Unlike croissants, macarons, éclairs, and other common French sweets and pastries, I’ve never seen canelés—also spelled cannelés and pronounced can-eh-lays—in the United States. Not once. To be honest, I haven’t seen them all that much on our travels in France, though I have eaten them there. The husband and I even took a risk and bought one at a highway rest stop once . . . and it was pretty dang good. Damn those French! Is there nothing they can’t cook?!
A word of warning before we begin: you’re going to need specialty equipment to make this recipe. Canelé molds aren’t easy to find—even Williams-Sonoma doesn’t sell them. Well, OK, there’s always Amazon, but they aren’t cheap, even there. I’ve never tried the silicone molds that are on offer. Mine, from a local cooking store, are metal, though not copper because I haven’t won the lottery (yet). I have 12 molds, which means I have to make this recipe in batches. That’s both a pro and a con. A pro because canelés are best eaten within 24 hours of baking, which means I can bake some, eat them, bake some more, eat some more, throw out my bathroom scale, bake some more, and so on. A con because sometimes you just want to bake something and be done with it.
I’ll wait here while you go buy some canelé molds . . .
Welcome back. Now let’s get started.
Canelés de Bordeaux
Recipe Adapted From: Martha Stewart’s
Esoteric Edibles for Ex-Cons Baking Handbook
Level of Difficulty: low
Time Consumption: low, though baking time can be upwards of two hours
Kitchen Destruction: low
Wow Factor: high, since chances are good that nobody you know has ever heard of them or seen anything like them. Plus, they’re delicious. Martha’s recipe opens with “The dark, crunchy crust of a canelé gives way to a delicate, pudding-like center.”
- 4 cups milk
- 7 TBS unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped*
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 TBS dark rum (optional, according to Martha; required, according to me)
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- nonstick cooking spray
* Another warning: vanilla beans are atrociously expensive. Behold:
Still, no baker worth her iodized salt will say it’s ok to use vanilla extract in place of real vanilla beans (but if you do, for god’s sake, use real vanilla extract and not the imitation stuff!).
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of milk, butter, vanilla beans and scraped seeds to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove and discard bean halves. (Or rinse them off, pat them dry, and put them in your sugar bowl, as the husband does.)
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, rum (because you’re using rum, right?), and remaining 2 cups milk. Add the flour and salt; whisk to combine. Add the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly.
Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with lid or plastic wrap for at least one day or up to four days.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place molds on a rimmed baking sheet and coat with cooking spray; freeze for 20 minutes. Transfer molds to a clean baking sheet, 1½ inches apart. Remove batter from refrigerator and whisk vigorously (batter may have separated while chilling). Fill each mold to 1/8 inch from the top.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until canelés are dark brown and slip easily from their molds with a gentle tap, 1¼ to 2 hours. Check by removing a mold from the oven and gently turning a canelé out to see if it’s brown enough (which will be a lot easier with individual molds than with connected silicone molds). If not, slip the canelé back into its mold and return to the oven to continue baking.
When done, transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Use a kitchen towel to grasp each mold and invert canelés onto a rack to cool completely. Makes 20-22 canelés.
If necessary, use a small offset spatula or butter knife to to ease them out of their molds. Canelés should be served the same day they are baked. (Sometimes I scoff at admonitions like this, but in this case it’s actually true. After 24 hours the distinction between the crispy outer and soft inner will diminish. The taste will still be great, but the wonderful texture contrast will be gone.)
Confessions of an Imperfect Baker: About half of my first batch of canelés slipped easily from their molds. The rest had to be pried out. Make sure the cooking spray fully coats the sides and bottoms of the molds.