Far breton aux pruneaux (Breton far with prunes)

For years, kouign amann was the obsession. We found a best one and wept a little when the bakery closed, looked farther afield, suffered disappointments, had a hand at making our own. Finally, it was time to move on. Not away completely but a balletic sidestep, to another one of the three most common Breton cakes: far. (The third is gâteau breton, a drier, crumbly, cookie-type-of-cake, which I am sure shall have its time with us one day, too. But for now — far.)

The term ‘far‘ comes from the latin word for grain, meal, or grits (far, farina, farro). In fact, breton far was initially a type of savory gruel or porridge served with meat. Over time it has sweetend and become more akin to a dense flan, preferably (but not necessarily) studded with sweet prunes, or caramelized apples.

I prefer far with prunes, but why prunes in Brittany, which is not a plum growing region? Theories trace their introduction to Brittany from its coasts and harbours, as prunes were a valued commodity among sailors during long sea voyages. So prunes seeped through Brittany from the sea, and ended up in the typically regional far aux pruneaux (far with prunes).

I’ve spent some time comparing and testing recipes before arriving at my ideal far, which has a silky, slightly lighter custard than some of the more traditional versions. It is very soft and yielding, just on the cusp of barely holding together when a slice is picked up by hand. I’ve also added a tinge of buckwheat, how could I resist?

Far breton aux pruneaux (Breton far with prunes)

130g white flour (either spelt or wheat)
20g (1 Tbsp) buckwheat flour
130g sugar
Large pinch of salt
5 eggs
20g butter, melted
750ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g pitted prunes
Optional: 1 Tbsp flavoursome alcohol (slivovitz, armagnac, calvados, …)

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Butter a deep, solid (not springform) pan (I use a casserole-type dish I use an oval casserole-type dish 33cm / 13 inches long).)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, and salt.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to incorporate each until the batter is silky smooth.

Mix in the melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract (and alcohol if using). The batter will be very liquid.

** The batter can be refrigerated at this point, anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight.**

Pour the batter into the buttered dish and scatter the prunes evenly. Carefully (as the batter is liquid) slide into the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the far is set all the way (the centre shouldn’t be wobbly).

Let cool completely before eating.

Far can be kept (in the regfrigerator) for 2 to 3 days.

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