


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The cooked crêpe should be lightly golden, especially on the first side, but not browned. Adjust your burner setting accordingly, keeping in mind that if the heat is too low, the batter will just sit there and nothing will happen.

The pan has to be hot enough to “grab” the batter. If the pan is too hot, it will cause the batter to become bubbly and you probably won’t be able to spread it around. Sometimes the first crêpe is a dud because you must test the heat of the pan, and the batter.

Continue with the remaining batter.
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These crêpes will hold well for a day or two, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Then you can use them as you want. They must be brought to room temperature first, or they will not roll or fold without breaking. Even a little heating in the microwave will help make them more malleable.
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Besides some sugar, crêpes are also good with a little jam and some berries!

* When I make savory or sweet crêpes I use olive oil, but if you prefer, you can use a flavorless oil. Also, if you want a sweeter dessert crêpe, you can add a little sugar to the batter.

Crêpes Fourées

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Crêpes Fourées are savory crêpes filled with sautéed mushrooms in a white sauce. And to make things even more luscious, gruyère is included. They can be served as is, paired simply with a salad of greens, or served as a fabulous side dish to your favorite protein.

I’m not going to write out an exact recipe for these crêpes. There simply are a few components – the crêpe recipe can be found here, the white sauce can be found here, and below I’ll focus more on the mushrooms.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Dried mushrooms
Butter
Fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt
White pepper
Dried thyme
Butter and Oil
Shallots, diced
Cream, milk, and/or the mushroom liquor
Flour
Crêpes
White Sauce
Gruyere

Firstly, submerge your dried mushrooms in a large bowl, and cover them with hot water.
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Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. It’s okay to brown the butter if you prefer. Add the mushrooms and sauté them for 5-6 minutes. Season them with salt, a little white pepper to taste, and some thyme.
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Place the mushrooms in a colander over a large bowl in order to collect the mushroom liquor. I wrote about this technique here. The “liquor” is a lovely addition to a white sauce, or to flavor a broth.

Remove the soaked dried mushrooms and place them on some paper towels. Don’t discard the soaking liquid.

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Pat them dry, and then slice or chop them up, removing the tougher stems first.
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Then add them to the sautéed mushrooms.

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Strain the liquid remaining after soaking the dry mushrooms and strain it to remove any debris.
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Place this liquid and the mushroom liquor together in a small pot and reduce the volume by about half. This will provide a deeper flavor when using it in the white sauce, if you choose to use it. Keep in mind, however, that if you use this liquid, your white sauce will not be as “white” as compared to only using cream or milk as your liquid when making it.

The original recipe I have for Crêpes Fourées can be seen here in my adolescent hand.
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In this recipe, the mushrooms were finely chopped. I wasn’t going to bother with doing that, but at the last minute before putting the dish together, I did decide to chop the mushrooms instead of leaving them in the larger pieces. I just felt the crêpes would roll better that way.

I did, however, omit the parsley and chives in this recipe. I did that just because of what my menu was for a dinner I served to friends. Already plenty of green!

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Then I placed the chopped mushrooms in a large bowl. I had the crêpes I’d made that morning on stand-by,
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as well as some Gruyere, which I grated. At least, I think this is Gruyere…
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To make the white sauce, place a combination of olive oil and butter in a pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Add flour to make a roux, then stir in your liquid of choice. After a bit, while whisking the whole time, you end up with a thickened white sauce like this.

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Pour the white sauce into the bowl with the mushrooms. You don’t want the mushrooms too saucey, just enough sauce to bind them.
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Stir the mushrooms and sauce together. The filling should look like this.
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If you’re going to cook the crêpes right away, turn on the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking pan.

Have your crêpes, filling, grated Gruyere and the pan handy.

Begin by placing some filling on a crêpes, and top it with a little Gruyere.
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The little bit of cheese will help hold everything together. Then roll up the crêpes and place them in the pan as you make them. Top them all with some more Gruyere.
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I didn’t use too much cheese because I really want the mushroom filling to shine, but it’s up to you. But if you want these super cheesey, I’d use a milder cheese.

If you’re not baking these on the same day, cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bring the crêpes to room temperature, or close to it, and bake until the tops of the crêpes are bubbly and golden, at 375 degrees. Serve hot or warm. Who am I kidding. They’re fabulous at room temperature as well.

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Trust me, if you love mushrooms, you will love these crêpes.

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They are the best kind of comfort food.
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They are full of flavor.
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They are culinary perfection.

Cajeta Crêpes

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I’ve only had cajeta crêpes at one restaurant, and that restaurant is Javier’s, in Dallas, Texas. They’re so good we keep ordering them when we’re lucky enough to go there, even when we’ve overeaten after appetizers and dinner. And we’re not even dessert people!

They’re very simply prepared and served – crêpes folded in quarters, topped with cajeta*, which is essentially caramel made from goat’s milk.

I’ve been going to Javier’s since shortly after I moved to Dallas, which was in 1978, for my first job. It was the first time I learned about cajeta. But it was in the book, New Southwestern Cooking, by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger, where I saw the first recipe for cajeta. The book was published in 1985, and I still reference it.
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However, their recipe is involved, and I’m not sure why. Cajeta is simply the reduction of goat’s milk with sugar. But in their recipe, some of the sugar is caramelized first, and then added to the milk, which is a combination of goat and cow milk. Plus, their recipe includes cornstarch and baking soda. Maybe I’ll try it one day.

But for now, here’s my version of cajeta. Just like many of the best recipes, this dessert is so simple, yet so perfect.

Cajeta Crêpes

1 dozen prepared crêpes
24 ounces (2 – 12 ounce cans) goat’s milk
3/4 cup sugar

Combine the goat’s milk and sugar in a medium-sized enamel pot. Stir well, then turn on the heat and simmer over the lowest possible heat. It will take about 1 1/2 hours to complete.
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Continue stirring with a rubber spatula throughout this process, scraping down the sides of the pot occasionally. A whisk isn’t necessary, because any cajeta that is scraped off of the pot sides gets remelted into the bulk of the hot cajeta.
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You can see the goat’s milk and sugar mixture get darker and thicker as it reduces, until it’s ready to use. The cajeta should be still a little thin when it’s hot, but it will thicken as it cools slightly.
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Have the prepared crêpes on the serving plate, and drizzle the warm cajeta over them.

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Serve these crêpes warm or at room temperature.
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They would also be good with some whipped cream, but it’s totally unnecessary to me.

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*It’s really hard to decipher the difference between cajeta and dulce de leche. The very similar product is made in Spain, Mexico, and in many South American countries. Sometimes it’s only from cow’s milk, sometimes only goat’s milk, and sometimes a blend of both. I’m sure they’re all good, but I like my cajeta from pure goat’s milk!

note: This recipe can be doubled or tripled. I just didn’t want to make a huge batch. This recipe made almost 1 1/2 cups.
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