Canelé de Bordeaux (a.k.a cannelé bordelais) are perhaps my favorite sweet treat. A shiny, crispy outside holds within a gorgeous, rum-scented, custardy interior that is at once decadent, yet sophisticated. Making canelés doesn’t have to be complicated. When you begin, I highly suggest you use a mini silicon mold, forget about coating it, mix the batter, and bake them. This will give you a sense if this pastry is one you want to spend more time and energy on, especially since these little babies are not easily found in the US. If like me you get obsessed, get ready to dig in. Here is my official Canelé Recipe and Guide.
There is some required equipment if you are making canelés at home. Specifically, you’ll need molds. There are three choices, copper canelé molds (tinned interior), aluminum molds or silicon canelé cavity molds. I use copper and silicon. I love the copper Mauviel, but they are pricey. The cost of one copper mold (available here) will more than pay for an 8 large cavity mold (available here) or 15-18 small cavity silicon mold. I currently have 6 copper molds, one freshware 8 cavity mold, and an 18 cavity mini candle silicon mold. I hear that DeBuyer makes the best silicon molds, but I haven’t used them, so I can’t say. My silicon works fine. And if you do get the copper molds, remember that they need to be seasoned before the first use. I followed Paula Wolfert’s instructions here. I haven’t used aluminum, so I can’t speak to their performance. I know people consider them more affordable than the copper, but they are still around $10 each, way more than silicon molds, and I’ve read varying reports on their performance. For my money, I stick with copper.
Boozy Epicure’s Canelés
I like to start by making my batter. It needs to rest overnight (or several hours) before you plan on using it. Then I prepare my molds. This recipe fills 8 standard copper molds, or all 8 of my silicon. It is easily doubled. Since the batter holds well in the fridge and they taste best the day they are made, I like to bake just a couple at a time over a few days.
1 cup whole milk
2 tblsp butter
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tblsp sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tblsp dark rum
pinch of salt
Put the milk and butter together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Take it off the heat and let it cool down.
Beat the egg and yolk together in a cup, and then stir it into the flour mixture. It is very important to use a fork or spoon for the mixing. If you use a whisk you will add extra air into the batter and your canelés can really puff up while baking. Next, add the milk mixture slowly, stirring constantly. The batter should be thin and lump-free, like crepe batter. Stir in the vanilla, rum, and salt.
You’ll see the batter foam a bit. This is normal.
Most french recipes will have you strain this batter just in case your milk was hot and you scrambled any of the eggs. You can feel free to strain if you like. I never do.
Cover the batter with plastic wrap and let it hang out in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
When you pull out the batter the next day, stir gently to make sure the batter is a uniform consistency.
Why do you need to rest the batter at all? Why can’t you just bake it straight off? Good question, and one that I had myself. So I baked one using fresh batter, right next to one using day old batter. The difference in texture is huge.
White Oil and Preparing the Molds
The white oil is made by mixing equal proportions of food grade beeswax and clarified butter. I just buy ghee. Some bakeries use only beeswax or only butter. For this recipe, I used 1 oz of each, placed in a small mason jar and melted together by placing the entire jar in a simmering water bath on my stove.
Place your molds in a 200 F oven.
Get your silicon brush and white oil ready to coat.
Using an oven mitt, take out your warm molds one at a time.
Paint a thin coating of the white oil inside each copper mold, and inside each cavity of the silicon mold. Set upside down on a paper towel for excess to drain.
When you turn them over, just wipe the edges and you have all of your molds ready to go.
Once cool, put the lid on the mason jar and pop the white oil in your fridge. Next time you need it, reheat the jar in a pot of water on the stovetop again. You will get many batches out of that little jar.
Baking the Canelés
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you have convection, even better.
Pour the batter into the molds straight out of the freezer, and bake for 20 minutes. With my previous oven and no convection, I would set the sheet pan right onto my baking stone. With my current oven I do not use the stone, but rather place the molds and tray on the center rack. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and continue baking until the canelés are dark brown, about 45 minutes. The canelés are meant to be quite dark on the outside. Unmold the cakes, and cool before serving, but eat them within a few hours.
Common Canelé Problems
Sometimes your batter will behave unexpectedly in the oven. For a while a I had a major problem with crazy puffy canelés. At first I thought I was aerating the batter too much when I mixed it. Then thought it had to do with the batter not resting long enough, or not enough heat from my oven. If you are resting your batter and seasoning/coating the molds, puffing often arises from uneven oven heat. Don’t worry if they are baking lopsided or stick to the molds a little. Just use a toothpick to remove stuck on debris and wipe out your molds. Don’t use soap on your copper molds or you will lose the seasoning you took so long to get perfect.
If your canelés are puffing and you want them to settle down, you can take them out, let them settle, then put them back in the oven. It can be frustrating, because you may need to do it several times. This will make the fluting a little less defined and can also give you bumps or ridges on the sides, not to mention the time you waste babysitting them, but you won’t end up with the puffy mushrooms above. I’ll admit, I’ve done it, but I was frustrated the whole time and it doesn’t affect the flavor one bit.
When people ask me why I prefer copper molds, it’s because I simply do not get nearly as good or consistent results with silicon. At $20 each, copper molds are an investment, but they hold their fluting and shape so much nicer than silicon. So if you love the flavor or your canelés, but not how they look, you may want to invest in the copper.
Whether you use silicon or copper, there is an affliction that affects many bakers. It is when the bottom of your canelés (the top, once they are inverted) doesn’t get brown like the rest of the cake. While it used to bug me, I have no problem with these white butts. They taste just as delicious and I’ve had many delicious canelés at fancy bakeries end up with this same problem.
And the biggest problem facing newbie canelé makers, all the bad recipes out there. Like macarons, canelés require an intimate relationship with your oven, so you may fail several times before you are happy. I still find my own have inconsistencies, even though I’ve lost count on the number of batches I’ve made. I tried a very reputable cookbook in my experimental phase. Everything looked good except the baking instructions said to bake them for 1 hour at 350 F. Thinking I should give the recipe a chance (even though I am a proponent of the start high, then lower the temp club) and tried it their way. Behold the results. Maybe it’s because I don’t have convection, who knows, but the recipe didn’t work at all for me.
What do you think? Have you tried making canelés? Any tips or good recipes out there I should try?