Monday, July 9, 2012

A Simple French Dessert Everyone Will Love: Far Breton


I promised myself that I wasn’t going to do any more cherry recipes for a while, and here I am posting another, but I really do have a good excuse.  It started out that I was going to make a traditional recipe from France’s Brittany coast that I have only had a couple of times but it left quite an impression on my palate.  This dessert known as Far Breton is a simple little cake with a custardy texture dotted with plump prunes.  Now I say that I really like it, but I also pick out most of the prunes and eat cake that surrounds them, so that’s where the cherries come in.

I really wanted to make a truly authentic cake,  so I went out and purchased the plumpest and most moist prunes I could find.  I placed the package on the counter and for a couple of days I would pick it up and look it over promising myself that I was going to make this prune cake and love it.  Well, I just couldn’t do it.  I did taste one of the prunes thinking that maybe over the years my tastes have changed and I might like them, but nope, no luck.  
Seeing that I just don’t like prunes enough to invest 3 eggs, 2 cups of milk and 3 hours into them I fell back on my old favorite cherries.  Now I know that this makes this cake more of a clafoutis, but my cherries are just a substitution, so please feel free to go back to prunes if you like them.  I have also seen versions with apples, pears and peaches.

This cake is pleasantly sweet and has a dense texture that makes it quite portable and perfect for a picnic or potluck.  I’ve read that some people think it is best after it has cooled on the same day it is made instead of leftover from the fridge the day after.  I like it both ways but do enjoy it the most at room temperature.   In France they enjoy this with a glass of sparkling cider, so for an authentic experience you might want to give this a try, but personally I am partial to a cup of Lady Grey.

This is a very easy recipe to make and very rewarding to serve, so next time you are looking for something rustic yet elegant, Far Breton is what you are looking for.  And the best thing of all my high altitude friends?  I made no adjustment whatsoever and look how beautifully it turned out.


Far Breton

When searching for a Far Breton base recipe I read over several.  They all seemed to be very similar, but the one I chose as my frame of reference comes from Epicurious (for their full recipe click here) because it seemed to be the size I was looking for.  When I started mixing it up I found that not only was it the perfect size, but it was super easy and all the ingredients were something that can usually be found in a well-stocked kitchen.   I have taken a few minor liberties with the recipe to help it conform a bit better to my personal tastes and just to make it a bit easier to prepare.





I have also included both Epicurious’ method and my adjustments so you can choose how you want to make yours.  I think that either way you will find the results to be outstanding.  This one’s a real keeper.

3 ounces of dried cherries (or 4 ounces of plump and juicy prunes)

1 cup of weakly brewed tea (or 1/4 cup brandy or other liqueur)

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 cup half and half, room temperature

3 whole eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus a couple of tablespoons extra to dust the fruit with


Powdered sugar to garnish


Place cherries or prunes in a medium size bowl.  Pour liquid over, stir and cover; set aside.

Combine milks, eggs, granulated sugar, butter and vanilla extract in the bowl of a blender and blend for 1 minute or beat like the dickens with a balloon whisk; cover and set aside in the refrigerator for at least one hour but up to overnight.

*The recipe from Epicurious called to it to sit for 3 hours, but I got great results letting mine sit for just one hour.

If you are using prunes follow these Epicurious directions:

Combine prunes, 1/2 cup water, and raisins in heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until fruit is softened and water is almost evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Pour brandy over fruit. Using long match, ignite brandy. Let flames burn off, shaking pan occasionally. Transfer fruit to small bowl. Cool completely. This can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

*For my cherries I just poured the cherries in a medium size bowl and poured hot tea over the top and let them steep until the tea cooled completely.  I then drained them just a couple of minutes before dusting them in flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the batter when they were added. 

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Butter 8-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom with parchment or waxed paper. Butter paper. Dust pan with flour, shaking out excess; place on baking sheet.  

 *When I made mine I was running low on butter so I used Baker’s Joy (an oil and flour aerosol), to spray the pan.  I then lined the bottom of the pan with parchment and sprayed it.  This worked great.

Re-blend batter until smooth, about 5 seconds. Pour into prepared cake pan. Drop prunes and raisins into batter, distributing evenly. Bake cake on baking sheet until sides are puffed and brown and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.  

*I found this step worked best when I removed it from the fridge for half an hour or so to let it warm just a bit before re-blending the batter.

Place piece of parchment or waxed paper on flat plate. Sift powdered sugar onto paper. Run knife around cake in pan to loosen. Invert pan onto paper, releasing cake. Remove pan; peel off paper. Place serving plate over cake and invert. Dust top of cake with additional powdered sugar.

*When my cake was cool I ran a knife around the edge before inverting it on a dinner plate.  I then peeled the parchment off of the bottom and inverted it once again on a second plate before dusting the top with a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar.

This serves 6 - 8




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