Prunes...in the US we don't even call them prunes anymore because of the irrational bias Americans seem to have against this super fruit that has an association with better body-plumbing functioning, body-plumbing which by nature shares digestive and out-of-norm sexual functions, and in puritanical America, this association is bad on both counts. In the new century the headliner on the package is "dried plums", as if we didn't know any better, and underneath in smaller letters with low contrast in color compared to the background is the dreaded translation: prunes. dr bob loves prunes but even he doesn't pick them up in the supermarket and he doesn't know why. Every once in a while a buy is made, but then remains in the fridge forever due to absentmindedness, a fairly obvious dr bob character flaw, noted often by ms_ani. In Europe or even Korea or almost any other country, you can even find one of dr bob's favorite yogurt flavors: prune! Really, in yogurt it is totally yummy. And has beneficial digestive system effects occasionally needed when traveling. The European Dannon company even makes "bio-active" prune yogurt for super results, although we are not exactly sure what those results are. Here in the third millennium US yogurt market, each company is splitting its yogurt line into 5 or 6 different versions: regular, low fat, nonfat are the traditional ones, sometimes custard or creamy, but now also whipped, carb or heart friendly, full fat super creamy, plus yogurt drinks that never used to compete with the solid yogurt shelf space which is still the same size set by second millennium standards. Drastically insufficient. So the flavor range in each separate yogurt line is pitiful. But this is a bit of a digression.
This is a rustic French prune custard cake typical of the Brittany region of France, which struck ms_ani's fancy in a recent Bon Appetit article on how all French women seem to be able to cook and bake standard simple but surprisingly rewarding dishes with a minimum of effort. While not blowing up to blimp size as a result of course. Too bad so little French cinema makes it to America so we can see these ladies in action more often. Although the kitchen is not the first room you think of when musing about French cinema.
Even though the effort level for this cake is low, it is a two stage recipe since for some reason the batter is supposed to chill 3 hours minimum before combining with the prune mixture and baking and hour, so you have to allow for this. Reading the recipe thoroughly before starting is a good idea, one which often does not find its way into practice in the dr bob kitchen. But which never seems to be a fatal error. In our first attempt, bob got out the food processor instead of the blender (absentmindedness, since the blender is not only out of sight, but out of the kitchen). When the batter started overflowing through the center blade tube, this distinction led to a quick remedial action, requiring a little extra added milk to replace the lost fluid after transferring to the super blender. The pulsing of the flour into the batter was a casualty of this mistake. Could it really make a difference? [The author says yes, too vigorous incorporation encourages gluten formation, which in turn toughens the finished cake. We'll see.]
As for the pan choice, bob thought a springform pan would be easier for cake removal, while ani voted for a glass baking dish. bob insisted. ani countered with the suggestion to wrap the bottom with aluminum foil to prevent leekage. bob said "nahh..." A little bit of batter began seeping out under the edge on the cookie sheet but bob guessed it would not amount to much before the heat stemmed the flow. However, by having inverted the bottom of the pan so the rim was underneath to enable easy access to the edge of the cooked cake for removal above, standard cheesecake practice by now, the side of the springform pan created an nice well underneath that filled completely (1/4 inch deep) and baked rock solid onto the ungreased cookie sheet out of sight of the controlling chef eyes. Apparently cheesecake batter is sufficiently thicker than this batter to not present such amusing byproducts. Which soaked a day before we had the courage to try to scrub it off. Maybe we should have used the glass dish, or at the very minimum tightly wrapped the bottom and edge with foil and consider spraying the cookie sheet with cooking spray just in case. This is the danger of overconfidence matched against too much willingness to accept it.
Success, confirmed by a French expatriate lady from Paris who had once been to Brittany and tasted a local rendition of the dish. We'll be making this again and again. Of course Geraldine actually knows where Brittany is on the upper coast of France, whereas the cooking team has to Google it to have a clue. Americans are notorious for poor geography skills. Even enlightened ones like us, to some extent.