November 10, 2011

Cooking Au Pif

Far Breton dessert
Do you find yourself scratching your head when reading a French recipe? Surely half of the instructions must be missing.  Where are the long lists of measured ingredients, every step of what to do next, and detailed descriptions of the technique that is vital to the execution of the dish?  

And yet, it seems that our French families and friends can waltz into the kitchen and - without a cookbook or a recipe in hand - make a batch of crepes to feed a crowd, a rich crème anglaise to accompany a molten chocolate cake, the perfect béchamel sauce for baked ham-wrapped endive, or a loaf of light and sweet brioche - all by cooking au pif, as the French call it. 

Although the word pif is slang for nose, when applied to cooking - au pif or 'in the nose' - is more about cooking by feel or instinct than to cook by sense of smell.  It is similar to when someone talks about 'eyeballing' a recipe or simply whipping up a dish without a recipe at all.

The recipe for Far Breton is one of those that is prepared au pif by many.  Originating from Brittany, it is a thick custard cake studded with plump prunes.  Similar to a crepe batter, the Far Breton is made from simple ingredients that we all tend to have on hand.  You can add your own twist by steeping the prunes in a flavored tea or even rum.  It's the perfect fall dessert or serve a slice at tea time.

You likely have your own recipes that you can cook au pif.  Why not add a few French recipes you can cook au pif to your old favorites?  

a WICE cooking class
Join the WICE cooking group, led by our gracious (and easy-to-follow) instructor Françoise Meunier, on Wednesday, November 16 to make Far Breton and the French family favorite Blanquette de Veau (Veal Stew with winter vegetables).  For more information click here.