The allure of French pastries has finally cast its magic spell over me. I keep reiterating that I am not a baker, but it’s starting to look untrue. I’m just going to embrace the fact that I am evolving slowly so please be kind here.
Canelés are a pastry with an interesting history, having survived falling into almost complete obscurity for decades. Hailing from Bordeaux, they date back to the 18th century. They remained nearly extinct for centuries until the 1980s when there seemed to be a revival due to the efforts of a bunch of bakers. Lucky for me because I have fallen for them. The batter for canelés is very similar to those of crepes, which is what led me in this direction. Crispy, almost burnt on the outside, but custardy and moist on the inside, these are, quite possibly, the perfect dessert.
There a few tricks to these gems:
1. High heat
2. Try not to let air into the batter. Let it settle and settle.
3. Comparing these to their copper-molded, pastry-oven baked, beeswax-infused counterparts will yield nothing but a seed of doubt. I have enough of those. I like to hinge my contentment upon the attempt, the journey, learning from failures and the satisfaction of my successes. Best to leave comparisons to students of literature.
This recipe is culled from a combination of many different canelé recipes, but followed most closely this wonderful and comprehensive one by Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini.
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 vanilla pod, split, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup good-quality dark rum (I used Bacardi Gold)
Combine the milk, butter and vanilla (pod or extract) in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer. In the meantime, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, break and gently beat the eggs. When the milk mixture starts to simmer, remove from heat immediately and remove the vanilla pod if using one, and set it aside.
Pour the eggs into the flour mixture without stirring then pour in the milk mixture. Stir until well combined, trying not to incorporate too much air. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod with the dull side of a knife blade, and return the seeds and pod to the mixture. Add the rum and stir. Let cool to room temperature on the counter, then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
In the next few days, as the air settles out of the batter, preheat the oven to 480F. (If you live in a small apartment like I do, this will set off both the smoke alarm and the fire alarm. Remove the batteries from both, making sure to return them after the baking is finished and apologize to your neighbors for making their dog go crazy if you forgot this step and assure the Super–after getting dressed when you hear a knock on the door–that there is no fire). Butter the canelé molds if you are using the copper ones (unnecessary if you’re using silicon molds). Remove the batter from the fridge: it will have separated a bit, so stir carefully until well blended again, making sure not to fill with air.
Pour into the prepared molds, filling them almost to the top. Insert into the oven for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 400F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, depending on your oven and how you like your canelés. The canelés are ready when the bottoms are a very dark brown, but not burnt. They will rise during the baking process, but if you kept the air out of the batter they will flatten back out. If you feel they are darkening too fast, cover the molds with a piece of parchment paper.
Remove from oven and unmold onto a cooling rack (wait for about 10 minutes first if you’re using silicon molds or they will collapse a little) and let cool completely before eating.