Late to the Party – La Chandeleur

The 2nd of February in catholic tradition is a high holiday, it’s the day Maria presented Jesus at the temple, yet like so many catholic traditions, the holiday has its roots in old pagan rite, the hailing of the sun returning and light winning over darkness, old hat really, yet very powerful. Living in the countryside, where night really is night, pitch-dark during the days around the new moon, only to be broken by the fiery colours of dawn, light and darkness are closely felt in everyday life. And so the seasons, the constellations changing with the months, Orion now slowly starting his descent, the eagle approaching on his mighty wings. It looks very natural to me that, after those long months of night over night reluctantly giving way to a few hours of misty grey day, we should make a little celebration of the dawning that our morning coffee is not enjoyed in total darkness anymore. When we see little green spikey things peeking their spikey heads out of the tired grass on the lawn. When, all of a sudden, everything, including oneself, feels much more awake.

Around this time of the year, where I come from, we used to make bonfires to chase the winter away, in some areas they cut a trunk into rounds, lighted those and made a contest of who could throw the brightest and highest, old pagan rite cheering the sun into returning. In French tradition, who would have thought, people throw crèpes. It looks very familiar to me this rite yet I can’t suppress a smile at their making it into a culinary thing. The crèpes of course, are not just thrown, but eaten after all, loads of them in fact, in order for house and home to prosper. If one really wishes to make sure, one must throw a crèpe on the kitchen dresser where it shall sit all year round. I haven’t done the latter yet, I admit, also for the time being I don’t even have a proper kitchen dresser as everything here is makeshift and temporary with the ongoing restorations. But of course I made crèpes on Chandeleur. Mine are always a bit thick, curtsey of my heritage, but I really like them better when they’re a little more substantial. One batch was conté and morbier cheese and an egg on top, the other batch apple compote with cinnamon and a dash of calvados, like a generous dash really. I also lit a lot of candles, but that’s something I do anyway when the days are sombre. I’m probably a little late to the party with posting the recipe only now, but then I guess Chandeleur is something we may celebrate all month of February until carnival at any rate. Also there’s no limits as to toppings and combos, and I’d be thrilled to read your very own favourites and/or your February traditions in the comments section!

What you’ll need

For two persons, salty batch:

  • 90g of buckwheat flour
  • A tablespoon of crème fraîche
  • A tablespoon of colza oil
  • Water
  • Fresh butter for frying
  • 80g conté cheese and 80g aged morbier cheese, cut into thin slices
  • Two fresh farmer’s eggs
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

For two persons, sweet batch:

  • 90g of fine wheat flour
  • A tablespoon of crème fraîche
  • A tablespoon of colza oil
  • One large farmer’s egg
  • Water
  • Fresh butter for frying
  • Apple compote
  • Cinnamon
  • Calvados

How to cook it

I find it easiest to prepare the dough in a Tupperware shaker. So what I do is to put all the ingredients except for the water into a shaker each, one for the salty batch and one for the sweet batch. I mix it all with a small wooden ladle and then add water. I add as much water as to get a very runny dough, a bit runny will make it much easier after to pour the crèpes in the pan. It’s probably the consistency of crème anglaise, or a runny sauce béchamel. Shake well and keep in the fridge for at least two hours.

Give the dough another hearty shake before pouring. Take a wide cast iron frying pan and put on medium heat, add a large pop of butter, 30g or even 40g. In order for the crèpes to cook well, the butter should be very hot but not brown. Depending on the size of your pan, pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the salty shaker into the pan and gently turn and move the pan so the dough spreads over the entire floor of the pan (this is easier when the dough is a little runny). Cook for four minutes, then turn. You may either turn it by throwing it gingerly into the air or just turn it with the help of a flat wooden ladle, the latter definitely is the safer way to not ending up hungry at an empty dinner table, yet throwing might be fun and excitement as, unless you’re a pro, you never really know where the crèpe will land. Put half the cheese on the crèpe in a circle and crack the egg in the middle, cook for another 3 minutes. If you like your egg well done, cover with a lid. Season with salt and pepper, transfer the crèpe to a pretty plate and keep warm. Then continue with the second crèpe, again first a generous blob of butter etc. If the crèpe goes wrong and breaks, you can also just put it aside, cut it up and use it next time you’re making Flädlisoup.

You may proceed the same way with the sweet crèpes, yet they need a little less cooking time. Put the apple compote on the crèpe right after having turned it and sprinkle with a little cinnamon, also carefully wet with a generous sip of calvados. N.b. if you want to light it you have to take stronger alcohols to make it WOW, like strong absinth or strohrum. Don’t put your head over the crèpe if you do this because eyebrows will be gone.

How to eat it

The crèpe shall be eaten by candlelight, no matter what the weather’s like. Also I find it invariably tastes best with apple cider, or even better poiré, which is a pear cider made in the Domfrontais, it’s so incredibly good!

4 thoughts on “Late to the Party – La Chandeleur

    1. I think it’s also called rapeseed oil in English? It’s a heavy oil, very yellow and a mustardy flavour. But I think sunflower seed works as well, it is lighter and more neutral in taste but sunflower seed always works I think 😊


  1. The Irish have a potato pancake tradition at the same time as Candlemas. I just found out about it. It’s called Boxty, I think – I guess Maureen could tell you about it.

    I don’t understand about Mary presenting Jesus at the temple. Jews have bar mitzvahs at the temple, is that what is meant? We don’t present babies at the Temple and a bris is done at home. But any excuse for making crepes works for me!!


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