From time to time, we all need a bit of gentle sweetness. For me, childhood food comfort comes in the form of Crêpes, savoury or not, but also apple compote my grandmother used to do by the gallons at this time of year. I brought some back from her garden last month, trees planted over 35 years ago, ideal for a breakfast treat. Here it goes.
I must admit, the journeys to my native Celtic peninsula have become a slightly sporadic affair in the past few years; the time between visits is getting less frequent. They say that life gets in the way, and I get the odd “oh sure, you are one of us now!”, or almost. The truth be told, we all have to cast anchor some day, voluntarily or not, or simply coming to terms with the inevitable. As a teenager, I often dreamed of my perfect place to live; lighthouse keeper of Ar Men, rock of all rocks at large of Sein Island, self sufficient in Swedish Lapland’s Sarek National Park or even honorary Highlander on the western Hebrides islands of Scotland. They say that Bretons never leave their native land… They bring it with them. I suppose this is true, there is a Gwen a Du flag (“White and Black”) hanging at the back of my office chair, a Breton map in the living room (old fashioned, but really neat!) and a hell of a lot of Atlantic sea salt in “the press” and butter in the fridge! The stripes to this Zebra…
But when I do go, there is always – and a lot – of a special something I like to bring back; our legendary and inimitable salted butter biscuits. No Scottish Shortbreads or Swedish Drömmar could reasonably match the buttery galettes (thin) or Breton Palets (literally meaning “Puck”, as in Hockey the sport; we also have a game using a puck… It is a bit like darts on the ground).
They come in beautifully decorated tin boxes, often inspired by Gauguin’s paintings which got inspired by the beauty of the Brittany he loved, lived and drew from… So I guess that’s fair enough don’t you think? Fair enough…
So today, I decided to open a box of memories, create my own bit of home at home; in a bowl, I mixed 2 egg yolks with 80g of sugar and a little drizzle of a freshly squeezed orange, you know, until they get to a lovely and white ribbon like texture. In the blender, I whizzed 140g of organic white flour and 80g of salted butter. A wee pinch of fleur de sel sea salt, the zest of 1/2 an orange and half a tea spoon of baking powder ( this should give you about 20 biscuits). With a spatula, I poured the mix in the blender and gave it a couple more pulses. Once ready, I put the lot back in the bowl and kneaded the lot a bit more. I made the dough into a ball, wrapped it in cling film and in the fridge it went for a couple of hours. Now, the fun could begin.
I rolled the dough on the table, leaving a desired thickness. With a small pastry ring, I started to shape my buttery “pucks” on a baking tray and a sheet of wax paper. A quick “egg wash” with a pastry brush and in the oven they went for 20 minutes. Keep an eye out (or in) as this can go pretty quickly.
Time goes quickly when one is having fun while anticipating the taste and smell of fond childhood memories. I let them cool gently on their tray and once cooled, gave them a good home, an old tin once filled with delicious Pleyben’s Galettes, now long devoured. Who cares? I’ve just made my own!
I made myself a nice cup of coffee, essential dip for the delicious biscuits. Thursday’s snow was still there in the garden, waiting for its next batch, soon to be delivered from the Arctic north and about to hit my adoptive land, half way between the North Atlantic and the Irish Sea, my cottage in the middle of the Island, surrounded by lakes, forests, megalithic hills and drumlins … You never know do you?