Julia Child's Gâteau de Crêpes à la Florentine
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
A savory crepe cake stacked with layer upon layer of spinach filling and a mushroom cream sauce, topped with a buttery Sauce Mornay. This is possibly one of the most delicious savory crepe recipes that exists. I took this directly from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"and this was only my second time cooking it. This recipe involves quite a few steps, the first of which is to make the crepes. I used a bigger pan which yielded 12 crepes but Julia suggests making the crepes 6 1/2 inches in diameter which makes about 24 crepes. It depends how tall you want your crepe mound to be. If you are prepared to try this recipe, I highly recommend it!
Let's get started!
Pâte à Crêpes
The first step to making the Gâteau de Crêpes à la Florentine is to make the crepes. For the crepe batter, what you'll need is 1 cup of cold water, 1 cup of cold milk, 4 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 cups of flour and 4 Tablespoons of melted butter.
1. Put the liquids, eggs, and salt into the mixing bowl. Add the flour, then the melted butter. Cover and mix at the highest speed with the whisk attachment for 1 minute. If any flour is stuck to the sides, use a rubber spatula to scrape it down and mix the batter for a few more seconds. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The batter should be like a light cream.
2. Making the crepes! Rub a little butter on a pan and set it over medium-high heat on the stove top. Once the pan is almost smoking, you're ready for your first crepe. The first one is usually the trial one to test the consistency of your batter. If it's too thick, beat in a bit of water. You can ladle the batter directly in the pan and slowly tilt the pan around so you have a nice, even and thin layer. Let it cook for about 60 - 80 seconds. You'll notice it will start to bubble up and the edges will be dry. You can jerk and toss the pan back and forth and up and down to loosen the crepe, then using a spatula, flip the crepe over and cook for 30 seconds on the other side.
Gently slide the crepe onto a plate on the counter. Continue making the crepes until all the batter is gone, then set aside your stack of crepes until you complete the next steps.
Now it's time to make your Sauce Mornay! You will need 5 Tablespoons of flour, 4 Tablespoons of butter, 2 3/4 cups of boiling milk, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/4 cup whipping cream, 1 cup of grated Swiss Gruyere (I used the brand pictured below).
1. First, you're going to cook the butter slowly together in a small sauce pan for two minutes. Turn off the heat, then beat in some very hot milk and seasonings. Turn the stove back onto high and boil, stirring for 1 minute.
2. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the cream by tablespoons. Sauce should be thick enough to coat spoon heavily.
3. Remove from heat and correct the seasoning. Stir in all but two tablespoons of the cheese. To prevent skin from filming over the sauce, you can top it with a thin layer of milk.
For the spinach filling, you're going to need 1 tablespoon of minced shallots or green onions (I used shallots), 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 1/2 cups of blanched chopped spinach and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
If you choose to blanch your spinach yourself, you will need 1 1/2 pounds of fresh spinach, a teaspoon of salt and 4 quarts of water.
Blanching the Spinach:
1. In a large pot, boil water and salt. Slowly add spinach to boiling water one handful at a time. Cook uncovered for 2 minutes until spinach is tender.
2. Pour the spinach out into a colander and let it drain. Squeeze spinach a small amount at a time in your hands to extract as much water as possible. Then chop the spinach with a big knife. Set aside in a bowl.
Making the Sauce:
1. Begin by cooking the shallots or onions in butter for a moment in an enameled saucepan. Add spinach and salt and stir over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate moisture. Stir in 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of the Mornay Sauce.
2. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Correct seasonings and set aside.
Mushroom Cheese Filling
For the mushroom and cheese filling, you will need 1 cup of cottage cheese or 8 oz. of cream cheese, salt and pepper, 1 egg, 1/4 lb. (1 cup) minced mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1/2 tablespoon of oil.
Mash the cheese in a mixing bowl with the seasonings. Beat in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce and the egg.
Sauté the mushrooms and shallots in butter and oil for about 5 minutes in a skillet. Stir them into the cheese mixture and correct the seasoning.
Forming the Mound
What you'll need is a round baking dish (about 9 inches in diameter), 3 tablespoons of grated Gruyere and 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
1. Butter the baking dish and center a crepe in the bottom. Spread it with a layer of cheese and mushroom filling. Press a crepe on top and spread it with a layer of spinach filling. Continue with alternating layers of crepes and filling, ending with a crepe.
Cream and mushroom layer:
Cream and spinach layer:
2. Pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top and sides of the mound. Sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of cheese and dot with 3 or 4 pea-sized bits of butter.
3. When ready to bake, turn the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the cake for about 25-30 minutes. To serve, cut into pie-shaped wedges. Enjoy!!!