Why Brittany is the birthplace of the crêpe
Quick, simple and instantly satisfying, the humble crêpe has become a street food staple worldwide. Crêperies are as ubiquitous in the hip quarters of many of the world’s favourite metropolises as they are in the French towns and villages that have traditionally served the food for years.
Catering for all palates – sweet or savoury, sophisticated or simple – the dish’s versatility has given it longevity in a global culinary marketplace but did you know that it was Brittany which gave the world the French crêpe?
The crépe began life as a savoury dish known as a galette – translated as flat cakes – created from Buckwheat, an ingredient introduced to Brittany in the 12th century. Easy to grow, buckwheat was far more affordable than white flour which at that time was regarded as a luxury fit only for royalty. The Breton Galette is today still a name you’ll see on Crêperie menus, and relates to delicious savoury buckwheat flour pancakes that are more than a nod to the dish’s traditional roots.
It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the more familiar white flour crêpes became popular. These pancakes were every bit as thin as the galettes before them but were a lot softer thanks to the eggs, milk and butter used to make them – ideal for sweet fillings, perfect for breakfast or as an after-dinner treat.
The Brittany techniques
Brittany locals are proud to claim that there are more crêpe recipes than church towers in the region. In Northern Brittany it is thought that galettes are cooked in a pan on one side only, while in Southern Brittany the buckwheat batter was spread thinly over twin flat stones on the fire. If you enjoy cooking, you might be able to pick up specialist pans in Brittany so you can perfect your crépe making when you get home. You may also find crepe-making classes in the region what better place is there to learn.
The pride of Brittany
A traditional Brittany crêpe is spread with a bit of caster sugar and rolled into a big cigar shape, or folded in four, while savoury galettes are mostly served with salty fillings like eggs, ham, cheese, sausages or seafood. Whether you enjoy the savoury or sweet version of the crêpe you are not making the most of this Brittany culinary experience if you don’t wash it all down with a glass of local dry cider.