So, in my pastry adventures I’d often heard of canelés de Bourdeaux, little French pastries that are custardy on the inside, deeply caramelized on the outside, and which (sadly) require a lot of time and some specialty equipment to make. Given the apparent complexity of the process I’d decided against trying to make them myself, until I actually tried one and got hooked.
These things are really delicious– the outside has a nice, toasty flavor from the caramelization and a crisp-chewy texture, presumably from the beeswax/butter coating, while the inside is soft and squidgy, with a nice hit of rum at the end. They’re kind of like creme brulee in pastry form– I had to try making my own.
The problem, of course, is that traditional canelés are made with individual copper molds that run for $15-40 *each* online, and obviously you’d need a set of at least 8 to make the recipe worth baking. There had to be another way. Some internet research indicated that most of the silicone options weren’t sufficiently conductive to get real caramelization on the outside, so I went for a heavy-duty metal pan— nonstick, but that was only a side benefit since I would definitely be using the wax/butter coating for a more authentic result.
I found a very helpful post by Taste of Artisan, giving not only the recipe but very clear instructions on the baking process. I highly recommend that you check it out, though I had to adapt things a bit to account for my use of non-traditional molds.
For me the batter came together easily– I heated the milk and butter in the microwave and the only tool needed was a hand whisk, and set it in the refrigerator to chill for the requisite 24-48 hours (48, in my case) to develop flavor. When I was ready to bake, I melted beeswax and clarified butter (the recipe doesn’t call for it but I’ve read that it cuts down on burning) together and used my fingers (with latex gloves) to rub it onto the insides of the warmed mold. I think my technique worked pretty well, though as the mold cooled it was harder to get a nice coat on the sides– it got clumpy. DO NOT try to use a brush, the coating will get cold too fast to spread thinly and you will never get the brush clean again. Ever. Ask me how I know.
The finished product? Excellent. I almost feel like I cheated, since every blog post I’ve read on the topic complains about multiple failed batches before getting things right! I absolutely credit Taste of Artisan for doing all the troubleshooting to come up with the best recipe and technique.
The crust was deeply browned and nicely chewy/crisp (and had a nice honey note from the beeswax), though the two centermost caneles in the pan were definitely underdone and suffering from “white bottom,” probably due to the lack of heat from being in the center. (the ones in the corners were the best) After unmolding I set those two, right side up, on a sheet pan and popped them back into the oven for 12 minutes to give them a bit more color, which worked fine. Still not as dark as the “good” ones, but passable.
Annoyingly, the batter amount for this recipe was a bit more than I needed to fill my 12-canele mold, but not enough to warrant spending another hour-plus to bake a second batch– it would make 3 more caneles at most, which hardly seemed worthwhile. In the future I’ll use a regular muffin pan to bake off the remaining batter at the same time, or possibly increase the recipe by 50% to have enough to make it worthwhile to do another round of baking.
Canelés de Bordeaux (slightly adapted from Taste of Artisan)
- 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 500 ml milk (cold)
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 225 g sugar
- 100 g bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 50 g butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp dark rum
- 40 g beeswax
- 60 g clarified butter (I used ghee from an Indian grocery store)
1. In the microwave (or on the stovetop) bring your milk to a gentle simmer– about 190 degrees F– and set aside for 2 minutes, stirring in vanilla extract at the end.
2. In the meantime, whisk together your eggs and yolks with the sugar. Add melted butter and whisk until combined.
3. Whisk in 1/4 of the hot milk to temper the eggs. Add flour and continue to whisk until smooth.
4. Slowly add the rest of the milk and the salt, whisking to combine. you’ll get a foamy cap on top, but don’t worry, you’ll whisk that out before using the batter.
5. Cover the batter and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
6. When ready to use the batter, add the rum and whisk for 2 minutes to fully combine.
7. To prepare molds, melt together beeswax and clarified butter. Preheat molds until warm to the touch, then use your fingers to spread a very thin layer of wax/butter mixture into the molds. Turn molds upside-down over a rack (set over a baking sheet) to allow any excess coating to drip out, then freeze until ready to bake. You can save the extra coating for future bakes.
8. Preheat oven to 550 degrees F.
9. Fill molds with batter to about 3/8″ from the top, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
10. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 375 degrees F and continue baking for another 45-50 minutes, until dark brown on top.
11. Remove pan from the oven and immediately turn caneles out onto a rack. Let cool to room temperature, and eat as soon as possible. I baked them in the morning and the texture was decent for the rest of the day, but by day 2 the crust was starting to lose its crispness, so eat ’em fast!