Now that we've had our first cold days of fall in New York, I'm craving warm baked apples and spiced cider. Enter: far. A far is a traditional baked egg custard from the French coastal region of Brittany, rich in ancient celtic history and unique, rustic cuisine. When I lived in Brittany as an exchange student in high school, my host mother made far for an afternoon gouter, or snack. It also makes a nice brunch dish because it's eggy, hearty, and not too sweet.
Fars are perfect for fall, because they often feature pieces of apples, which are an important crop in Brittany and the neighboring region of Normandy. I also like booze-soaked raisins and pears in mine, or you can make a far nature, which means "plain."
Fars were traditionally make in wood-fired, outdoor bread ovens, which would get quite hot. (Today, we cook fars indoors in a hot oven to replicate the same effect. The searing heat darkens and crisps the outside of the custard, forming a sort of crust, while the inside stays creamy, tender, and dense.
This recipe is easy to adjust to your dietary needs; you can use whatever shortening, milk, flour, and sugar you prefer. While you'll notice some differences in texture and flavor when you switch up the ingredients, the end product will still be attractive and delicious.
For one far with apples and raisins, serving 6 for brunch or 8 or dessert, you will need:
1 cup raisins, golden or brown
1/2 cup calvados, brandy, dark rum, or port, or 1/3 cup hot water mixed with 1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup peeled apple (1 medium-sized fruit) or firm pear like bosc, cut into a half-inch dice
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour of your choice (White, whole wheat, and gluten-free all-purpose blends are all fine. I strongly prefer Better Batter's gluten-free flour, as it's designed to be a cup-for-cup alternative to all-purpose white flour.)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons milk of your choice (Dairy, almond, and coconut milk beverage - in the carton not the can - are especially good.)
1/2 cup sugar (You can use white cane sugar, brown sugar, or low glycemic coconut crystals. If you would like to use honey, agave syrup, or coconut nectar, I recommend decreasing the quantity to 1/3 cup.)
5 tablespoons butter or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, room temperature
Preheat oven to 450 degrees for at least 1/2 hour.
In a small saucepan, bring the raisins and alcohol (or water and vanilla) to a boil, then turn off the heat and allow to soak for at least 20 minutes, until the raisins are plump and soft. Mix in the diced apple. (You may have a small amount of booze remaining in the pot - you can either incorporate this into your batter, replacing an equal amount of milk, or drink it.)
Using your butter or shortening, generously grease the entire inside of a 9" or 10" hot oven-safe skillet. (I recommend a Scanpan or cast-iron skillet, though stainless steel and aluminum work too. Make sure your pan does not have a Teflon non-stick coating, as these are not made to withstand high heat.)
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and salt together until smooth. Add the milk and mix well, then sift in the flour and mix until just blended. Pour the batter into the skillet and sprinkle with 1/2 of your raisin and apple mixture. (You'll add the rest of the fruit when the far is half-cooked - this creates an even distribution of fruit throughout the batter.)
Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Now sprinkle with the remaining apples and raisins and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes or so, until the "crust" is very dark brown and puffed, and a knife comes out clean when poked into the center of the far.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool until the pan and the far are safe to handle, at least 30 minutes. Then, using a thin-bladed or wooden spatula, carefully loosen the far from the pan. Depending on the pan you use, you may have some sticking. Once the far is loose, carefully flip onto a large plate. Then, using a second serving plate, flip it right side up again.
Serve for brunch or dessert with lightly-sweetened, boozy whipped cream.