Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I've been vacationing in the same place by the sea in Spain since I was a child. The friends I made there as a teenager keep coming back, and as we have produced on average three children each, the crowd has become too large to convene at each others' houses. So we have picnics in the evening on the beach, which is a lovely new tradition.

This year Isabelle brought miniature cannelés. These delicacies from Bordeaux are crunchy and caramelized on the outside, and tender and custardy on the inside. When I lived in New York I sometimes used to buy one larger one for $2 at Balthazar Bakery in Soho.

About the molds
I happen to have silicone molds for cannelés, which I've never used for their intended purpose. According to some sources, only copper molds can produce the desired result. But at about 11 euros per cup, even I can't justify investing in this kind of gadget. So silicone it is.
(Some bloggers have even successfully produced cannelé-like cakes without the special molds, either silicone or copper.)
And I didn't use any beeswax to butter my molds, which apparently increases the shine and overall attractiveness of the cake. I can't believe it's really necessary.

First results are very encouraging
I'm so glad Isabelle shared this recipe with me. They're very easy to make, if you have the patience to wait 24 hours. And even though the baking time is quite long, I'm sure my cost per cannelé is much less than $2, and the taste and texture are identical if not superior to what I tasted in New York or in Paris bakeries. I haven't had the real thing from Bordeaux but I'm willing to take bets my cannelés can stand the comparison. The one thing I might fiddle with next time is reducing the quantity of butter, as they seem very rich when they're still warm.

(Now I know my brother has a weak spot for cannelés, having once dated a woman from Bordeaux... maybe this post will tempt him to come visit again soon!)

Recipe: Cannelés

Source: my friend Isabelle from the beach...
Quantity: about 12 regular canneles
For 32 (two batches of 16), multiply quantities by 2.5

(Prepare the batter 24 hours before baking the cannelés)

- ½ liter milk
- 50g butter
(I might try with less butter next time)
- 100g flour
- 200g sugar
- 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
- 1 TB rhum (optional, I didn't use any)
- 1 Tspn vanilla (I used a combination of vanilla extract and powdered vanilla bean, perhaps more than the suggested amount)

1. Boil the milk with the butter. (Some recipes say the milk should then be cool before mixing in with other ingredients. I didn't pay attention to its temperature)
2. Mix the flour and sugar
3. Beat the eggs and yolks and mix with flour-sugar mixture
4. Add the rhum (I didn't), then slowly whisk in the milk + butter mixture. The batter should be like a crèpe batter. If necessary, use a sieve to get rid of any lumps.
5. Add the vanilla.
6. Let the batter rest 24 hours in the fridge
7. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Fill cannelé molds with the batter, leaving almost no space at the top. If the molds are silicone, you probably don't need to butter them first. Definitely do butter them carefully if they are metal molds.
8. Place them in the oven, increase the temperature to 250°C (450°F) and bake for 15 minutes (the oven may get smoky during these first 15 minutes). Then lower the oven temperature to 180°C (355°F) and bake them for one hour if using miniature cannelé molds, 1 hour and 15 minutes for regular sized molds. They should be quite dark on the outside.
9. Unmold as soon as you take them out of the oven (or they will stick to the mold. If they do, pop them back in the oven for a few minutes), and let them cool off completely before serving (I personally don't like them warm at all, they're squishy inside...)

Update June 2008:
These freeze well: to thaw, nuke them in the microwave very briefly (about 20 seconds at fairly high power), and amazingly they come out crunchy. I've only tried this with one at a time though. Also, these make a nice gift package, see here.

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(Coming next, Patrice's fig and goat cheese tart, also sampled at this picnic...)