Brittany Part Two
Eglise St. Jacques at Porres Guirec

Brittany Part Two

wild rocky Brittany

Last October, I hiked a good part of the Sentier des Douaniers, the winding trail that traces the coast of Brittany.   Just last week I hiked another part of the trail, the eventual goal being to hike the entire Breton “peninsula”.

Breton trail

The Sentier des Douaniers was once trod by customs agents on the alert for contraband.  Today, the region has turned it into the GR 34, one of France’s marvelously husbanded hiking trails.  Mostly high above the roiling seas, the GR 34 weaves up and down along the shore so that sometimes you’re walking on a sandy beach, or crawling over upended boulders at low tide, the salty water bubbling near your feet, or  climbing craggy trails to vistas that open up the entire ocean world.  It’s actually the English Channel where we were in the Finistère, but a little imagination goes a long way!

Church
Eglise St. Jacques at Porres Guirec
breton chapel
Hidden Chapel

Catholic Cross

Brittany
Flowers and the sea
Breton Flowers
Ice Plant in bloom

The hiking couldn’t be better, a perfect mix of comfortable and challenge as one clambers up and down.  Brittany is a very Catholic region and as you walk you come across chapels and crosses, all carved from the local granite, each taken care of and either filled with or surrounded by fresh flowers.  And then there are the flowers that line all the trails and fill all the gardens.  Simply incredible.   Once the day is done, sitting at a little café on the coast with a local beer in hand, you’ve got the Breton nature to welcome you back.  For one only has to spend a bit of time in this remote region to understand that it is different from other parts of France.  It is my favorite region not just because I love the sea so much, but because there is something natural, without pretension, and generous about the landscape, the architecture, the people one meets.

Breton Oysteres
Sold by the 8

Culinarily speaking, Brittany hearkens to the sea.  There are oysters and, in season, sea scallops; monkfish (lotte) and pollack (lieu), cuttlefish with its big ink sacks and curly tentacles and, depending on the season, abundant langoustines and sardines.  Blended with all of this is the humble galette, what we might mistakenly call a crepe, made with buckwheat flour.  This lacy confection is the culinary symbol of Brittany since ancient times, when no wheat grew in the region’s poor soil, only the seed of the buckwheat.  The seed is called Sarrasin because some legends have it coming to France with the Arabs, the Saracens.  It’s also called blé noir, black wheat, though it’s far from being a wheat since it’s a member of the rhubarb family.

ble noir
Galette au ble noir

Botany and history aside, buckwheat makes the most delicious basis for a meal, the galette often being called the “bread of Brittany”.  The best recipe is simplest – just an egg, some water, and some buckwheat flour left to stand for a bit before being spread across a cast-iron griddle – a billig, in Breton – that has been amply greased with clarified butter.  Once flipped it was traditionally topped with an egg, some cheese, some ham, a sausage…simple ingredients every farmer had on hand.  Today, fillings are much enriched.  One of my favorites is freshly cooked spinach, an egg, and a dollop of crème fraiche.

There is much to eat in Brittany besides seafood and galette. It produces most of Europe’s cauliflower and artichokes. Thanks to greenhouses and ample sun, Brittany is a major producer of cherry tomatoes, baby vegetables, herb sprouts, and potatoes.  All of this is good to know.  But what is really good about Brittany is the sea air which leaves you drunk with health, the ready smiles,  the Celtic music wafting through the air on market day, and the sheer wild beauty of this region of mariners and gardeners.

Here is a perfect recipe for Galette au Ble Noir!

Print Recipe
Buckwheat Galettes
When the galette is fully cooked on one side, flipped and just about cooked on the other side, you can add the filling, spreading it out as you like, then fold the galette up to the center of the filling, as in the photo.
Buckwheat Galettes
Cuisine French
Keyword butter, egg
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
galettes
Ingredients
  • 1-3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (240g) buckwheat flour
  • 2-1/4 cups (560ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine seal salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter
Cuisine French
Keyword butter, egg
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
galettes
Ingredients
  • 1-3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (240g) buckwheat flour
  • 2-1/4 cups (560ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine seal salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter
Buckwheat Galettes
Instructions
  1. 1. Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl. Slowly whisk in the water to form a smooth batter. Then whisk in the eggs and the salt. Whisk vigorously for several minutes, until the batter is smooth and the ingredients are thoroughly combined. The batter will be quite thin but elastic; when you lift the whisk, the batter will drop off in "ropes". You may use it immediately or let it sit for up to 2 hours, loosely covered. Whisk it before using.
  2. Heat a 10-1/2 inch (26.5cm) nonstick or cast-iron skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat. Brush it lightly with clarified butter.
  3. Pour 1/3 cup (80ml) of the batter in the center of the skillet and quickly rotate the skillet to spread the batter as evenly as possible across the bottom. It is fine if the batter is thicker in the center than at the edges.
  4. Cook the galette until it begins to curl up on the edges, about 1-1/2 minutes. If it is browning too quickly, reduce the heat slightly. Using your fingers, carefully pick up the edge and gently pull the galette from the skillet, flip it over, and conitinue cooking just until it is set on the other side about 30 seconds. At this point, you may add the filling of your choice.
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Cathy

    Love your photos! What a fabulous adventure.
    I had my first buckwheat crepe at La Musardiere in Giverny 7 years ago. I can’t wait to make my own thanks to your recipe.

    1. Susan

      Cathy – they’re simple,nutty, delicious! And they freeze…

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