the moveable feasts

Far Breton

with 18 comments

far breton

A “far” is a French custardy cake, one that’s more of a pudding than anything else (kind of like this French apple cake, but perhaps even a bit more pudding-like). Its crepe-like batter is thin, and when baked, its sides puff and billow up while getting a deep brown color. This version, with prunes, comes from Brittany (hence the Breton part), but to be honest I’m not sure if there are any other versions of French fars.

I first heard of this holiday cake from the blog Manger (my skilled abilities from my one semester of French urges me to tell you it’s pronounced mawn-jay with a very soft “j”).  It’s one of those rare websites that is very singular in its nature, unable to be replicated by anyone. Perhaps that’s because no one else is possible so fortunate as to not only be beautiful with the most angelic-looking kids, but live in the idyllic French countryside with a pack of little soft dogs. To top it all off, she has an Icelandic husband (seriously, how many languages do their kids know?) who can take the loveliest photos to capture it all.

far breton
far breton slice

Manger’s version of far breton features prunes that soak in rum. The way she describes its pairing with the “homely batter” to make a “never-ending taste linger on until you have the last sip of coffee” was enough to sell me on the entire thing. While  I chose to follow a different recipe though, one by Dorie Greenspan, I kept that same aspect of using only prunes, and soaking them in rum. They are scattered through the entire custardy cake, making bites vary between the thick and rich custard with the tart and juicy prunes.

Can we talk about prunes, just for one second? This is kind of a tangent, but I think its important. As I’m sure the whole world is aware, there’s kind of stigma surrounding prunes. I don’t know, something involving old people and digestive tracks. Anyway, that stigma has been driven so far so that all I see when I try to find them in the grocery store is “dried plums.” Really? David Lebovitz has an awesome post about this issue. Apparently they are a big delicacy in France, so I’m not sure why we’re so adamant about judging prunes and those who eat them anyway. They are delicious, and especially in this. And that is that.

far breton
lindsey is thoughtful

Speaking of which, I hate to give off the impression that anything French or French-minded > anything in America, especially around the time of the holidays when I should be sticking strictly to American traditions. But I have to mention, Lindsey spent some time in Paris while studying abroad in Rome, and being the thoughtful twin sister that she is, she brought me back a heavy Paris restaurant guide, written in French. So even though I can read just about 1 out of every 20 words in the guide, I’ve kind of gone on a wanderlust for French things (per usual), and this far is a byproduct of that. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful cake that I hope to make even when I’m out of this kind of mood later on in the year.

One Year Ago: Classic Stout Gingerbread

Far Breton
Adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6 to 8

2 cups whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a good pinch of salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup small or medium-size pitted prunes (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rum
powdered sugar

In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Blend for 1 minute, until fully blended and creamy. Add the flour and pulse, scraping down the sides a time or two, until just blended. Cover the blender container and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 1 day.

Meanwhile, combine the prunes and the 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until almost all the water has been soaked or evaporated and the prunes have softened, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, pour the run over the fruit, and set aside to let the fruit cool completely.

When ready to bake the Far, position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375 degrees. Butter a 8 or 9-inch pan that has at sides at least 2-inches tall. Line bottom of the pan with parchment, butter it, then dust the pan with flour, shaking out the excess.

While the oven is heating, re-blend the batter just until smooth again, about 5 to 10 seconds. Pour about half the batter into the prepared pan. Place the prunes evenly into the batter, then continue to pour in the remaining batter. Bake in the preheated oven until sides are puffed and browned, and the center is golden, about 1 hour. The center should be just set, but it’ll still jiggle a bit; a knife inserted should come out clean though. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a plate, releasing the cake. Peel off the parchment, and invert again onto a serving plate. Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar and serve.

Written by Amy

December 21, 2012 at 5:17 am

Posted in Cakes

Tagged with ,

18 Responses

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  1. Prunes are a totally underrated ingredient – have you ever tried them in brownies? Soo good. I also had them soaked in alcohol at a bread making class with a Frenchman, so clearly it is the French way!

    This tart looks absolutely gorgeous – who cares if it’s not a traditional Christmas bake!


    December 21, 2012 at 5:33 am

    • No I haven’t, but I saw that David Lebovitz put them in a flourless chocolate cake one time and it got me thinking about prunes + chocolate. Next time I make brownies I’ll try that out! Thanks!


      December 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

  2. I’ve never heard of this before but it looks yummy. Gosh, I haven’t had prunes in forever, but when I was little I loved them just as a snack.


    December 21, 2012 at 6:48 am

    • Oh they make the best snack, even now! Try them out again. :)


      December 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  3. Amy, this cake looks and sounds amazing! I love custardy desserts, and I love prunes–this is totally my kind of cake! Unfortunately, I’m off to my parents’ place tomorrow, and the oven there has been broken for ages. (I doubt that they’ll get it fixed–they’ll probably buy a new range and oven first. Clearly, my parents have different priorities than me…) So I’m going to have to wait a few weeks to try this out, but I most definitely will.

    Maybe you can find a few French cookbooks to practice your French. My French is pretty awful, but it doesn’t take too much to make sense of recipes. And at the end of the exercise, you’ll have something new that you might want to cook.


    December 21, 2012 at 10:45 am

    • Haha, well I hope you find some time after the holidays settle down to try it out. It is such a great dessert, and it’s so unique. And that is such a nice idea! I don’t know why I’ve never thought of trying to cook from a French cookbook. It’s definitely a win-win situation–cook something new, learn some French. Thanks!


      December 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

  4. This cake is so unusual, I’d love a slice for breakfast. And I adore prunes, but I must say I like their new name better.

    • Oh really? Well I guess as long as we still enjoy them that’s all that matters. And yes, this was definitely delicious for both dessert and breakfast.


      December 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

  5. Poor old prunes. So maligned! I love them, although I never used to as a child – their flavour is so strong. This far breton sounds gorgeous and I adore the cover design of that magazine – hope you get to read more of it as you go along. My French used to be really quite strong but I lost it as soon as I stopped studying it. Le sigh.


    December 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    • Oh I know, I was only able to fit in one semester of it and I’m afraid the petty amount I’ve learned is already quickly disappearing. Le sigh is right!


      December 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

  6. I love Manger! And I love how Mimi exposes people to little-known delicacies like far breton. I actually like prunes a lot, but mostly to snack on by themselves. I think it’s a Chinese thing, because the kinds I eat are covered with a powdery white layer of sugar(?) and you buy them in the snack section of the Chinese supermarket. YUM.


    December 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    • She does do such a good job of exposing wonderful but little-known dishes, doesn’t she? And thank you!! for telling me about the powdery-sugary prunes because now I will search for them next time I wander through a chinese market.


      December 24, 2012 at 12:03 am

  7. I think I want cake. I think I have to bake right now.

    This American Bite

    December 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm

  8. Holy moly, that looks delicious! I, too, have a penchant for all things French. I will definitey give this recipe a try. And check out Manger! Great blog!


    January 8, 2013 at 11:12 am

  9. Yeah !! Far breton :) I like it
    I’m french from Brittany !
    See you ;)


    January 17, 2013 at 11:39 am

  10. I’m Brazilian and we love prunes. We love to make birthday cakes with a filling of prunes and dulce de leche… it is so yummy…. I will have to try this as well, i might just do the Brazilian thing and add dulce de leche to it as well…. i’m feeling daring!!! :)
    i’ve included the link to the cake i’m talking about so that you can at least see what i’m talking about, but the site is in Portuguese.


    June 27, 2013 at 7:03 am

    • Ah, a cake filled with dulce de leche and prunes sounds exactly like something I’d love. Thanks for the link.


      June 28, 2013 at 7:58 am

  11. […] Year Ago: Far Breton Two Years Ago: Stout Gingerbread and Raspberry-Almond Linzer […]

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