Buckwheat Pancakes

Choice 8

One thing is for sure; in Brittany people do not need an excuse to eat crêpes or pancakes. Whatever you want to call them, we actually call them Krampouezh so (pronounce “Krampooz”). We have two types; the crêpes are for dessert and made with wheat flour, the “galettes” are savoury and made with the legendary buckwheat. It is easy enough to find Buckwheat flour if you check your local health food store. I have selected this recipe which is ideal for both sweet and savoury.

Hungry Breton Buckwheat Pancakes

You’ll need:

  • 375g of Buckwheat Flour
  • 125g of white flour
  • 50cl of milk
  • 50cl of water
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 levelled tsp of baking soda

How to:

The beautiful thing about buckwheat is that it doesn’t make any lumps while whisking. Take a large bowl for comfort, and put in the two flours together, the salt and baking soda. Give it a dry whisk to mix everything together. While whisking, add the milk and stir to a thick dough first, go on, show a bit of strength, you can do it! Keep whisking and add the rest of the milk, then the water. The secret now is to leave the dough or rather batter, to rest in the fridge for a few hours, ideally overnight.

Buckwheat batter
Buckwheat batter

Choice 2

The making is a bit tedious but so worth it at the end. In a bowl, mix some melted butter and a mild oil. Roll an old piece of material into a ball and tie with a bit of string. This is just brilliant! Oil a hot pan, and start the process. Pour the batter in the hot pan, and tilt quickly the excess back in the bowl for thin crêpes, leave it for thicker ones. Almost ready when you see a nice brown marble forming, time to flip, are you up for it? Otherwise, use a plastic spatula.

Topings idea
Topings idea

The topings are entirely up to you; this is the magic of crêpes. I used this time a roasted Italian salsiccia and thinly sliced sweet cabbage (come on, we are in Ireland after all!!!) that I braised in a good beef stock for a few minutes. A bit of butter before serving et voilá. For dessert, I had kept and froze some blackberries from the plentiful month of September 2014 that gave so generously. Stew them for a bit with a bit of water and sugar or honey, serve with a bit of whipped cream… Or, or, if you are feeling bold, you can always melt some 70% cocoa dark chocolate with a bit of butter or fresh cream, pour over the crêpe and put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door. Enjoy!

Sausage and braised cabbage
Sausage and braised cabbage
With blackberries and cream
With blackberries and cream

Crêpe Life

My mother’s short enough life didn’t get off to a great start. Thinking about it, it didn’t end like a fairytale either, unless you count some of the Grimm Brothers’ work she loved so much, on technicality it qualifies as one.
Born a couple of years after the end of the Second World War, life was tough for most. Beautifully illustrated in Jacques Prevert’s poem “Barbara”, Brest had been levelled by the allies, as well as Lorient, the city where she was born. Raised by her grandmother, her own mum had gone for a brave fresh start in Paris. To make ends meet, my great Gran made pancakes while my mother would deliver them, on foot or with her bicycle. Sometimes, I believe, people would even come in the kitchen of the small dwelling to enjoy the notorious crêpes. The stories of this small enterprise gave my sister and I great entertainment at bedtime; the little girl, who through hardship by selling crêpes with her grandmother, grew up to become a teacher.

Meet The Bretons
Meet The Bretons

Funny enough, rare were the times when she made them in the house; “it’s too messy” or “I don’t have time”, “maybe on Wednesday”… Never mind. Once a month at least, we went to the Crêperie; Italians gave the world Pizzerias, us Bretons, the Crêperie. That’s it. That is just the way it is, “get over it!”

Buckwheat batter
Buckwheat batter

My routine consisted of three crêpes, or rather one galette and two crêpes. Savoury, galettes were simply made with the nutty and wholesome buckwheat flour, trademark of the Breton cuisine. The most popular was with ham, cheese and egg; when one ordered, the waitress would ask how would you like your egg? “Brouillé” (scrambled) or “Mirroir” (mirror, meaning not scrambled I guess), either way, an absolute nightmare to pronounce for the English speaking visitor! Another popular choice was with scallops and leek fondue or a rustic sausage and braised cabbage; the surf and turf of our peninsula.
For dessert, it had to be only one thing. Dark chocolate sauce, make it two actually, uncompromisingly delicious and so rich! My father enjoyed his forth with gently stewed apples and flambéed with our local poitín called “Lambig”. We were too young for cider, even the mild stuff; well at least not in public; the odd time we might get a “go on then, just a sip”. This over indulgence often resulted in my complexion to rapidly turn duck egg green like, close calls but never deterred! “Until next time folks!”… Until next time.

Sausage and braised cabbage
Sausage and braised cabbage
Withe blackberries and cream
With blackberries and cream

This week was “pan cake Tuesday”; we have a similar day in Brittany but it is a bit earlier. Called Chandeleur, it has religious origins too, but takes place forty days after Christmas. It is said that one would toss a coin in the pan; depending on the landing, the year would be believed to be good or bad… Very native! I was in and out of the house to take some pictures to illustrate my little story. I sat in front of the fire, determined to eat the models that posed for the shoot. Even though I enjoyed it very much, I couldn’t help thinking: “This is like sipping on a pint of Irish stout at the terrace of a harbour bar in Lorient… Just not quite the same”.

Old Brittany
Old Brittany