Driving west from Normandy into Brittany, while dairy continued to be a treasure, it was more common to hear of butter than cheese. And, it was much easier to find salted butter than the unsalted variety. Historically, when France imposed a high salt tax on much of the country, Brittany was exempt1. Before refrigeration, it was also hard to preserve butter unless it was salted, raising the question, to what extent did history influence the tradition of salted butter that Brittany is so famous for?
Butter is a main ingredient in making crêpes, one of Brittany’s most famous dishes, and, each year on the second day of February, France celebrates La Chandeleur or the festival of crêpes. The ingredients for crêpes are basic: salted butter, milk, flour and eggs. Here’s a basic method to make crêpes.
Gradually incorporate flour into eggs with a wooden spatula. Melt butter in warm milk and add gradually to the flour and egg mixture to make a thin batter. Let the batter rest, and then using a thick-bottomed pan, on low heat, brushed lightly with clarified butter, add enough batter to spread into a thin layer. Cook till the edges lift-up easily. Flip and cook until done.
Talking to a friend from Paris it did not take long to agree that it was easy to find good crêpes in Paris, however, it was emphasized to me that Montparnasse, is the area in the city that is particularly known for crêpes. Gare Montparnasse, is the only train station in Paris that sends and receives trains to and from Brittany.
1. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky.