It was the best of times, it was…..the best of times…Actually, I think the only worst part about our Paris experience was the coming home! This is the last post surrounding our Gluten Free Adventure in Paris…sort-of. I have one more, but it deals with everything truffles, and that’s not exclusive to Paris.. Part of the delay in today’s post was weather related- the ladies have had back to back snow days, altering the schedule a bit. The other reason for the delay was that I was trying to duplicate the galettes I enjoyed at the aforementioned creperies- but more on that in a moment….
Paris is synonymous with many things: romance, lights, croissants, baguettes, lights, le Tour Eiffel, crepes- just to name a few…Now I’ve posted about crepes here on several occasions, and our trip would not have been complete without me whipping up a few batches of crepes in our apartment, or figuring out where we could get gluten free crepes somewhere around Paris…As it turns out, it was easier than I thought to find gluten-free crepes. In fact, our very first meal on our very first day was at a tiny creperie that I’d read about over on David Lebovitz‘s blog.
Located in the heart of the Marais, Breizh Cafe is a traditional creperie from Bretagne- that’s Brittany to we Anglais, and Breizh in the Celtic rooted Breton dialect from that area. Traditional fare from this region of France includes galettes de sarrasin- buckwheat crepes. What I’d read about their preparation at this restaurant led me to believe that I could actually eat said galettes, and as soon as we dropped our suitcases in le petite appartement, we called and made a reservation. An easy twenty minute walk from our new digs, and I was enjoying a heavenly lunch while wrapping my head around a new language. I explained that I was allergic to gluten- something I suspect this server had heard before, because she very nicely assured me that their crepes were indeed gluten-free.
A word here- crepes and galettes are NOT pancakes. Please do not ever call them pancakes. Galettes are made of buckwheat, and are served open faced. Crepes are typically made with white flour and served folded over. Sometimes galettes can be referred to as crepes. And, if you want to totally offend and alienate your server, by all means ask loudly in English for their best pancake and then on your own switch tables. (yes- we actually saw that happen)
Breizh is a tiny place- perhaps 10 small tables in all, and incredibly popular. One day we were in for a 2pm reservation, and the foyer was crowded with people- some who’d been waiting for a table for over an hour. I can’t stress enough the importance of making a reservation wherever you choose to eat. Every time we ate here- we were here three times during our stay since it was fairly close to us- we tried something new on the menu. It was all delicious! Galettes are traditionally served with Cidre- a fermented apple cider. I’m now hooked on it- fortunately our favorite wine shop carries it. What’s great is that it comes in a stone pitcher and it’s traditionally drunk out of bowls instead of glasses. I’m now on the look out for some cidre bowls when I go to the antique/thrift stores around town. Dessert on our last day was a galette sarrasin with buckwheat ice cream and buckwheat honey- absolutely delicious.
That last day, I finally got up the courage to ask the owner if I could take some pictures to post when I went to write about our experience. I say this because I felt rather awkward just going places and surreptitiously snapping pics- so I only have restaurant pics from the two creperies. If you’re interested in reading about the rest of my gluten-free restaurant and shopping adventures in Paris, and receiving a little travel advice, I’ve put up a new page and you can read everything here. If you know a celiac heading to Paris soon, by all means, send them a link!
Towards the end of our stay, we stumbled upon an equally lovely and tiny creperie, just around the corner from the Musée Rodin. Aux Ducs de Bourgogne is run by the charming Charles Azzi, a welcoming gentleman, fluent in multiple languages. He spent over 20 years in high end hospitality- several of those years working in food service- before coming to France and opening the creperie. He studied crepe making in Bretagne, and taught me a little of the history of galettes, as well as the difference between a crepe and a galette. A little trivia for you- Buckwheat first arrived in Europe during the Middle Ages, brought back by the soldiers of the Crusades.
For Charles, hospitality is of the utmost importance- and it shows. On our visits there we easily heard 6 different languages being spoken. His restaurant is very popular with state officials- it’s located right behind the Assemblée National, actors, and regular folks like us, who just happen upon it. We felt so welcomed on our first visit that we made sure we returned before we left. The galettes were phenomenal, and he was very willing to make dessert crepes using the buckwheat flour only. While their website doesn’t seem to be up at the moment, I did discover they have a facebook page- so look for them there if you like!
Whether you prefer the Right Bank or the Left Bank, know there are at least two creperies where you can enjoy fabulous, gluten-free food. I feel so fortunate to have met so many amazing people on this trip- people who reminded me of the importance of vocation, and who shared such kindness, generosity, and hospitality. We all came home changed from our experience, and we’re going to do what we can to get back as soon as possible. It is not Au revoir Paris, it’s A bientot.
Now, as for the other reason this post was a long time coming….when you experience galettes like these, you have to figure out how to duplicate the experience! After a few bad batches, false starts, and shots off the backboard, I finally got the taste right! While mine don’t look as pretty- I don’t have a large griddle. The taste takes me right back to these spots, and we’ll be enjoying many more galettes de sarrasin this winter. Fill these with whatever your heart desires- savory, sweet, seafood- you won’t be disappointed!
Galettes de Sarrasin
makes 16-20 crepes
250 grams buckwheat flour (generous 1 1/2 cups)
650 ml water (about 2 2/3 cup)
6 tablespoons melted butter (I used salted)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (tapioca would be okay too)
1 egg, separated
1/2 tsp salt
additional butter for the fry pan
Place buckwheat and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl. Separate the egg, placing the white in a separate bowl. Make a hole in the center of the buckwheat, and add the yolk to the buckwheat. With a fork, break open the yolk and gently begin mixing it into the buckwheat- pulling in the flour from the center of the bowl. As soon as the egg has been absorbed, and the mixture begins to get a little grainy, add a little water. Keep incorporating more flour into the center mixture, and keep adding more water. As you add more water, the texture should look and feel like a paste. When you have added about 1/2 the water add the salt. Stir to incorporate and set aside.
Using a hand mixer, beat the egg white until stiff peaks have formed, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the buckwheat mixture. When the egg whites have been fully incorporated, drizzle the melted butter into the mixture, while stirring continuously. It’s important that the melted butter not be too hot- it should be liquid, but cool enough to stick your finger into it. When the melted butter has been fully incorporated, keep stirring and slowly add the remaining water. The mixture should be thin and very runny- about as thick as half-n-half. Test for taste. You should get a hint of salt and butter on your tongue, as well as the distinctive taste that is buckwheat. If you used unsalted butter, you may need to add a little more salt. Add by 1/4 teaspoons until the taste is where you’d like it.
Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet until nearly smoking. It’s very important to keep the temperature high. This is what gives the crepes the bubble holes. However, you don’t want the temperature so high that the butter immediately burns as soon as you place it on the surface. The trick is keeping it just under that point.
When the griddle is hot, place a little butter on the surface- it should immediately foam and sizzle. Swirl it until your cooking surface has been coated, and then immediately place a ladleful of the mixture on your pan. Swirl it around quickly so that only a thin layer is covering the bottom- you should see holes immediately. Let the crepe cook about 2 minutes, then flip. It should be dark brown with golden caramelized parts from the butter. Once the crepe is flipped, add whatever filling you like, and remove to a plate. Once the galette is on the plate, you can fold in the sides, leaving the center open. Et Voíla! Bon Apetit!