Most of us travel to the Brittany region of France for a family-friendly holiday. After all, it’s just an overnight on the ferry and as soon as you land in Roscoff, you’ve a plethora of EuroParcs, beaches and creperies at your fingertips. But me? I left my kids behind and travelled to Brittany for a different reason.

I travelled for the butter.

Before you start berating me for leaving Irish butter in the dust, I can explain: just weeks prior, I was speaking to a Bord Bia representative about something completely different, but butter came up in the conversation (with me, it often does).

I mentioned how popular Kerrygold currently is in North America. She confirmed it is also a big hit in Germany and other European countries. But the one country where it’s not the most popular girl in the room?

“You won’t find much Kerrygold in France,” she said.

We know that French consumers are generally discerning with their food purchases, and it is frequently reported that French children have better diets and more adventurous palates than the average Irish child (which is certainly true in my household), but I needed to know why the French rated their own butter higher than Irish butter. I needed to go to the source, and Brittany is the butter capital of the country or la capitale française du beurre, if you will.

So, I hopped on the Cork-Roscoff ferry and did a taste-test of my own.

Brittany Butter

Other regions of France are known for their wine; Brittany is known for its milk.

Driving through a landscape of lush green grass from Roscoff to the picturesque town of Pont-Aven made me realise why. Native dairy breeds like the Pie Noire (which was brought back from the brink of extinction in the 1970s) and Froment de Léon (whose butter has a noticeable orange tinge) are commonly found throughout the region.

Located on France’s west coast, Brittany has always had access to excellent quality sea salt.

This, combined with the high quality milk output in the area meant the people of Brittany would traditionally add a good amount of salt – mainly salt from the area of Guérande – to their creamy butter.

It’s a beautiful combination.

While in Ireland, our butter is the perfect match to brown bread and smoked salmon, you can see (and taste) why the slightly-more-saline Brittany butter is the perfect accompaniment to a jambon beurre – the French version of the humble ham sandwich, served on a crusty baguette.

If learning about Brittany butter interests you, head to the town of Saint-Malo where the Maison du Beurre is headed by master butter maker Jean-Yves Bordier.

Learn his traditional butter-making methods and how he makes flavoured butters before dining next door at the Bistro Autour du Beurre.

Sweet treats

France is synonymous with delectable breads, baked goods and laminated pasties. While Brittany is no different, thanks to their specific joie de beurre, the region is home to a few of its own creative, buttery delicacies.


Does the perfect morning bun exist? It’s not a heavily-iced cinnamon swirl, or those cruffins you see everywhere nowadays. It’s actually a heavenly mess of laminated bread dough, butter and sugar: the Kouign-amann.

Kouign-amann, a traditional Breton cake made with butter.

You will find Kouign-amann pastries throughout Brittany in both savoury and sweet variations. The name directly translates into ‘butter cake’ (from the Breton language, which is Celtic in origin).

A classic Kouign-amann consists of thinly rolled bread dough layered with lots of sugar and butter before being baked to a perfect golden brown.

During the baking process, the excess butter and sugar pools at the bottom to create a light layer of caramel. It isn’t overly sweet, but it is overly buttery (in the best possible way).

Where to try:

Many bakers specialise in this iconic pastry, but the best are listed by the Véritable kouign-amann de Douarnenez association. These include Boulangerie Pascal Jean in Douarnenez-Tréboul and Pâtisserie Laurent Le Daniel in Rennes.

However, there is one on the list which is extremely convenient for those who are about to head home to Ireland on the ferry.

Maison Georges Larnicol has multiple locations throughout Brittany, including one in Roscoff. Even better? They sell large Kouign-amann in sealed foil baking tins. Simply reheat in the tin when you get home and enjoy a little piece of Brittany in Ireland.

Far Breton

I’m calling this a cake, but it’s not really a cake. It’s more of a cross between a French clafoutis (a dense, custardy bake usually made with cherries) and a flan. Either way, it is delicious.

Simple to make in concept; it contains just flour, butter, milk, eggs and sugar. However, I suspect there is more to the baking technique than meets the eye. A Far Breton is often flavoured with rum, prunes or sometimes raisins. The top bakes to a very dark, deep brown and the remainder of the cake is soft, squidgy, not too sweet and just really delicious.

Where to try:

While you will find Far Breton at most hotel breakfast buffets and in most boulangeries in the region, there were three patisseries/boulangeries which were voted the best places in Brittany to try the delicacy: Pavoine Jean Marc in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo; Boulangerie Anthony Pontgélard in Locmariaquer; and L’Atelier des Saveurs in Plaintel.

Breton biscuits

Can you visit Brittany without trying some famous Sablé Breton or Palet Breton? If you are in the vicinity of Pont-Aven, it is an actual crime to not stop in the town for some traditional Galettes de Pont-Aven.

Traou Mad Galettes de Pont-Aven. / Janine Kennedy

All of these biscuits are basically Brittany’s version of shortbread – but they are unlike any shortbread you’ve ever had. The three (galettes, palet, sablé) differ slightly in appearance, thickness and texture, but are made with similar ingredients. Again, butter and caramelised sugar flavours shine through and the way Brittany bakers have protected the heritage of their recipes over the years is extremely special.

Where to try:

Traou Mad (which translates into “Good Things”) in Pont-Aven is probably the most recognisable biscuiterie in the region. Their iconic biscuits are thick, slightly crunchy and highly addictive. The packaging and long shelf life also makes it easy to bring them home for gifts and snacks. Do not be tempted by alternatives – once you try the Traou Mad version, you will be hooked.

About Brittany

Janine was a guest of Brittany Ferries and Brittany Tourism for this visit. Booking the ferry up to a year in advance is recommended, as accommodation sells quickly. Cork to Roscoff on Brittany Ferries Pont Aven for two adults and two children (with standard car and pet-friendly cabin) is €348 one way. 2024 fares start from €117 each way for two people by foot including an en suite cabin, and from €192 each way for a car and two people including an en suite cabin. The ferry features family-friendly entertainment and ocean-view dining. There is also an on-board spa and duty-free shopping is available.

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