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The Crêpe bretonne is a traditional dish in Lower Brittany. Having become well-known throughout France and in other countries, the crêpe is also served in crêperies outside Brittany. It may be eaten plain, or filled with diverse ingredients; salty or sweet, according to the base recipe. The Crêpe bretonne can be made of wheat (sweet crêpe) or buckwheat (salted crêpe). This last is less well-known and should not be confused with the buckwheat pancake typical of Upper Brittany, which has a different recipe.
According to legend, the Breton "crêpe" originated with the clumsiness of a farmer's wife, who spilt some buckwheat porridge onto a very hot, flat stone lying in the fireplace.
From the 12th century onwards, traces of buckwheat pollen have been found in peatlands in Brittany. The local production of buckwheat today is insufficient for the supply of the 15,000 tons usually consumed in France every year; half the production of buckwheat crêpes (and of buckwheat pancakes) is therefore dependent on imports of goods that come primarily from China, or even Poland or Canada. There is a label of protected origin for buckwheat flour from Brittany; the association "Blé noir tradition Bretagne" brings together over 800 producers, as well as some 10 millers, to promote the use of Breton flour (some 4,000 tons per year). In the mid-20th century, owing to the emigration of many Bretons, Breton crêperies started opening in France, especially in Paris, in the Montparnasse district– but also in many countries around the world.
Traditionally, the batter should be cooked in a specific device called billig in Breton, galetiere in the local French dialect (galettoire or tuile in Upper Brittany). The batter is spread out onto a disc with a small spatula called a rozell (Breton), rouable or raclette in the local French dialect. Crêpes based on the Breton recipes are usually made with a simple crêpière (or frying pan).
Wheat and buckwheat versions
For those among the Bretons very much attached much to the traditions of Brittany, the krampouezhenn (plural: krampouezh) can refer either to the salty preparation with buckwheat flour, or the sweet version made from wheat. There are two traditional crepes of Lower Brittany:
- One based on wheat flour (bleud gwinizh in Breton). The traditional batter is made of eggs, flour, sugar and milk, and is usually eaten sweetened
- One based on buckwheat flour (bleud ed-du). The traditional batter is made of buckwheat flour, mixed with a maximum of 30% of wheat flour, water and salt (some people add eggs or milk); it is usually eaten salted.