La fin de l’été

Summer sunset

Summer sunset

I’m not in Southern California anymore; there are no endless summers here. Winter is coming…and fast. It dropped 10 degrees overnight, bringing an abrupt end to our Indian Summer. Last night was tee-shirt weather, but tonight we donned coats for our nightly walk with the dogs. But I won’t complain about the summer we had here. June and July were marvelous. August was a complete let down, rainy and cold. But just when we thought all was lost and the summer had finished, September came round and lifted us back up into the sunshine.

During the hot summer heat, we cooled off on the shores of the nearby lake. We had to take advantage as it will be drained next year for dam reparations. The draining of the massive manmade lake is apparently quite a site to see and will attract tourists from all around Brittany. I guess we’ll just have to take more trips to the coast next year, quel dommage!


On the shores of the beautiful Lac de Guerlédan


When we weren’t lounging lakeside, we were walking in the nearby forests and fields, enjoying the lazy summer landscapes.



Having fun on top of hay bales

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Tuckered out after a long walk

On the rare occasion where I was able to be productive, I got a bit of work done in the garden, weeding, harvesting and preserving. I turned bushels of plums from the neighbors into sweet and sour sauce, chutney and jam. I turned masses of cucumbers from another neighbor into quick fridge pickles (best thing ever!).

DSC_0126 I bundled up hordes of garlic, onions and shallots; some of the rare things I’m able to grow successfully every year. Despite my enthusiasm for gardening I don’t have terribly green thumbs yet! I’m learning…


After the rentrée (back to school) and the departure of our French students, we took a mini-holiday to the coast to celebrate the end of a busy summer and the start of a more tranquil Fall.

We started our mini roadtrip in the old port of Auray, a quaint town South West of where we live.


From Auray, we went to Carnac where we enjoyed the sites of old menhirs (ancient rock formations). We also enjoyed a picnic dinner, long walk and swim at the 25 kilometer stretch of sand dune beaches.

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From Carnac, we drove 15 minutes to the very popular presqu’ile (almost island, or peninsula) of Quiberon. On the West coast of Quiberon is the Côte Sauvage, a rugged, rocky and wild stretch of coast. We arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset.

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The next day, we left Carnac for Concarneau. Concarneau is a beautiful port town with a painfully adorable intramuros (old walled city).

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After walking through the narrow winding streets of Intramuros, and back along the tops of its ramparts, we enjoyed a three-course lunch at a restaurant on the main avenue along the port. You can tell I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging…I didn’t even note the name of the restaurant, and wasn’t able to find it online! It remains a mystery…


Entrée: Salade aux fromages


Plat principal: Cabillaud avec sa velouté, riz au curcuma et ratatouille


Dessert: Crème brulée à la pistache

That afternoon, full (and in my case, fuzzy from white wine) we drove the the presqu’ile de Crozon, or the Crozon Peninsula. Oh.Mon.Dieu. In all the places I’ve visited in Brittany, this area blew me away the most. Imagine the rocky seascapes of Brittany, the white sand beaches, dotted with cute French seaport villages. Now imagine all that, but in place of the normal Atlantic water, you have bright turquoise Caribbean-like water. That is the Crozon.


Caribbean water in Brittany…who knew?

We stayed at the very start of the peninsula, in a small town called Telgruc-sur-Mer where we scored an amazing air bnb rental with ocean views.

The beach at Telgruc-sur-Mer

The beach at Telgruc-sur-Mer

The view from our maisonette independante.

The view from our petite maisonette indépendante.

We took full advantage of this view during our picnic dinner on the terrace. DSC_0395 DSC_0396

After dinner we strolled down to a hidden cove to enjoy the sunset, surprising some grazing cows on the way.

Happiest cows on earth...look at their view!

Happiest cows on earth…look at their view!

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The next day, we woke up to this breakfast…pas mal.

DSC_0416With our last few precious hours before heading home, we explored the beaches at Crozon and Morgat, where we developed major house envy from the many manoirs which dot the beaches there.


And then, all too soon, it was back to kreizh breizh and the reality of work.  I left my heart in the Crozon…

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The Golden State

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If home is where the heart is, then my heart is languishing in several pieces in various corners of the planet…San Diego, San Francisco, Kauai, Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Rennes and now a little village in Central Brittany. They’ve all felt like home at some point in time.  But my soul is in California: it’s where I grew up, did my studies, met most of my close friends.

