Far Breton

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Brittany is a region set in the north west of France and like most other areas of the country has distinct culinary specialties for which it’s famous both nationally and globally.

Most famous of all Breton dishes I would say is the galette. A savoury kind of crêpe made from buckwheat and filled with delicious but simple ingredients. In the dessert sphere, there is the kouign amann, which is pastry sheets laminated in butter and sugar that caramelize as they cook. (The best version I’ve tasted outside of France can be found at the amazing Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne).

The third famous dish, and the one that I’m showing you today sits somewhere between the two above as it is a dessert, but far less sweet than the kouign amann. It’s the Far Breton.

Far Breton is a custard flan with tasty prunes (which have been soaked in rum or Armagnac) hiding at the bottom that is baked to form a gold or almost black shell on top. This recipe started life in the 18th century and was originally eaten completely savoury as a side to meat.

It’s super simple to make but one tip I would give to achieve the most authentic result is to use the freshest (preferably organic) milk you can find, and, despite promoting using local produce most of the time, butter imported from Brittany or Normandy. The Brittany (and Normandy) regions make some of the best butter in the world and while we have high quality dairy in Australia, the taste just isn’t quite the same.

Far Breton:

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Ingredients:

  • 700ml full fat milk
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 200g pitted dried prunes
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 tablespoon rum
  • 6 free range eggs
  • 2 vanilla pods, seeds out

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 150 degrees Celsius (fan forced) and place your cake tin in the oven
  2. Warm up the milk and cream in a sauce pan or microwave.
  3. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds together until slightly white and fluffy.
  4. Add the sifted flour and whisk until the batter becomes smooth.
  5. Pour in the warm milk and mix until combined, then add the rum.
  6. Pour the mix in the hot tin, put in the prunes and salted butter pieces.
  7. Bake in hot oven for about 1 ½ hour. Do not open the oven once the cake is in!

Leave to cool in the tin at room temperature and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea! Or the way I like it, is with a glass of Calvados!

Watch the how to video below or visit my Youtube channel here to view more videos.

Almond and Cherry Pithivier

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There’s one cooking show that I could watch endlessly over again. For me, it’s the perfect mix of Francophilic nostalgia, mouth-watering food and my style of cooking: rustic. It is…Rick Stein’s French Food Odyssey. If you’ve never had the pleasure before, you can find it online: www.amazon.com . You’re welcome.

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With its focus on French favourites, there are lots of dishes on Rick’s menu that were regulars at the dinner table growing up, but one that I have never tried was something called a Pithivier, and so, I decided to make one. My only regret…I shouldn’t have waited so long!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets butter puff pastry
  • 125g softened butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 125 almond meal
  • 15 flour
  • 2 tablespoon Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 225 fresh cherries, stone removed

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Method:

  1. Cut a disc of puff pastry using a medium size plate (about 25 cm) for the bottom and a slightly larger one for the top (about 29 cm), using a larger plate. Rest them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  2. For the almond filling, cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and one of the yolks, gently add the almond meal, flour and Kirsch, stir until combine.
  4. Stir in the pitted cherries.
  5. Place the smaller disc on flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Spoon the almond mixture in the center and spread it to about 2.5 cm of the edge.
  6. Beat the remaining yolk with 1 tablespoon of cold water and brush the edges of the bottom disc. Place the larger disc on top of the filling and press the edges together to seal, pressing out any trapped air. Press the outside of the edges of the pastry with a fork to give it a attractive finish. Place the Pithivier in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Brush the top of the Pithivier with the rest of the egg wash, then with the tip of a small sharp knife, score radiating arcs from the center out towards the edge, taking care not to cut too deeply. Make a hole in the centre to let the steam escape.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius(428F), until the pastry puffed up and is golden. Then lower the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius(356F) and bake for a further 40 minutes or until a skewer pushed in the middle comes out clean. If it start to become too brown, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the top.
  9. To give the Phitivier a classic glazed appearance remove it from the oven, increase the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius (428F). Dust the pastry with icing sugar and bake for 4 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool slightly, then serve with vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
  11. I also recommend a glass of Chateau Viranel “Gourmandise” available from www.airoldifinewines.com.au

Apricot Tarte Tatin

 

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The story of the Tarte Tartin gives hope to everyone who is absent-minded in the kitchen. This “accidental” dessert is credited to the sisters Tartin who ran a hotel in the town of Lamotte-Beuvron, in France’s Loire Valley. One of the sisters, Stephanie, was known as an excellent cook but also a bit of a scatterbrain. As the most popular version of the story goes, one day she left the apples for her apple pie in the pan for too long and so they over-caramelised.

