Recipe and photo by Debbra Mikaelsen
Although there is often a stack of cookbooks on my nightstand for bedtime reading, much of my food curiosity comes from fiction. I first heard of Far Breton when a character in Kate Atkinson’s latest novel fondly recalled the dish. A Google search led to David Lebovitz’s recipe, in which I learned that the secret to Far Breton is soaking the prunes in Armagnac. As Lebovitz himself puts it, “you could soak a funky, well-worn sock in Armagnac, and it would taste like the best thing on earth.”
My budget doesn’t quite stretch to Armagnac, which is (sharp intake of breath) pricey. Besides, as editor of a magazine that celebrates local food and drink, I felt duty bound to try harder. After all, the prunes can be local. The eggs, cream, and butter, no problem. So this version calls for a locally-made fruit brandy—does that make it Near Breton?
And then, I confess, I so love the combination of prunes and chocolate that I couldn’t resist adding a layer of chocolate to one version, which I’m sure will win me a few emails of complaint from people accusing me of bastardizing a classic dish from Brittany. Which is why I’m calling that one Nearly Breton.
If you have a trust fund and wish to keep the dessert authentic, go ahead and try it with Armagnac—or at least Cognac. And leave out the chocolate.
Editor of Edible Vancouver & Wine Country
PS I actually do know that in Brittany, far is a word for flan, but I had fun with the wordplay.
Edible East Bay is pleased to share this recipe from our sister magazine in Canada, Edible Vancouver & Wine Country. We love editor Debbra Mikaelsen’s whimsical notion that a cook makes the recipe “near” (versus “far”) by using their own local ingredients. Here in the East Bay, that means soaking the prunes in St. George California Reserve Apple Brandy from St. George Spirits in Alameda.
2 cups pitted prunes
⅓ cup fruit brandy*
2 cups whole milk (Please don’t use skim; this is dessert after all.)
4 large eggs
¾ cup flour
½ cup icing sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup salted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chunks (if making Nearly Breton)
In a small saucepan, heat the liquor. Add prunes, and stir for a minute or two, letting the prunes plump up with the alcohol. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand overnight.
In a blender or food processor, mix the milk, eggs, flour sugars, melted butter, vanilla, and salt. Blend until smooth and refrigerate for at least four hours, ideally overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Prepare a 10-inch baking dish or cake pan, round or square, with butter and flour. Scatter the boozy prunes (and the semi-sweet chocolate chunks, if you wish to make Nearly Breton) in the bottom of the baking dish.
Stir the custard and pour it over the prunes. Bake until light brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool, and slice to serve.
*If you wish to avoid alcohol, soak the prunes in hot Earl Grey tea instead.