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Far Breton Cake

Far Breton Cake

Far Breton

Far Breton is a lovely custard-like tart filled with dried fruits, traditionally dried plums, but we like dried apricots better.

Aunt Jeanette’s “Far from Breton” Cake

It is winter, and we live in Vermont. That means some good cooking, a little experimenting, and a lot of time to let things simmer while sipping tea. It is also a time to dust off old recipes, and our family’s variation on Far Breton is a recent retrieve from the recipe box.

This is a variation (including name) on my Aunt Jeanette’s recipe and the classic French “Far Breton,” a custardy flan traditionally from Brittany. Is it a cake? Is it a tart? A flan? A smooth custard pie? A little of all the above, perhaps. My Aunt called it a cake, so I’ll stick to that. It is rich, and creamy and silky, and with a unique flavor and texture. My Aunt made it with prunes only. My own touch to the recipe was to use half apricots and half prunes. I noticed the kids picked out the prunes and wanted just the apricots, and I agreed they tasted better. So our newly modified family recipe uses just the apricots!

9 ounces dried unsulfured apricots, sliced once the long way (about 1½ cups)
½ cup brandy or Grand Marnier
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
½ stick unsalted butter, browned
To make the Far Breton, place apricots in a small saucepan and cover with the brandy. Heat to boiling, reduce the heat and cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until you need it.
In your blender, combine the milk, vanilla, sugar, eggs, salt, and flour. Blend until well combined.
In a small saucepan, place butter and heat until melted. Continue to heat until the butter bubbles, swirling the pan. When the bubbles start to subside, keep an eye on it. As soon as it starts to brown and you start to smell a nutty aroma, remove from heat and add slowly to the rest of the liquid mixture, while blending.
Set the batter aside in the refrigerator for several hours, as you would a crepe batter. You can do this in the morning to make the cake for dinner, or do this mixing step the night before.
Once the batter has rested, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Retrieve the batter and let come to room temperature. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan with deep sides (mine is 2 ½ inches). Line with waxed paper or parchment, and butter and flour that as well. Or you can use a 9-inch round casserole dish, and you’ll serve the cake directly from this, no fuss.
Drain the fruit, and add a couple of tablespoons of the liquid to the batter. Arrange the dried fruit in the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Add the batter to the pan. It will be thin.
Place the cake in the oven, turn the heat down to 375, and set your timer for 50 minutes. It might take another ten minutes, but every oven is different so you want to keep a lookout. When ready, the cake will be browned, nicely puffed, and will smell like it is done! To reinforce your instincts, check to see if a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
If you have baked the Far Breton in a regular tin and want it presented on a serving plate, you will have to flip it out once it is cooled. It sounds scary, but it is pretty easy:
Loosen the cake from the pan after it has rested for ten minutes or so. Cover the top with a large plate, take a deep breath, and flip it over. Remove the waxed paper, place a pretty cake plate on the top (which is really the bottom) and flip it again to its presentation plate, pretty side up. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.