Far Breton

‘My grand-mère is the best cook in Brittany,’ the child exclaimed defiantly, crossing her arms and eyeing her schoolyard friend.  ‘Not possible, you lie.  My grand-mère makes the best food around,’ boldly cried the opposing child.  Onlookers watched the banter back and forth and knew neither child would back down.  For in Brittany, every grand- mère was the best cook.

This custard tarty cake, studded with rum soaked prunes, is a speciality of the Brittany region and a quintessential dessert from this picturesque area of France.  It is creamy, dense and smooth, and comes by way of my lovely French friend, Ms Couzelin

Ms Couzelin, my macaron-taster cum work colleague, grew up in Brittany, the most western province of France.  Until the age of 20, she would visit her grand-mère almost daily when living close by; each Thursday practically running to the house for her weekly lesson in crepe making (another speciality of the Brittany region).

Marie, her grand-mère, would make Far Breton frequently.  Mostly when milk was plentiful – or on request.  Ms Couzelin still makes it now when she wants to recreate a dish, from home.  She recollects helping her grand-mère in her kitchen, and sometimes sneaking tastes when no one was looking.  Remembers family gathered around enjoying the Far for dessert, breakfast or for a coffee break.  Seated on benches around a heavy, wooden farmers table, or in grand-mère’s kitchen.

I feel blessed to have the recipe that Marie only shared with her granddaughters, sometimes strangers, but never her neighbours! 

Ms Couzelin, merci beaucoup pour ta recette.

{ Far Breton aux Pruneaux } from Ms Couzelin’s grand-mère, Marie

* Ingredients *
2 tablespoons rum
150g pitted prunes
150g plain flour / all purpose flour
½ litre or 2 cups whole milk
Pinch salt
100g sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

* Directions *
Heat the rum in a small saucepan and slowly heat the prunes for 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 200C or 400F. Butter a shallow 6-cup baking dish. Add the flour and salt to a large bowl.  Add half the milk and slowly whisk to a paste.  Whisk in the remaining milk until smooth.  Add the sugar and continue to whisk.  Crack the eggs and one by one, add to the batter.  Finally, add the vanilla.   Whisk until completely smooth.  Drain the prunes from the rum and scatter on the bottom of the dish.  Pour the batter on top.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.