Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Far Breton

I don't know when or why prunes became the designated whipping boy of the dried fruit kingdom. From what I can tell, it seems to be a particularly American prejudice. Somewhere along the line, in what I consider one of the great missteps of our national agenda, we stripped the pleasure away from prunes and made them merely an instrument of dietary upkeep. Let’s be quite clear: while this may sound un-American or borderline geriatric, I think prunes are absolutely delicious.

Which brings me to the Far Breton. The Far Breton is brilliant for many reasons: the delicate flan-meets-pancake consistency (think clafoutis, but better), the deliciously eggy batter, the mandatory sprinkling of powdered sugar; but it’s the prunes—deep purple, juicy prunes pregnant with Armagnac—that make this dish.


Far Breton
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Okay I lied—what I love most about the Far Breton may not be the prunes; it’s the fact that it is practically (and by my standards definitely) acceptable breakfast fare. This is what the pancake dreams of becoming. The Far Breton is perfect the day it is made, but delicious after a night in the refrigerator, too.

3 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pan
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good-quality pitted prunes (for instance, pruneaux d'Agen)
1/4 cup Armagnac plus 1/4 cup water or 1 cup hot Earl Grey tea
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt and blend for 1 minute. Add the flour and pulse until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the blender jar. Chill in the jar for at least three hours and up to one day.

For Armagnac-soaked prunes, combine the fruit and water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the fruit is softened and water is almost evaporated, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and pour the brandy evenly over the fruit. Stand back and ignite the alcohol with a long match. Once the flame dies out, transfer the fruit and syrup to a bowl. Allow to come to room temperature, cover and set aside. For tea-soaked prunes, place the fruit in a heatproof bowl and add the hot tea. Allow to come to room temperature, cover and set aside. Steep prunes overnight.

Position rack in the center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of the pan with parchment or waxed paper, butter the paper then dust the pan with flour, tapping out excess.

Blend the batter again until smooth, about 5 seconds. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Drop the prunes evenly into batter. Place cake pan on a baking sheet and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until sides are browned and puffy and knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool cake completely on a cooling rack. Loosen cake from the pan by running a knife around the sides. Carefully invert pan onto a piece of wax or parchment paper, remove the pan and peel off parchment round. Place serving plate over cake and invert again. Dust cake with powdered sugar and serve.

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