Culinate editor’s note: Bakeries in France often sell this pudding-like cake under the name flan aux pruneaux. (Confusingly, what in Spain is called flan is called crème caramel in France.) If you don’t want to bother with the fruit, try steeping a split and scraped vanilla bean in the batter, for a pure custardy experience.
Luck comes in many forms. Many years ago it came in the form of Marie-Cecile Noblet, our French au pair. Not only was she terrific with Joshua, our son, and a delight to have in our home, but she could cook. She came from Brittany and, as young as she was when she came to live with us, she had spent a few years working with her father, a chef and hotelier, so whenever the baby didn’t need us, we’d dash to the kitchen and cook together. Marie-Cecile was a natural cook — she could feel her way around almost any dish — and although she arrived without a single written recipe, she cooked and baked with ease and remarkable precision. She called it cooking au pif — cooking by following her nose.
Au pif was how Marie-Cecile made her far Breton, a custardy cake beloved in Brittany but just about unknown here. Based on a crêpe batter, the far is simple in every way — the batter is whirred together in a blender, given an overnight rest, then mixed with dried fruit and baked. Marie-Cecile made her far with prunes, but I can’t remember whether she steeped them or not (she probably plumped them over steaming water) and, of course, because she made the cake au pif, there is no recipe to refer to. So, in the spirit of au pif-ness, I offer you my recipe for far made with prunes and raisins (although you could use dried apricots or cherries or any of the fruits in combination), and I offer you a steeping choice: Earl Grey tea (a great companion to prunes) or Armagnac (an equally great, if stronger, companion).
|2||cups whole milk|
|¼||tsp. pure vanilla extract|
|5||Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled|
|¾||cup all-purpose flour|
|1||cup pitted prunes|
|⅓||cup dark raisins|
|1||cup hot tea, such as Earl Grey, or ¼ cup Armagnac plus ¼ cup water|
|~||Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting|
The far is best at room temperature — that’s when it is most puddingish — so try to serve it soon after you’ve unmolded it. It should be served plain with just the dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
I think the far is best on the day it is made, but it can be kept in the refrigerator for a day and served either chilled or at room temperature.
Culinate editor’s note: For a clafoutis-like dish, use halved fresh cherries (soaked in the Cognac or tea if you like) scattered across two buttered pie dishes. Pour the far breton batter over the cherries and bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.
Related recipe: Almost Classic Cherry Clafouti
This content is from the book Baking by Dorie Greenspan.
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