Virtual Trip to the Festival de Cornouaille, Brittany
Transport yourself to Quimper (pronounced “Kalm-pair”), for the Festival de Cornouaille, celebrating the rich cultural history of Brittany, in France. Make sure to have some French hard cider on hand to have with your galettes complète de Breton, and leave the music to us via this free playlist.
Eats & Drinks: Galette Complète & Cidre (Savory Buckwheat Crèpes, with Hard Apple Cider)
Tunes: A free Spotify playlist of recent festival favorites
Words: Bring the fun and culturally rich Festival le Cornouaille to wherever you are
Before you go any further, put on this free playlist to begin the virtual transport! It has some of the music we enjoyed from when we attended in 2017, as well as some from the artists playing in 2018.
And an immediate video to give a taste of the music and dancing in the parade:
I still remember the way M’s face lit up when I told her my family and I would be visiting Brittany last summer (2017). We know M and her awesome family from Brooklyn but she grew up in Quimper, and her family return there for visits frequently.
Her face grew brighter still when I revealed our dates: we would overlap with the 94th annual Festival de Cornouaille.
“No way! That is the best time to visit Brittany! It is perfect to give you a snapshot of the rich culture of the region, from music to dance to costumes to food. And all of the activities, including the parade are so much fun that E [older daughter] tries to plan our visits around it.”
Jackpot! I began peppering her with questions and she continued:
“You know it’s funny. I didn’t realize what a treasure it was until a friend from university returned with me to Quimper during the festival one year. When I was younger I didn’t find it interesting at all, and I actually regarded the people who were into it as being too-Brittany, overly-obsessed with their culture.
However, when I had the opportunity to see the festival through the eyes of my friend from university I began to see the richness, the simultaneous beauty of the collective culture of Brittany, and a uniqueness in the way the culture developed in various parts of the region. For example when you go to the parade, you are able to see that the costumes have similarities across the regions, but there are also differences. Without knowing a detailed history of the region, your imagination will wonder if the wooden shoes worn by some groups were due to dutch settlers, and why some of the costumes have detailed embroidery, rich velvet fabric or intricate lace, and yet others will be very plain and peasant-like.
The parade is the grand finale but really the whole week is full of wonderful events. Early in the week is quite interactive and great for the whole family. From dance workshops to working with artisans with traditional handicrafts. There are activities and shows throughout Quimper all week, but the town square is the main focal point, with a large stage and many artisan booths setup near by.”
We were sold. We here at Cultures Capsules have a special place in our hearts for a cultural festival centering on music and arts that simultaneously celebrates the commonalities and uniqueness within a community!!
M continued: “This is so exciting! Now my kids, who already enjoy the festival, will get to experience what I did when I brought my friend from university to Quimper. In showing you and your kids about the rich culture of Breton, they will have the added benefit of seeing it through your kids’ eyes, making it all the richer to them. And afterwards, you’ll have to come back to my mum’s house for pancakes (how they refer to the Creèpes de Breton in English)! Just like I used to do in high school, bringing my gang back for pancakes. This is going to be great!”
Please check the bottom of the post for additional videos from the 2017 parade.
Also, if you aren’t familiar with the history of Brittany, you might do well with une petite leçon d’histoire, but this space is more for human stories, and histories are covered quite well on Wikipedia (in multiple languages), and others.
If you’re curious to know more, wikipedia has you covered! Here are some good terms to start your further exploration:
- Cornouaille / Cornouaille
- Festival of Cornouaille / Festival de Cornouaille
- Bagad / Bagad
- Celtic Circle / Cercles Celtiques
- Brittany Portal on Wikipedia
- Crêpe bretonne, & The Confusion about Crèpes / Galette / Buckwheat
Eats & Drinks
First let’s get our terms straight! In Brittany, you will find both crêpes and galettes (pancakes), and there is also variations by region. Per the French Wikipedia entry for Galette de sarrasin:
“In Gallo country or Upper Brittany, the buckwheat pancake is exclusively salted. Prepared with water, buckwheat flour and salt, it is thick, remains supple when finished and has holes on its surface. In Lower Brittany, the buckwheat crèpe is salty (its sweet version is the Breton crèpe). Prepared also with water, salt and wheat flour, it also contains wheat flour (up to 30% of the flour volume) and possibly milk and eggs,  it is finer, brittle when its cooking is just finiek , and a non-holed surface. In this country, the cake is rather a thick dough (apple cake, etc.) or a buttered biscuit.”
Here we will refer to them as galettes, because M refers to them as pancakes in English, but for our readers for whom pancakes carries a totally different association, we’ll differentiate by calling them galettes, or “galettes de Breton complète.” The term “complète” refers to the standard way of enjoying them: filled with ham, egg and cheese. Other classic versions include variations on those or sausage & apple, but the sky is the limit.
