As a child, growing up on the south coast of Brittany, I remember how rare the winters with snow were. Like the native Inuit or Yupik around and within the polar circle, we have several words referring to rain but only one describing snow. It’s a native people thing I guess. Saying that, I get overwhelmed every time a heavy wintry shower makes landfall on the midlands of the isle of Ireland; finding an uncontrollable need to get out there. Geared up with my camera and fitted with recently purchased removable spiked snow boots (yes, I owe a pair), I got out there, taking it all in; “the heavy salted peanuts knowing a cool beer is waiting for you” syndrome, exposure to the elements knowing that some comfort food is waiting for you.
I don’t really know what took me so long to speak about Breton Cake, the legendary “all day long” treat of my native land, but this early March snow white carpet on the hills and countryside inspired me to do this ancestral recipe. I find it quite enjoyable after a long hike in the blizzard, fancying myself – for a while at least – as a Shackleton or even a Tom Crean, Irish heroes of a long gone Antarctica race. My point is, if you want to enjoy the full pleasure that a Breton cake offers, you have to give yourselves two things: Pain and a nice cup of coffee!
There are hundreds of recipes, for our regional treat, some dating back a long time, some even includes Herring Gull’s eggs… We are sea people after all and quite innovative by nature. Often, soaked prunes are part of the jig and on a more modern twist some strawberry jam. I like to keep it simple, in its original way. I do add some orange zest though, recurring and unlikely ingredient of the Breton cuisine… Once a ship wrecker, always a ship wrecker…
- 250g of organic white flour
- 250g of organic sugar
- 250g of salted butter cut into small cubes
- 6 egg yolks + 1 for the egg wash
- The zest of an organic orange
First, you need to mix the flour and the sugar together. Add the butter cubes little by little and rub the mix together until the dough looks homogeneous enough… It should look like this.
Make a rough hole in the middle of the dough and add the egg yolks, and don’t be afraid to mix the whole thing with your hand. It is messy but quite pleasurable. Once you are satisfied that all the ingredients are well kneaded, place into a 24cm buttered and floured baking tray (9, 9.5 inches). Press the dough so it is evenly distributed around the dish. For the design (and this is essential for luck), make some horizontal and vertical lines with the back of a fork. Bake at 180c for 50 minutes.
Serve with a strong cup of coffee or a good cup of tea, do not hesitate to dip the whole thing inside the beverage, you will thank me later.
Remember, winter in our parts is not quite over until March 20th, you never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you, so be prepared. This should help nicely!