Chris Slade describes the son et lumiere presentation at the abbey of Bon Repos called "Le Pays de Conomor" in Brittany, which takes place during the first two weeks of August.
MISSING BRITTANY AND THE KOUIGN-AMANN
Since the beginning of the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus epidemic, my husband and I have not been able to go to our Brittany house. We miss it greatly, along with all the delightful treats that we regularly enjoy there. We miss our seafood lunches by the coast in Damgan, La Turballe, Le Croisic or La Baule. We miss our lovely walks along the cliffs at Pénestin, followed by a piece of buttery Kouign-amann, a crêpe or a waffle, washed down with a glass of fresh cider. I salivate just writing about it and wonder when our next trip will be. In short, we really, really miss Brittany.
For those of you familiar with Brittany, of course you will have heard of and enjoyed the famous Kouign-amann! It is THE traditional Breton cake by excellence. It means literally cake and butter in Breizh, the Breton language. It is made with layers of folded dough rich in butter and sugar, and then slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough and the sugar caramelizes.
BAKING DURING THE LOCKDOWN
Obviously, we are not the only ones suffering from the lockdown and missing our favourite holidays and various activities. However, we still feel lucky as we live in a beautiful part of Wiltshire, and enjoy a glorious garden. For most people, it can be harder, especially if they have children to entertain. The obvious and most popular option seems to be… you guessed it: baking! Baking cakes, puddings, biscuits, bread, anything that can be baked.
It is all very well, but this is assuming one can get their hands on flour, which seems to be the hardest thing in the world at the moment. Personally, I am not much of a baker. Cooking lovely, tasty, savoury dishes such as stews or soups, or even exotic dishes, absolutely! Cakes, however, are a no-go area. That is not to say I don’t like eating them, but ideally if they have been lovingly baked by someone else (including Mr Kipling), even better. I am not too proud to admit it!
As mentioned above, we are very lucky: there is a fantastic little farm shop in our village. It sells beautiful fresh goods, such as milk, eggs, flour (yes, flour!) and even boasts its own fantastic in-store butcher. All good quality produce.
DISCOVERING THE LARDY CAKE
As we have already established, I am not much of a baker, which is a shame really, bearing in mind my British husband has an incredibly sweet tooth.
A couple of weeks ago, right at the beginning of the lockdown, I went to our local farm shop to buy beautiful fresh bread and eggs, only to come across… a lardy cake! I hadn’t ever heard of it, even after living in the UK for over 30 years. I just liked the look of it when I saw it, and strangely enough, the name appealed.
When I returned home with my findings, Martin was absolutely delighted! I had obviously found the Holy Grail.
“This is the British version of the Kouign-amann! I haven’t had one of those in years!”. Well, someone certainly was happy. To me, the Lardy cake looked nothing like a Kouign-amann. The only thing I was certain of is that they were both incredibly high in calories, and fat. The British delicacy has a fat content of 15%, whereas its Breton cousin wins with a whopping 26% fat content. Being a true Frenchie at heart, I must say I prefer the taste and texture of the Kouign-amann. Lardy cake contains mixed dried fruit that I am not so keen on. Having said that, the Breton cake has different varieties and can also be made with dried fruit, apple or even chocolate.
There is also a mini version of the Kouign-amann called the Kouignettes. These come in quite a few varieties with many different flavours. We first discovered them from the Maison Larnicol in Le Croisic. They own quite a few shops across France, and there is even a branch in… Bath! Only a 30 minute drive from Swindon, how wonderful is that?
SO, KOUIGN-AMANN OR LARDY CAKE?
Well, for me the answer is obvious: Kouign-amann any day. However, there is a French saying: “Faute de grives, on mange des merles” or “Half a loaf is better than no bread” in English. In the absence of my beloved buttery Kouign-amann, I shall be heading back to my local farm shop and indulge in another British lardy cake… with the help of my husband, needless to say!
Do you have a sweet tooth? Have you tried both cakes? If so, which is your favourite? We would love to hear your views, and your comments are most welcome.
If you are interested in French cakes, why not take a look at some of our other posts in the Food and Drink category? For example, check out the French walnut tart or the traditional Galette des Rois.