Sunday, February 5, 2012

Baking Caneles

Move over gourmet cupcakes………….. 
there’s a new sheriff in town.

The Art of Baking Caneles

 In recent years we have seen resurgence in cupcakes. Whether driven by TV shows or boutique bakeries, cupcakes have reached new heights. Well gourmet cupcakes…….move over, there’s a new sheriff in town.

My Daughter Maggie
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the canele.  This small pastry from the south of France is making a true come back. Today we’ll look at the history and lore of the canele. In addition, I’ll share a sure fire recipe for success as well as some helpful cooking and handling tips.

A traditional canele is a small hand held pastry with a deep caramel “shell like” skin.  This crisp shell is a wonderful contrast to the creamy custard center, flavored with vanilla and rum. The shell is developed by baking the pastry in a special copper mold lined with tin. These molds are crown shaped and generally 2 ½” in diameter and 2” in height.


The canele dates back over 300 years to the Bordeaux region of France. Many foods don’t have a story behind them; the canele has several.

First, it is rumored that the nuns from the Convent of Annonciades  (Convent of Mercy) developed the recipe using egg yolks donated to them by neighboring wine maker’s.  The wine maker’s used egg whites for clarifying their wines but had no use for the yolks. There have been several archaeological digs at the site of the Convent. No records indicate ever finding the traditional copper molds use for baking the pastry. Most likely, this is not the genesis of the canele, but the next tale may very well be.

The second story goes like this. Residents living along the docks of Bordeaux would gather low protein (cake) flour that was spilled when unloading boats. They would use this flour to make a batter, pour it into copper molds and bury them in the embers of a fire to bake. The resulting pastries were given to the poor children for nourishment.

And now for a bit of history.

As I mentioned, first records for the canele date back 300 years to Bordeaux. As recently as 30 years ago, caneles began sprouting up in other cities such as London, Singapore and Los Angeles. These versions we often alter with non-traditional flavorings such as coconut and mango.

To protect the integrity of their national treasure, 88 bakeries in Bordeaux formed a consortium in 1985. The original spelling of the pastry was with two “n”s. The consortium decided to drop one of the “n”s from the original spelling of the pastry to differentiate their cake from the bastardized versions.  To this date, the recipe is a closely guarded secret.

The basic premise for preparing caneles is to pour cold batter into cold copper molds and bake them in a very hot oven for a very long time. This produces the crisp skin.  They are best consumed after one hour of preparation.  After 5-6 hours, they can become soggy but bakers have devised different tricks to bring the pastry back to life.

Caneles  are good anytime of the day. For breakfast, or as a mid day snack with a cup of coffee and a perfect way to end dinner with a glass of great red wine.

I hope you enjoy the treats!

Inside the Canele

Caneles              Yield: 10 cakes

2 cups                 Whole Milk
2 Tbl.                  Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed
¾ cup                 Cake Flour
Pinch                  Salt
1 cup + 2 Tbl.   Granulated Sugar
4 each                 Large Egg Yolks
1 Tbl.                   Dark Rum
1 tsp.                   Pure Vanilla Extract
as needed          White Oil*

Heat the milk to 185°

Place the flour, butter and salt in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to mix and create a coarse meal. Remove the lid, sprinkle the sugar over the surface of the mixture, replace the lid and pulse once or twice to mix.

Add the egg yolks and process until a thick mixture is formed.

With the motor running, quickly add the milk in a steady stream.

Strain the mixture through a fine chinoise. Add the rum and vanilla, mix well, cover and store refrigerated for 24-48 hours.

 Six hours prior to baking, lightly brush in the inside of the molds with warmed white oil.  Invert the molds on a paper towel to allow excess oil to drain. Place the molds in the freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Pre heat the oven to 400° (if using a convection oven, set the temperature to 375°)

Remove the batter from the refrigerator and stir well.  Fill the molds nearly to the top and bake on the lower rack of the oven for 1 ¾ - 2 hours.

Remove from the oven. Using oven mitts, unmold the cakes as quickly as possible and allow to stand for 1 hour before serving. If the cakes stick to the mold, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

*White Oil
1 oz. (w)             Bee’s Wax
As needed         Vegetable Oil, (approx. 1/3rd cup)

Place the bee’s wax in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave with medium high heat.

Once melted, stir in the vegetable oil until a slightly thickened, white liquid is formed. The final consistency should lightly coat the back of a spoon.

Note: Canele molds can be found on line from JB Prince and Company, New York, New York

Chef Joe

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