Brittany, located in the north-west of France has great coastal areas to satisfy the seafood lover in you as well as a large inland area sure to pacify the oenophile in you as well. Combine these two things along with traveling companions that are not only friends but frequent visitors to the area and you’ve got yourself a getaway with memories that include raucous bar nights (with some kind of wall art from the bar to remember that by) to walks through historic city streets that are so magnificent in their storybook like looks that you’ll forget all about that raging hangover your sporting. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the butter from this area is legendary and finds its way into some of the most fantastic sweet treats you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
Yes, this post is also part of my most recent Europe trip. The funny thing about these posts is that I’m writing them in the complete opposite chronological order of which they happened. I’m not sure why this is how they’ve ended up on here, but I’m not going to question my strange brain at this point. I’ve been doing so many weird things lately that this is totally normal compared to the other ish I’ve done recently.
Before heading to Paris to eat and bike, we spent two and a half days in Brittany France eating, drinking and walking. While Brittany is composed of five departments (areas/regions) we spent our time in Ille-et-Vilaine which is in the north-east and along the coast. We stayed in St. Malo and spent the first part of the Brittany trip there.
Plates of oysters and bottles of Muscadet are de rigueur – which is totally up my alley. I lost track of how many of each we consumed. But hey, oysters are all protein and lo-cal right? Perfect! These oysters had a rich buttery flavor and a smooth yet hearty texture to them. I’ve never tasted anything like them. I learned that the buttery flavor is something particular to the oysters from the Brittany France region. Could it be that the oysters are eating that rich delicious butter too?
See how pretty the water is? No, I did not Photoshop the color in this picture. But see all the white stuff around the rocks and into the water? Guess what that is. It’s oyster shells. You can go to an area where they pull the oysters fresh from the water and either sit at a restaurant or buy them straight from vendors that get the same oysters but sell them directly ocean side. Those shells are from people eating from the vendors and tossing the empty shells into the water. During high tide you see the shells under the water and all these little yellow things bobbing in the azure water. Those little yellow things are the lemons that have been squeezed over the oysters.
On to Mont St. Michel…
Sometimes you need to take a break from the gluttony and visit a place like Mont St. Michel. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mont St. Michel is an island (when the tide comes in…trust me, it’s an island) and has been the seat of the monestary (for which it was named since the 8th century AD – yes, it’s really old). The island, small and compact as it is, consists of the Abbey (at the very top…under God), the halls, the stores and houses which people live in. Are there hotels on the island? Yes. Are there loads of tourists? YES. But there are tours of the Abbey at night, and if you stay on the island, that’s one of the perks you’ll get to see. I got to roam the Abbey during the day and it was fantastic. I can only imagine what it looks like at night by the scattered candlelight and sporadic incandescent lights.
The quaint little fishing village of Cancale is the absolute picture of Brittany France. You know how you swear they take pictures of one ‘perfect looking’ college campus and use those photos to sell a hundred colleges (they actually did do that with pictures of my college…it was the campus that sold 100 college campuses)? That’s what Cancale is to Brittany.
This little village has been inhabited since the late 1700′s and is the preeminent source of oysters in the region. In fact, the photo I showed you earlier as St. Malo, was actually verging on the border of Cancale.
You know those really cute blue and white/red and white horizontal striped shirts that were so popular this summer? Those are quintessential Breton (Brittany France) wear. I swear!!! I own several myself and had to buy an authentic one when I was in Cancale. I thought about buying 4 more for my niece and nephews (that crew is all from one parental unit by the way) but decided not to since I couldn’t explain what they were. (I bought Peter Rabbit books in England for them instead).
But a culinary coolness about Cancale, outside of the fantastic oysters? The sweets! While I had definitely taken advantage of the the superior dairy products in all of the locations of this trip, here in Cancale is where everything seemed to come together. (For the record, I passed out in front of the butter case when I saw at least 20 different butters, all of amazingly superior milk/cream sources, in one place and for less than what I have to pay for seriously CRAP butter here.) But I digress.
While Brittany France is well known for its kouign amann or butter cake (No, kouign amann was NOT originated in Brooklyn,NY by the same guy that brought us the cronut!!!!), it’s the Breton Gateau that stole my heart. This, not so tall, cake is a cross between a buttery shortbread cookie and an actual cake. There aren’t many ingredients and it eats more like a thick cookie than a moist and delicate cake, but it’s rich and simple flavors had me at gateau.
I’m not going to tell you where I got this recipe from, because I swore that I wouldn’t. I am a broad of my word(s) – however slurred they may be.
This is a great dessert recipe when you have no idea what to make or you’re in a crunch to whip something up. You probably have everything you need right in your cupboards and fridge right now.
What are you waiting for? Pull this recipe up on your pad in get in your kitchen and make one of these right now. You’re welcome!
- 1 Cup Butter (1 Stick Unsalted Butter + 1 Stick Salted Butter)
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Rum (can also use vanilla extract instead)
- 2¾ Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- ¼ Teaspoon Salt
- 6 Egg Yolks (whisked together)
- 1 Teaspoon Milk (can also use cream if you don’t have any milk)
- Pre heat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
- Add room temperature butter, sugar and rum to mixing bowl and beat until color is light yellow and sugar is well mixed.
- Gradually add flour and baking powder to butter mixture and blend until incorporated (this won’t take very long at all – so don’t over mix).
- Remove 1 teaspoon of the egg mixture and mix it with the milk in a small container and set aside.
- Carefully add salt and whisked egg yolks to the mixing bowl and mix until a soft sticky dough is formed. (It will be a lot more like sticky cookie dough than cake batter.)
- Add batter to a buttered 8″ or 9″ cake pan (I used a spring form pan lined with buttered parchment paper.)
- Carefully smooth batter out so that it is evenly spread. Line the top with a piece of plastic wrap to get a smooth finish on top as you spread it out.
- Mix the bit of egg yolk and milk together and brush over top of the cake.
- Drag a fork over the top of the cake to form an open grid pattern.
- Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until top is a nice golden brown color.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- Serve warm or cold with fresh berries and maybe a bit of whipped cream.
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