I rarely bake (at least compared to most bloggers I follow), mainly because, no matter which season of the year, I crave usually light creams, custards or mousses you will find published quite often on my blog and I often find a piece of good dark chocolate totally sufficient as a daily sweet treat. When I do bake, I often go back to my favourite thin French-style tarts or moist, creamy cakes, such as Polish Light Cheesecake, Moist Coconut Cake or… Far Breton, which is my definite favourite. Actually, if I were to show here every single sweet treat coming out of my oven, I think it would appear on my blog probably 80% of the time. I hope my love for this light, custardy pudding cake and a slight photographic improvement are valid excuses to rewrite about it after two years.
Far breton is as easy to prepare as it is impossible to translate. It’s not exactly a cake, nor a custard, nor a flan… Since nothing I have ever tasted has a similar consistency, maybe “a baked, dense, slightly elastic pudding” (in the German sense of the word) would be a good definition. As its name suggests, far breton is a Brittany region specialty and a small Breton village bakery shop is the first place where I discovered it . Apparently, several centuries ago the dish called far was a kind of gruel with dried fruit, far meaning “wheat” or “spelt” in Latin. Afterwards the dish evolved into the today’s dense pudding-like cake. The oldest written trace of the present form of far breton dates back to the XVIIIth century, when both savoury (made from buckwheat and served with meat) and sweet fars (usually without any fruit) were popular. Nowadays only the sweet one is very popular not only in Brittany, but all around France.
Most people prepare it, like me, with prunes, some add only raisins, some both, and some purists refuse any kind of fruit. I find the most popular, slightly tangy version the absolute winner. I think it is best served cold, preferably left overnight in the fridge. Having prepared far breton according to the same method for at least ten years, I no longer remember where I found this recipe, but I appreciate it for the absence of butter or any fats and also for its low sugar content.
Coolness, extreme softness, moisture and a slight elasticity are the main reasons I find this cake irresistible. I also appreciate it for its lightness and low flour and fat content. My far breton is only slightly sweet, so if you are not the kind of person who cuts down the sugar content by half in every recipe (I do), add at least 50% more. The balance between the sweetness and acidity depends also on the prunes though.
TIP: Many people worry about the fact that prunes fall to the bottom. I don’t mind, but I have heard that coating prunes in flour prevent them from falling. (I have never tested it though).
Preparation: 1 h (+ at least 2 hours in the fridge)
Ingredients (fills a 10 x 30 cm or 20 x 20 cm baking dishes):
250 g/about 9 oz flour
70 g / about 2,5 oz sugar
750 ml/ about 25 fl oz milk
1 pinch salt
a bit of salted butter to grease the dish
25 big prunes (stoned)
a bowl of hot strong black tea
50-100 ml/about 1,7 – 3,5 fl oz rum
Soak the prunes in tea until they become soft. Drain them.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Grease the pan with butter (or line with baking paper).
Warm the milk until it is hot (don’t boil it!).
Combine the eggs, the flour, the salt and the sugar.
Slowly add the warm milk and the rum, stirring.
Pour the batter (it will be very liquid) into the baking dish. (If it is not smooth, mix it in a blender or pass it through a sieve).
Place the prunes inside, more or less regularly.
Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.
Let the far cool down before putting it into the fridge for several hours.
Serve very cold, sliced.