Not wanting to waste the apples, but wanting to hide the mishap, she covered them with tart pastry and placed the whole pan in the oven to bake. Once cooked, she flipped her concoction back over to serve in order to make it look like a normal tart.

If only every kitchen disaster could be such a hit with guests!

The great thing about this recipe is that it works just as well with any fruit that caramelises nicely. I was lucky enough this summer to have a bumper crop of apricots on my tree and they worked beautifully for this Tarte Tartin. Peaches also work a treat and for the savoury lover, some juicy cherry tomatoes rival their sweeter cousins.

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Ingredient:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 50 ml water
  • 15-20 apricots
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 50 ml rum
  • 1 sheet butter puff pastry

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Method:

  1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Put the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan, give it a stir and cook the sugar until it caramelize.
  3. Pour the caramel into a tart dish, glass or non stick is preferable, and make sure it covers the entire base.
  4. Cut the apricot in half, remove the stone and place them on top of the caramel cut side towards you. Once you’ve layed down the first layer of apricots, repeat the process once more. When you flip the Tatin you’ll see the nicer side of the apricots.
  5. Dice the butter and place it on top of the apricots. Pour the rum on top of the fruit.
  6. Place the pastry over the apricots, tuck the sides in and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Once cooked, leave it cool down a little bit then carefully flip it over. A good way to do it is to place a tray on top of the tart and using two towel flip in one move.
  8. I suggest you serve the Tarte Tatin with a delicious vanilla bean ice cream and a glass of Chateau “Suduiraut” Sauterne available from http://www.airoldifinewines.com.au .

Blood Orange and Vanilla Crème Brûlée

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Crème Brûlée | Le Fermier

Crème brûlée…just saying the words out loud is enough to glaze over the eyes of most dessert lovers as they start to daydream about the <crack> of the toffee crust as it’s tapped with their spoon, or how the velvety vanilla cream almost dissolves as it hits their tongue, and the surprising <crunch> every now and again as their teeth find a shard of toffee.

Having grown up and studied cooking in France, this quintessential dessert has always been a big part of my life – both the cooking of and eating of it (eating it is definitely my favourite of the two).

Though the origins of this dish may not in fact be French at all (there are strong claims from both the English and the Catalans and its inventors), it’s safe to say the crème brûlée as it exists today is almost so synonymous with French dessert, it could be considered cliché.

I really enjoy making this dish for family and friends as there is an anticipation that builds up when guests know it’s on the menu, a kind of gastronomic foreplay if you will that makes the air feel electric. Thankfully, this little ramekin of decadence always satisfies, while still managing to leave the diner longing for just one more spoonful…

Ingredients:

  • 600 ml Thickened Cream
  • 2 orange zest and segments ( blood orange if in season)
  • 1 vanilla bean ( cut in half and seeded)
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 8 egg yolks

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Method : In a medium saucepan bring the cream and vanilla bean to the boil. In the meantime, in a mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla seeds and the orange zest until the mixture become slightly white. Once the cream has boiled pour it over the egg mixture while whisking. Mix well for about a minute to make sure everything is dissolve. Pour the mix back into the saucepan and cook over a medium to low heat while stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon, occasionally whisking as well. Cook until you see a swirl of fat at the top, or, using a digital thermometer, until the mixture reaches 85 degrees Celsius. Then, pour the crème brûlée mix into a clean bowl and whisk for 2-3 minutes to cool it down. Put a couple of orange segments at the bottom of some ramequins and pour the mix over the top and leave to rest overnight. Just before serving, sprinkle a thin layer of caster sugar over the top of the crème brûlée and caramelise it using a cooking blow torch. A glass of chilled sweet white wine would compliment this wonderful dessert perfectly.

Bon Appétit,
Le fermier