This particular trip back to California in June was particularly special because I had so many things to celebrate, including the wedding of two dear friends. But to start at the beginning: I finally met my new nephew August for the first time.

He's only 2 months old in this photo, but already wearing clothes for 12 month olds!

He’s only 2 months old in this photo, but already wearing clothes for 12 month olds!

And of course, I got to spend time with my older nephew Rowan, now happily a big brother.

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One happy Auntie

One happy Auntie

And of course, I was happy to get to see their mama too, my one and only Big Sis. And her husband. And my parents.

IMG_7254I was also reunited with some of mes filles in San Diego…(Shout out to Lisa, Kelsey, Monica and Carris).

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And more of mes filles during a 2 day road trip to L.A…(Shout out to Katie, Melina and Jem).

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Where, by the way, we ate some really incredible food at Tavern and A.O.C.

Can't decide what to order? We tried one of each of the cocktails on the menu.

Can’t decide what to order? We tried one of each of the cocktails on the menu.

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We didn’t just eat in L.A., we also vintage shopped in Silver Lake, browsed the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market (where I spotted C.J. from Top Chef!). The 2 days in L.A. flew by, and before we knew it we were headed South back to San Diego. Where we found these little munchkins…

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Is there anything cuter than your sister’s kids playing with your best friend’s kids? But, too soon, we were saying goodbye…After 11 days in Southern California, eating fish tacos, drinking craft beer, running on the beach and sleeping in my childhood bed, it was off to the airport to Oakland, where my brother picked me up.

He whisked me off to eat at his new(ish) restaurant in Berkeley, Easy Creole, where I got the VIP treatment, bien sûr. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, please do check it out. They always have loads of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available on their daily changing menu. I’m proud of you bro!

Bourbon Red Beans, Spinach and Mushroom Etouffée, Tofu Ropa and Chicken Creole with Brown Rice and Creole Bread. Délicieux!

A dégustation of the day’s specials: Bourbon Red Beans, Spinach and Mushroom Etouffée, Tofu Ropa and Chicken Creole with Brown Rice and Creole Bread. Délicieux!

Gluten-free cornbread

Gluten-free cornbread

After, we went back to my brother and sister-in-law’s new house near the Berkeley hills. Jess and Julie really lucked out: their new maison has amazing views of the new Bay Bridge, and the City all the way up to the Marin Headlands.

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The famous Bay Area fog lifts just enough to let the sunset peak through

After a too-short visit with  J&J, they dropped me off North of San Francisco in Mill Valley where I reunited with mes meilleures amies de Rennes Emma, Berit and Kelsey (the bride!).

Encore ensemble

Enfin, on est réuni! 

We spent a perfect weekend eating, drinking, dancing and celebrating the marriage of Kelsey and Steven.

Pre wedding brunch at Sweetwater, our resident bar for all the World Cup Games. Allez les bleus!

Pre wedding brunch at Sweetwater, our resident bar for all the World Cup Games. Allez les bleus!


The bride having post-Wedding drinks at the 2 a.m club. La classe.

The bride having post-Wedding drinks at the 2 a.m club. La classe.

Daytrip to Point Reyes to shake off the hangover from the wedding

Daytrip to Point Reyes to shake off the hangover from the wedding

Hog Island Oyster Co., where we had an amazing picnic lunch avec des huitres and a phenomenal view to boot.

Hog Island Oyster Co., where we had an amazing picnic lunch avec des huitres and a phenomenal view to boot.

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After an amazing 2 weeks in California, I said à bientôt and schlepped it back to Kreizh Breizh. The almost 24 hour trip was worth it, because when I got home I had these little buddies waiting for me.

Mes amours

Mes amours

*** Thanks to Maren, Kelsey and Steven for some of the photos

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Spring slips into summer, the best Coffee Cake and a visitor

I’m making up for lost time by doing 3 posts in 1 as I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus lately:  we’ve been busy with students and work, and lots and lots of Spring cleaning projects.

And although it’s been a productive Spring, it’s also been a strange one, at least weather-wise. Mid-Spring felt like summer, and now, as we’re entering the summer months, it feels like we’re slipping back into winter. Nights have been unseasonably cold, and sudden bouts of wind and rain often chase me in from the garden.


A pale pink camelia: one of the first things in the garden to bloom after a long winter


Cherry blossoms mean Spring really is here and winter is on the way out


Sun setting on one of our Spring days that felt more like summer


Breton cows are happy in any weather

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The leaves are just now coming out on the walnut tree. It’s always the last thing to come to life.

Coming in from the garden, tired from hauling stones and shoveling dirt, I crave something sweet and uplifting. This coffee cake from The British Bake Off is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. It’s not one of those coffee cakes that is sickly sweet, but rather has a nice coffee flavor and a healthy crunch.


Crunchy Coffee Cake


From The Great British Bake Off Everyday


20.5 cm round tin, greased


For the streusel

100g light brown sugar (I subbed cassonade sugar because we don’t ave brown sugar here)
50g plain flour
25g oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50g unsalted butter
50g walnut or pecan pieces

For the coffee cake

2 tablespoons instant coffee
2 tablespoons boiling water
120g unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter at didn’t add more salt later)
200g caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
200ml buttermilk (I subbed lait ribot)
250g plain flour
good pinch of salt (I didn’t add salt)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teasppon baking soda
icing sugar for dusting (I didn’t have any and I didn’t really miss it!)


Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). To make the streusel put the sugar, flour, oats, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and mix with your fingers. Add the soft butter and mix into the dry ingredients, rubbing and squeezing until it looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts and set aside.

For the cake mixture, stir the coffee in the boiling water in a cup until dissolved. Leave to cool. Put the soft butter into a mixing bowl a beat until creamy. Add sugar and beat, scraping down the sides occasionally, until well-combined and fluffy.

Put the eggs in a small bowl and beat with a fork, just to combine. Gradually add to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as you go. Stir in the buttermilk until combined, and then stir in the coffee. Add the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt (if using) and fold in with a spatula until well-combined.

Spoon half the mixture into the greased tin and spread evenly. Scatter half the streusel mix in an even layer. Repeat the last two steps.

Place in the heated oven and bake for about 1 hour, on until a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Dust with icing sugar. Eat and enjoy and finish your Spring cleaning!


I’ve needed lots of this cake lately to keep me going through all our afore-mentioned Spring cleaning. Besides having the cake to help me through, I was also pushed on by the fact that we had an important visitor coming: my dear friend Augusta.

Augusta is arguably the reason that I came to Brittany in the first place. We met and became fast friends while studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence. Luckily, our schools back in Northern California were very close, so we were able to see each other quite often once our séjour in France had come to an end. During one of these reunions, we were discussing how much we missed France, one glass of wine led to another and soon enough we were vowing that if in one year from that time we weren’t happy with our respective “career paths”, we would go back to France and teach English. One year came and went and nothing much had changed, so we decided to go for it. Augusta lined up a TEFL certification course in Brittany, and I signed up immediately. By the time the departure date came round, Augusta had actually landed a great job in New York, where she still is today. So I left for France toute seule, but as we all know, it worked out in the end.

So I was really excited for Augusta to finally make the trip to Brittany after all these years. We had discovered the South of France together, and I couldn’t wait to show her my new corner of France, where she has never been before.

We had just a short 2 days to show her around. We started with the Sunday morning marché at the nearby Abbée de Bon Repos. After, we had a walk around the lac de Guerlédan. The rest of the day was for lazy walks with the dogs, lounging in front of the fire with wine and catching up.

Luckily, the next day the rain stayed away for our day trip to the Coast. We went to the beaches at Le Pouldu, not far from Lorient. We walked along part of the 7 kilometer stretch of Coastal path towards the Port de Doëlan.

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After a bit of walking, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Port de Doëlan, a quaint little port village.

DSC_0391 DSC_0392We ate at one of the two restaurants on the Rive Gauche side, Le Suroît. I wanted to introudce Augusta to Brittany’s gorgeous seafood, and we weren’t disappointed.

We started our perfect lunch with des huitres

The perfect start to our perfect lunch: les huitres

I introduced Augusta to boulots, my favorite sea snack

I introduced Augusta to les boulots, my favorite Breton sea snack

For main course we had Aile de raie

For our main course we had Aile de raie (ray)

After our most perfect lunch, we continued our walk along the coastal path, this time heading in the other direction towards Le Pouldu. After walking off the wine and the decadent lunch, we hopped back in the car to drive home. We stopped at Quimperlé on the way, a cute little town nestled in a valley that is well worth a visit.

We arrived home after a beautiful sunny day out, just in time for the rain to start. We cozied up in the kitchen, cooking some boeuf à la Bourguignonne and sipping some wine. Sadly, the next day, Augusta packed her valises and left us for Paris. Her visit was short but sweet, and we’re looking forward to the next one, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later…

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Les sablés d’Yves Cameborde

DSC_0369Note: To see this same post in English, scroll down

Yves Cameborde est un chef de cuisine connu comme le roi de « bistronomy ‏ .« Personellement, moi, je lui célèbre car il a crée ces sablés. J’ai trouvé cette recette au blog Chocolate and Zucchini, un blog bilingue que j’adore car c’est écrit par une parisienne qui est inspirée par la cuisine melting-pot de Californie, comme elle a vécu la pendant des années. Etant Francophile née et élevée en Californie, je peux m’identifier!

Comme Clotilde de C&Z a signalé,  ces sablés sont si exceptionnels grâce au fait qu’ils sont cuits à basse température, leur permettant d’avoir une texture croustillant et un extérieur caramélisé. Ils sont le meilleur de la Bretagne: la vitrine idéale pour le beurre Breton qui est si incroyable . En plus, ils sont très facile à préparer…


200 g de beurre doux, le meilleur possible, à température ambiante
90 g de sucre
une bonne pincée de sel (sauf que si le beurre que vous utilisez est salé)
1 ou 2 gousses de vanille, selon leur taille
250 g de farine
1 jaune d’oeuf ou 3 c.s. de lait pour badigeonner
du sucre cristallisé pour enrober

Pour une cinquantaine de petits sablés.

Dans un saladier, battez le beurre à la spatule jusqu’à ce qu’il soit pommade (= crémeux). Ajoutez le sucre et le sel et mélangez bien.

Coupez la (ou les) gousse(s) de vanille dans la longueur et récoltez les graines en raclant l’intérieur avec le côté non coupant de la lame du couteau. Ajoutez-les au mélange. (Gardez les gousses vides pour faire du sucre vanillé ou de l’huile à la vanille, pour infuser dans du lait, etc.)

Ajoutez la farine et incorporez-la du bout des doigts jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit complètement absorbée.

Rassemblez la pâte en boule sans pétrir. Divisez-la en 4 morceaux et roulez chaque morceau pour former un boudin de 3 cm de diamètre environ. Enveloppez-les dans du film plastique ou du papier sulfurisé, et mettez au frais au moins 1h. (On peut aussi en congeler une partie ; à la sortie du congélateur, laissez reposer environ 1h à température ambiante avant d’enchaîner avec le reste de la recette.)

Préchauffez le four à 150°C et recouvrez la plaque du four d’un tapis de cuisson en silicone ou d’une feuille de papier sulfurisé.

Retirez les boudins du réfrigérateur. Battez le jaune d’oeuf (si c’est ce que vous utilisez) avec quelques gouttes d’eau pour le rendre un peu plus liquide. Prenez chaque boudin de pâte l’un après l’autre, badigeonnez-le de jaune d’oeuf ou de lait au pinceau à pâtisserie, puis saupoudrez de sucre cristalisé pour bien enrober.

A l’aide d’un couteau bien aiguisé, coupez chaque boudin en tranches d’environ 1 cm d’épaisseur. Disposez les tranches sur la plaque de four en leur laissant juste un peu d’espace — ils ne s’étalent pas beaucoup.

Enfournez et laissez cuire 30 minutes, jusqu’à ce que la pâte soit prise au centre et les côtés légèrement caramélisés (les sablés ne doreront pas). Laissez reposer 5 minutes sur la plaque avant de transférer sur une grille jusqu’à complet refroidissement. Recommencez avec le reste de la pâte.

Les sablés se gardent une petite semaine dans une boîte hermétique à température ambiante.

Bon appétit!


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Sablés by Yves Cameborde

DSC_0369 Yves Cameborde is a celebrated French chef known as the ‘King of bistronomy’. I personally celebrate him because he wrote this amazing recipe for sablés, the Breton version of shortbread. I found the recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini, a bilingual blog I love because it’s written by a French woman living in Paris who has been very inspired by the melting-pot cuisine of California, as she lived there for many years. Being a Francophile born and bred in California, I can relate!

As Clotilde at C&Z points out, these sablés are so exceptional because they are slow baked at a lower temperature, allowing them to have a crispy crunch and a nice, caramelized golden brown exterior. They are the best of Brittany: the perfect showcase for exceptional Breton salted butter. And they couldn’t be easier to make…

Sablés (Breton shortbread)


Prep time: 15 minutes     Cook time: 30 minute     Overall time: 1 hour, 45 minutes


200 grams (7 ounces, or 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) good-quality unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used beautiful Breton salted butter, and didn’t add salt to the recipe)
90 grams (scant 1/2 cup) sugar
a good pinch salt (as I used salted butter, I skipped this)
1 or 2 vanilla beans, depending on their size
250 grams (8 3/4 ounces, about 2 cups) flour
egg yolk or 3 tablespoons milk for brushing
coarse sugar for coating (I use a large-crystal unrefined cane sugar)


  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Knife
  • Stand mixer (optional, can also be mixed by hand)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Parchment paper


  1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter with a spatula until creamy. Add the sugar and salt and mix them in thoroughly.
  2. Split the vanilla bean(s) down its (their) length and collect the seeds by scraping the insides of the bean with the dull side of a knife. Stir the seeds into the mixture. (Save the empty pods for another use — to make vanilla sugar or vanilla oil, to infuse in milk, etc.)
  3. Add the flour and rub it into the butter mixture with the tips of your fingers until incorporated.
  4. Although Camdeborde recommends making the dough by hand to avoid heating it, Clotilde at C&Z confessed she made it in her stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I made it the old school way because I like to get my hands dirty!
  5. Gather the dough into a ball without kneading (this is the fun part because it’s like playing with Play-Doh. Divide into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a log, about 3 cm (1 1/4 inches) in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper, and place in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can freeze all or part of the logs to bake later; thaw partially at room temperature for about 1 hour before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.)
  6. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°C) and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of parchment paper.
  7. Remove the logs from the fridge. Beat the egg yolk, if using, with a few drops of water to thin it out. Working with each log in turn, use a pastry brush to coat the log with egg yolk or milk on all sides, then sprinkle with coarse sugar until coated all over.
  8. Use a sharp knife to slice the logs into rounds, about 1 cm (1/3 inch) in thickness. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheet, leaving just a little space around the sablés — they won’t expand much.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, until the dough is set in the center — the cookies will barely color — and the sugar is lightly caramelized on the sides. Let rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  10. The sablés will keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Bon appétit!  

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Sunday Morning Pizza


Life has taught me that weekend mornings are for food treats. As a little girl (and even as a teenager) my mom used to make her famous blueberry banana pancakes on Saturdays. Sometimes, after sleepovers, my friends parents would take us to the donut shop (chocolate long johns! bear claws!). Later, as a young adult living in San Francisco, my friends and I spent many a Sunday morning at brunch with bottomless mimosas or Bloody Mary’s. Bref, in my life, weekends are for food  indulgence. They are not for practical, well-balanced meals that will get us through the school or work day.

My older siblings also taught me that leftovers are brilliant the next morning with a fried egg on top. This concept applies to almost anything: Chinese food, Mexican food, pasta, and, of course, pizza.

It was with all this in mind that I awoke with the idea that for breakfast on this particular Sunday morning I had to have pizza with fried eggs on top. I didn’t have leftovers languishing in the fridge from last night, because, lucky me, I got to eat at L’Atelier, a quaint and delicious new bistro in nearby Langoëlan.

Having anticipated my Sunday morning too-much-wine-the-night-before munchies, I had made tomato sauce and pizza dough the night before, so all I had to do was roll out of bed (looking like a hungover nut) and assemble it to put in the oven.

Pizza Dough 


from Mario Batali (notes from me in parentheses) 


1/4 cup light red or white wine (I used cidre, being in Brittany and all…)
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 ounces fresh yeast (if you don’t have fresh, sub in 1 1/2 tablespoon dry yeast)
1 tablespoon honey (when I haven’t had honey I’ve used golden syrup and maple syrup with success)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour


Place wine (or cider!), water and yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the honey, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix well to combine. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it becomes a loose batter. Add 2 more cups of the flour and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, incorporating as much flour as you can with the wooden spoon.

Bring the dough together by hand and turn out onto a floured board or marble surface. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and firm (or, if you’re lazy like me you can use your mixer instead). Place dough in a clean, lightly-oiled bowl, using remaining tablespoon of oil and cover with a towel. Let rise in the warmest part of the kitchen for 45 minutes (I left mine by the fire overnight).

For individual pizzas or calzones, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and knead into rounds. For one large pizza, knead into 1 large round. For either, let rest for 15 minutes.

Tomato Sauce

From Marcella Hazan (Notes by me in parentheses)


2 cups tomatoes, with their juices, for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half


Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta (No! Instead of discarding the onion, I blend it into the sauce! Or I cut it up and eat it a top grits. Never waste a delicious onion!)

This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.


Now that you have your dough and your sauce you’re ready to roll, literally. Roll out that dough, add whatever toppings you like and bake that pizza in the oven at 400 F until the pizza is crisp and lightly brown around edges. Cooking time depends on how thinly you roll the dough (If you’re anything like me, the thinner the better).


Assortment of peppers at the ready. Pizza without chili is a desperate thing.


Zucchini, caramelized onions, tomato sauce and emmenthal cheese with 2 eggs

Caramelized onions, tomato sauce and ementhal cheese with 2 eggs

Caramelized onions, tomato sauce and emmenthal cheese with 2 eggs

Bon appétit! Enjoy your weekend indulgence.


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It’s raining dogs and dogs…


Shortly before Christmas, it started raining and gusting wind in our corner of the world and it hasn’t stopped. Il pleut des chordes. Houses and streets are flooded. The ramparts of the local castle in Pontivy collapsed. What once were small creeks meandering innocently through the woods are now giant, swirling marshes, indiscriminately engulfing everything in their path. Just when you think the weather must surely let up, it gets worse. Unbelievably, we’re only getting a fraction of what the poor UK is enduring at the moment.

Despite the bad weather, life trudges on. In happy news, we’ve adopted a third dog. Meet Tikaani. She’s one year old, sweet and adorable and absolutely gorgeous. We now have une vraie meute (pack)!

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Today, there was a break in the terrible weather and the sun (the sun!) was shining for a whole afternoon. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Ça fait du bien. We took advantage by taking our meute out for a nice long walk.

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Alas, the bad weather returns in a few hours and is supposed to be worse than ever…wish us luck!

Shilah, trying to recide between his bone and his ball. La vie est dure.

Shilah, enjoying today’s sunshine in the garden, trying to decide between his bone and his ball. La vie est dure.

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Keeping on the winter citrus train…

Lemon BarsDSC_0069

from Barefoot Contessa

  • Tools
  • Stand mixer or large bowl and whisk
  • Pan
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups or scale
  • Measuring spoons

For the crust:
1/2 pound (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (115g) granulated sugar
2 cups (220g) flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups (675g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup (235ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (110g) flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles, squares or whatever shape you desire and dust with confectioners’ sugar (I actually didn’t have any on hand so I sprinkled sea salt and lemon zest on top).

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Orange and Olive Oil Loaf

California orange trees are happy orange trees

California orange trees are happy orange trees

Growing up in Southern California where citrus flourishes, the sight of groves full of fruit-laden orange trees evokes winter. My dad used to deliver boxes of clementines from one of the local orchards to all of his clients as a holiday thank you. Now I live in Brittany, where I’m happy we have four tangible seasons, unlike Southern California with its Mediterranean climate, but where, sadly, citrus refuses to grow. Instead of picking it fresh from my parent’s trees, I have to settle for buying it from the supermarket, imported from Spain or Morocco. But, hey, life is full of trade offs. The butter here makes up for it.

Since the citrus is cheap here at the moment, I’ve been buying it by the bushel and we can’t eat it quickly enough. So, of course, I turn to baking. I think some Sticky Orange Buns are in the offing too…

Orange and Olive Oil LoafDSC_0054 DSC_0047

from The Great British Bake Off Everyday

Loaf tin, greased and lined with parchment paper to cover the base and two short sides
Large bowl
Wooden spoon
Measuring cup or scale
Measuring spoons

2 medium eggs
125 ml (1/2 cup) mild, fruity, extra-virgin olive oil (it doesn’t need to be expensive!)
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
175 ml (3/4 cup) reduced or full-fat milk
200 g (7/8 cup) caster sugar
200 g  (1 3/4 cup) white spelt flour (I didn’t have any handy so I subbed for regular white flour, but the spelt is supposed to give a slight nutty taste)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
good pinch of salt
1 tablespoon marmalade (I didn’t have marmalade, so I made an orange glaze by heating the juice of 1 orange with 50 grams of sugar over medium heat for 1 minute)

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, orange zest and milk, whisking until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the sugar. Sift in the flour, baking soda and powder and salt. Mix well to make a smooth and runny batter.

Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin, spreading evenly. Bake in the oven for 55-60 minutes, until risen and golden brown and a tester stuck in the center comes out clean.

Set the tin on a wire rack to cool, immediately brushing it with the marmalade or the glaze. Run a knife around the edges of the tin to loosen the cake from the sides. Leave it to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.

Bon appétit! 

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A Stormy Christmas

We kicked off the Christmas season with a visit to Southwest England to see my boyfriend’s family. He is the biggest Christmas geek I know, so he was really excited to show me England in the Christmas spirit.


The Plymouth Coast, beautiful in any seasonDSC_0029

And England was in the Christmas spirit. The city center had fake snow and twinkling lights galore. Smiling families posed inside a life-size snow globe to have their portrait taken. Most of our too-short visit was spent running around Christmas shopping and doing other errands, but we did take some time to go up to Exeter to see the Cathedral and the Christmas lights.


Exeter’s picturesque city center

DSC_0012 DSC_0009 (1) DSC_0002 DSC_0005 (1)Just in front of the Cathedral we happened upon a beautiful Christmas market. DSC_0017DSC_0014DSC_0011

Our visit flew by and all too soon we were saying goodbye to Toby’s family, exchanging gifts to stash under the tree until Christmas day. By the time we got home to France, we were itching to decorate the house for Christmas. The first thing we did once we got off the ferry was to put up our Christmas tree and decorations, just in time for the arrival of my Mom and Dad from California.

DSC_0031 DSC_0035IMG_5353 IMG_5354 IMG_5358

Mom and Dad wearing the souvenirs we brought them from England

Mom and Dad wearing the souvenirs we brought them from England

My parents have bad luck with weather in Brittany. I know Brittany and rain are practically synonymous, but whenever my parents come the weather is exceptionally bad, even by Brittany standards. This Christmas period was no exception: during their visit we had maybe 2 sunny days, but the rest were gusty, rainy, stormy. We lost electricity several times throughout their stay, and running water as well. We didn’t have a white Christmas, but we certainly had a wet one. Small streams turned into small lakes, the canals overflowed, streets were shut down, friends’ houses flooded. Still some hamlets are without running water and electricity.

In France, in lieu of saying ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’, an expression the French find amusing albeit bizarre, they say il pleut des cordes (It’s raining ropes). At this point, Brittany has had more than enough cordes for one winter…

The calm before the storm

Waterfalls cropping up where they don't belong

Waterfalls cropping up where they don’t belong

An impromptu moat at the Chateau du Rohan in Pontivy where there hasn't been a moat in hundreds of years.

An impromptu moat at the Chateau du Rohan in Pontivy where there hasn’t been a moat in hundreds of years.

This weather is fit only for ducks (Thanks Mama for this photo)

Un temps pour les canards. This weather is fit only for ducks (Thanks Mama for this photo)

But without the rain, there would be no rainbows

But without the rain, there would be no rainbows

Despite being stuck in doors, we had a ball playing board games, playing music, drinking bottle after bottle of red wine and eating enough to hibernate, all by candlelight.

Christmas Dinner: Roast Turkey, Nut Loaf, Stuffing, Mashed Carrots and Turnip, Roast Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Brussels Sprouts, Apple Sauce, Cranberry Sauce, and Two Types of Gravy

Christmas Dinner: Roast Turkey, Nut Loaf, Stuffing, Mashed Carrots and Turnip, Roast Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Brussels Sprouts, Apple Sauce, Cranberry Sauce, and Two Types of Gravy

Dessert: Christmas Pudding  a la Toby's Mum with Clotted Cream

Dessert: Christmas Pudding a la Toby’s Mum with Clotted Cream

And when there was a brief respite from the rain, we would walk, walk, walk…photo 5IMG_5374   photo 3   photo 2   IMG_7543 IMG_7464All those storms made for some pretty righteous skies. IMG_5361IMG_5375IMG_5385One rainy day blended into the next, until suddenly, it was time for my parents to pack up and head back to California. I’ll never forget the Christmas it rained.

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