8 January 2012

Quatre-Quarts | Eating France

I do apologise for what must seem like a flurry of Eating France posts, but I've been so eager to reach my favourite region of all – Brittany. Here I am, we've arrived in Brittany and it's time to explore this wonderful region. Yes, you'd think being a complete Francophile was bad enough, but I'm an even worse Bretonphile. Or should that be Frañsfiliezh and Breizhfiliezh, seeing as we are in Brittany now? Too far? All right.

So Brittany then. It's a fairly new addition to France (kind of...) and is one of the six Celtic nations (alongside Isle of Man, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland). Historically, it was a kingdom, then a duchy, before it united to the Kingdom of France in 1532. Modern-day Brittany only consists of about 80% of its historical territory, with about 70% of ''proper'' Bretons – the rest are in neighbouring Pays de la Loire, as you may have read in my previous post.

Whenever I'm on vacation abroad, I always bring with me a list of local food and sweets I have to try. Sometimes completing that list can be quite difficult, and I've been known to criss-cross large cities for this purpose alone. But it can't be helped. Once I've decided to do it, there's no turning back. Not that I complain, of course, because these lists allow me time to sit in numerous cafés and restaurants, happily watching and observing locals while I eat their treasures. I don't know what other people do on vacation but, besides visiting historical sites to feed the history nerd in me, you'll find me in cafés or bakeries. I honestly feel the heart and soul of a country and culture is in the food. It's my way of exploring the world, and boy have I learnt!

While I was in Brittany this summer, whenever I told people about ''the list'', they did everything they could to help me complete it. Some gave me addresses to local restaurants or cafés, where they made ''the best crêpes in western Brittany'' or ''the best kig ha farz''. Others brought me homemade samples, or drove me to specific villages or cities in order to find what I wanted. People just couldn't fathom that a Norwegian teenager was so interested in their local dishes. That was okay, I told them, none of my friends understood it either. Unusual as it is, they were happy to help. And I didn't mind, really. Bretons are lovely people, truly, and I eating their food brought me closer to many. Then there's the issue of Breton food. It's delicious. Really, and I'm not even being biased (okay, maybe a little) or exaggerating. Everything in Brittany tastes better: the vegetables, fresher; the crêpes, tastier; the strawberries, so much more ''strawberry-ny''. And the Breton butter, oh baby... I won't go too much into that, because I'd know no end, but you simply have to try the beurre de Bretagne.

The butter features quite a lot in most local dishes, particularly the pastry, and it leaves everything with a distinct taste. While I was attempting to eat my way through ''the list'', I came across a rather charming café in Douarnenez (yup, the hometown of the kouign amann). My fellow Italian food-friend and I bought samples of nearly everything on the counter (nearly...), including the famous kouign amann, which we happily ate for dessert. We spent nearly an hour devouring one thing after the other, swallowing everything with copious amounts of Breizh cola and coffee. It was quite a potty lunch, to be honest. The food that didn't end up in our mouths were happily stored for later in our handbags, which was a BIG mistake, because it was quite a warm day and, as I said, everything here is made out of butter. You can imagine. I won't go into the details.

Anyway, I was quite upset by this disaster, because I was looking forward to eat the quatre-quarts I had bought. Truth be told, it wasn't even on ''the list'', although it was added as soon as I return from Douarnenez, mostly because it looked good (before it melted, that is). A few days later, I found another small café close to wear I lived, and as luck would have it, they did sell quatre-quarts! I had actually only entered the café looking for a corner and a few cups of coffee, but I couldn't resist buying a slice or six of the cake. I mean, it was amazing – like no cake had ever tasted before. So much so that I even asked the café owner if he would be selling the quatre-quarts the next day. ''Est-ce que je pourrais revenir?'' (Can I return?), I asked him nervously. Yes, my French is bad, but I can use it in dire situations such as these. ''Tu viens quand tu veux,'' (You can return whenever you want) he said, smiling, before he gave me some crêpes free of charge to take home. Ah, la vie est belle.

Back home, I've been going through a slightly obsessive butter-bread phase of late, making brioche and suchlike by the dozen. My timing was excellent, for I am happy to say that the local supermarkets have begun selling butter once more, albeit foreign. Not that I mind it being foreign, but if they were going to import butter, they could've imported Breton butter, just for the sake of it. Right? Oh, well, I suppose you can't have it all. If I didn't have Breton butter, then I'd have to bake something Breton to make up for it. And whaddayaknow, that's just what I did.

Quatre-quarts (lit. ''four quarters'') has been translated as a simple pound cake, but in my opinion, it's much more ''rich'' than its English counterparts (that'd be the butter). It's a very simple cake to bake, using the same amounts of four ingredients – butter, sugar, flour and eggs, plus some extra salt and baking powder. For some extra flavour, add a few drops of lemon juice or chocolate chips or even a dash of vanilla extract. Although I do feel I have to say I don't like to add anything extra at all. The traditional version is much more tasty in my humble opinion, so no chocolate or fruits in my quatre-quarts thank you very much. No, really. It should be a fairly easy cake to make for everyone, given that it doesn't have strict measurements (or does that make it harder?) It's very simple, and in truth, you can't go wrong. It hardly needs a recipe at all. It's easy. :)

Debret ga' yec'hed! {Bon appetite!}

Recipe by Recettes Bretonnes

2 tsp. baking powder
A pinch of salt
4 large eggs

Flour, (Salted) Butter, Sugar - all individually weighing the same as the eggs
1.Preheat the oven to 180 C. Melt the butter over medium heat, then let cool until lukewarm.

2.In a bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Set aside.
In a second bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together, and form a well in the centre. Pour the egg and sugar mixture into the well, and mix together to form a paste. Add the melted and lukewarm butter, and blend well together.

3.Butter a bread mould (or a rectangular cake mould), and pour the batter in.

4.Bake for 50 minutes. The quatre-quarts should have a golden crust. You may need to lower the temperature and cover the cake with aluminium foil if the crust darkens too much.

Oppskrift frå Recettes Bretonnes

2 ts. bakepulver
Litt salt
4 store egg

Mjøl, (salta) smør, sukker - alle tre skal kvar for seg vege like mykje som egga
1.Varm opp omnen til 180 C. Smelt smøret ved mediumsvarme, og la kolna til lunka.

2.Visp saman egga og sukkeret saman i ein bolle. Legg til sides. Bland mjølet, bakepulveret og saltet saman i ein annen bolle, og form ein brønn i midten av blandinga. Hell eggeblandinga i midten av brønnen, og bland godt saman.
Ha i smøret, og rør saman.

3.Smør ei brødform (eller avlang kakeform), og hell deigen i.

4.Steik i 50 minutt. Quatre-quartsen skal vera gylden. Dekk til med aluminiumsfolie om kaka vert for mørk.

6 comment (s):

Mum said...

These did not look too good, so I was very surprised when I tasted them. They are rich, a little bit juicy and very tasty. Only my good self control prevented me from taking more.

beti said...

it looks really moist, the simple adition of blueberries is enough, it makes it look delicious

Marion said...

Mum: Thank you...

Beti: Thanks! I like to eat it with berries, as it kind of completes the taste.

Bose said...

Thanks, this is absolutely fantastic!
Cake Order Form

Marion said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

merci a toi , kenavo

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