I tasted my first canelé not in Paris, but in Brookline, MA, of all places. A few years ago a search for the best baguette in Boston led me to a teeny tiny bakery called Clear Flour Bread. Standing in line I noticed the prettiest little thimble-sized pastries. Without thinking much of it, I asked the cashier to add a couple to my order. I nibbled on one as I walked back to the car and was instantly delighted with the by-design almost-burnt-caramel flavor. Not long after that, during a trip to NYC, I stumbled upon Canelé by Céline a shop on the Upper East Side, which offers both sweet and really unique savory flavors including chorizo, olive and pesto.
Originally from the Bordeaux region of southwest France, canelé batter consists of milk, butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla and dark rum. They’re traditionally baked in copper molds coated with beeswax, which creates a delicate custard center and a dark caramelized exterior crust. I love them.
Of course, the catch is, they’re difficult to make. I find macarons a breeze compared to these guys. Canelés were on my kitchen to-do list along with paella, homemade mozzarella, etc. This past Spring, I ordered a silicone mold (notably less expensive than the copper version), from Amazon and first attempted them using this recipe. Didn’t go well. The pasties ballooned during the cooking process and puffed significantly out of the mold. If I had been been shooting for fifteen mini-soufflés, I would have been spot-on. And though the baked-custard tasted delicious, structurally, they were a complete fail. I wish I had taken a photo, but I was disappointed and didn’t feel like styling misshapen, improperly cooked desserts.
Somewhat fortuitously, not long after my first canelé flop, Dorie Greenspan shared an article by eat.live.travel.write detailing a lengthy canelé trial and error project. I saved the post as I wasn’t quite ready to try again. Firing-up the oven to 450˚ for over an hour during the Summer months didn’t really appeal to me. Once Fall arrived, however, I gave them another shot. I combined the ingredients on a Friday evening and carefully tucked the batter into the back of the refrigerator where it sat for over 24 hours. Sunday morning I allowed the mixture to come to room temperature and prepared the molds with a bit of melted butter. I painstakingly poured even amounts of custard into each cavity. I carefully transferred the pan to the oven and held my breath.
Thirty minutes later I looked and was elated to find the canelés were baking within each mold properly. I dropped the temp and baked for another thirty minutes. At the end of an hour I used a toothpick to invert the canelés and bake for 10 minutes more. I was nervous about the toothpick process, but it was really quite simple.
In the end I pulled the canelés out of the oven, let them cool for 10 minutes and then proceeded to take pictures of them for an hour.
Were they perfect? No. Did I love them like I had given birth to them? Yes. And, despite their time-intensity, I’ll definitely make them again. Looking back, I think I may have allowed too much air into my first batter. You don’t want to over-whisk or over-mix the batter. It should be thin and flat.
Original recipe from eat.live.travel.write.
500 ml whole milk
30g unsalted butter
250g granulated sugar
140g all purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp dark rum
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Melted unsalted butter, for the molds
One day before baking:
Bring the milk and the butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and cool slightly, stirring occasionally to release some of the heat.
Place the sugar, flour, eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk gently until you have a soft paste-like consistency.
Pour in the milk/ butter and continue to whisk gently until you have a smooth liquid.
Add the vanilla and rum and give it one last stir (you don’t want to whisk air into this batter).
Use a wire strainer, strain the batter over a glass jug, cover the jug with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
About an hour or two before baking:
Remove the batter from the fridge, give it a gentle stir and allow to come to room temperature (or at least, not chilled).
Prepare the silicone molds by brushing with a little melted butter. Coat the molds sparingly and in necessary, turn the molds upside down over a wire rack placed over paper towels to drain excess butter from inside molds. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 450˚F.
When the batter is room temperature, give the batter one final, gentle stir and pour into the molds about ¾ full.
Place the silicone molds on a wire cooling rack on a baking tray and bake at 450˚F for 30 minutes.
Reduce heat to 400˚F and bake for a further 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and, with the aid of a toothpick, carefully remove the canelé from the molds and place them immediately back in the molds right side up.
Bake for 10 more minutes.
Remove molds from oven and place on a wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes before you unmold them and allow to come to room temperature on a wire cooling rack.
Best eaten the day they are made (after about 2 hours at room temperature).