The proper accompaniment for crèpes is cidre – delicious hard cider common in the north of France. I recommend you pour yourself a glass while you start to cook. After all, it can help rid you of negative emotions, lest they add bitterness to your food!
Before you get to work, I’ll give you a few tips learned from many, many trials outside of France, where we don’t all have crepe griddles and the buckwheat available to us varies a lot from that available in France. Overall, I’d first like to note that I have looked at many recipes online and also canvassed friends (and their moms!). Most of the recipes (in English and French, on places like Marmiton) recipes I’ve seen online, even on Marmiton, will not quite get you to the savor buckwheat crepes/”pancakes” you will have in creperies in Brittany…. but the below will, because I borrowed my friend M’s mom’s recipe and adapted it to the average US kitchen to get the taste of the crepes we had in creperies and homes in Breton.
The main difference is the variances in flour, but there are some other things to keep in mind, too:
- Buckwheat flour: The buckwheat flour itself is different here in the US (and likely elsewhere), than in France (where it is known as ‘blú noir’). It seems that depending on the inclusion of the hulls in the processing of the buckwheat seed, the consistency and color of the buckwheat flour will change. If you use Bob’s Red Mill, it seems to have the hulls in it, which leads to the purple-ish flecks and lends it the purple hue. This provides the better flavor, but also means you need to cut it a bit to get the right consistency to mimic the crepes in Brittany. You can use it without cutting it and it will taste great, just a bit stronger and will be very dark in color. On the other end of the spectrum if you use a buckwheat like Arrowhead Mills, you should not cut it with all-purpose flour at all, or it will have far less taste. In summary: if the flour doesn’t have purple flecks in it, then you shouldn’t cut it with all-purpose flour. If it does have purple flecks you should cut it, up to 50% with all-purpose flour.
- Preparation: The batter works best when the buckwheat has some time to absorb the water, so it’s best to let it sit for an hour before cooking.
- Pan: It helps to have a thin, flat, nonstick pan without edges. I tried on a double-burner and couldn’t get it to work correctly. I had the best luck on our dosa pan, because I would lift up the pan to have the thin batter distribute evenly (not swirl it with he crepe spreader like grand-mere did… somehow couldn’t get the hang of that).
- Patience: Don’t even think about flipping it until you’ve got a bit of a crust on the bottom.
- Filling types: Standard for complète would be the ham, then egg and Emmental cheese as listed, but by all means get creative! Our kids like only egg or only salami, and I love sauteed mushrooms and Emmental. For each complète , you would need one egg, 1-2 pieces of ham, and 1-2 thin slices of cheese.
- Eggs: here in the US tend to be bigger, and the size of the pans smaller, so the egg will take a good amount of time to set, so put that on almost immediately upon setting the crepe on the pan, and spread out the white with a fork to help it cook (see the photo near the bottom of the page) I’ve even cooked the egg separately and put it atop the crepe for those who like their egg cooked more thoroughly (photo directly below).
- 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill buckwheat flour (500g)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (500g)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tbsp sunflower oil (might just go 2 next time)
- 1 egg
- start with 1.5 cup water, and increase to desired, surprisingly liquid consistency
- 1 tbsp butter (for the pan)
Filling, selection and amounts per taste of your diners, but here is what we always have on hand:
- Sliced ham
- Emmental cheese
- Sautéed mushrooms
- At least one hour before planning to cook the galettes, prepare the batter: whisk one egg, then add both flours, salt, sunflower oil and water to combine. Mixture should be rather thin: about the consistency of cream or whole milk.
- Allow the batter to sit. [And have a cup of cidre with your guests. ;-)]
- When ready to cook the galettes, heat the crepe pan to medium heat, and rub butter around on the pan.
- Holding the pan off the stove in one hand, scoop 1/3 cup of batter and pour it all around the pan, shifting the pan in your hand to ensure a thin coating and no holes.
- Let it cook, untouched until the sides start to brown. Meanwhile, depending on the type of filling (per notes above), put your filling in while the galettes cooks.
- When the sides begin to brown, it is time to fold in 4 corners from your round(ish) crepe. Use the back of a knife (or other long flat utensil) to make a line in the edge of the galettes where you would like to fold it, then fold the edge in along that line. Repeat 3 more times, until you have a 4-sided square-ish shape.
- Serve immediately with additional salt and pepper, and of course cidre.
This is a visual tutorial from Maman F’loch, on her dueling galettes griddles. M’s Daughter E helps out:
9 more videos are available on the Cultures Capsules YouTube channel, but I’ll also put a couple more here as well: