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.

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

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

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

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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.

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Crunchy Coffee Cake

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From The Great British Bake Off Everyday

Tools

20.5 cm round tin, greased

Ingredients

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!)

Directions

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!

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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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