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Monday, March 23, 2015

Canelés (Cannelés)

Canelés are finicky. So much so that there are different spelling variations of this pastry. Before I started this project, all I knew about canelés were that you made them in these beautiful copper molds and that these molds were expensive. Very expensive. Then I did some research and found out that they're from the Bordeaux region in France and are custard cakes! That sounds wonderful, I love Portuguese custard tarts, so I'm sure I would love these, let's get started!

First, let me just find a place in Toronto that sells canelés so I can try them and then look for a recipe. Thanks again to all the lovely people online that pointed me in the direction of Nadège Patisserie. They opened up a new location in Richmond Adelaide Centre in the PATH, so I was able to go during my lunch break to scope out their selection. On top of the gleaming counters filled with macarons, cakes, and other tempting treats, I saw the canelés. Mini canelés to be precise, I bought six (they're mini and it's for research, six isn't too much) to take home and dissect.
Above: canelés from Nadège showing uneven mahogany colouring and a crispy exterior.
Below: canelés from Nadège showing the custard interior with a good amount of airiness
Verdict: canelés from Nadège are delicious! One of those "wow" moments when you try something good for the first time. I was so excited. I'm going to make these! I'm going to eat so many canelés in my lifetime now.

Time to look for a recipe! Who has the most reliable one? The tastiest one? One that will work with silicon canelés molds?

Stop. Wait. If you're about to embark on a canelés project, read as much as you can about these tricky pastries. Seriously, they're complicated - with varying factors affecting outcomes - and the key to your happiness is in their hands. Evil canelés. I think they're just as troublesome as macarons.

My reading material included Chez Pim who warns you with the word "madness" in the blog title. Yes, these little buggers can cause you to go mad. I was devastated to learn that silicone molds did not yield perfect or consistent results. My silicone mold was not the one recommended and I worried about the quality of silicone mold in my possession. But there was hope, you could make almost perfect canelés. Then there was the issue of beeswax. Where was I going to get beeswax?

I was teetering on hopelessness for short time but then saw these lovely canelés videos from ChefSteps and read about their experiment. Turns out, they found little difference between using beeswax or butter in lining the molds. They included temperatures for both convection and household ovens. They were able to incorporate other flavours. Explained the results comparing all-purpose flour, bread flours, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and most importantly, the molds. Turns out they were able to make canelés in ramekins, cast iron pans, tart tins, and cupcake trays. But again, silicone molds were not recommended.

But the best part of the posts are reading everyone's comments. You get to see what worked for others, what didn't work - like the silicone mold. One of the commentators was using a similar one as I was and found that if you cut up the mold so that they were singles, the canelés baked more evenly thanks to better air circulation and helped avoid the little collapses.
I spent late nights reading more and more. I scoured my pastry cookbooks and French food cookbooks, only finding two recipes. I read posts from Chocolate and Zucchini, Mimi Thorisson, and followed #projectcannelé online to see how eat. live. travel. write.Crumb, and Now You're Cooking were doing.

Then I came upon Eat, Little Bird; Butter and Brioche, and Notes from My Kitchen and saw that they were able to make beautiful canelés with silicone molds from the same recipe. So began my journey on a Friday night. 

Recipe adapted from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
(Makes about 20 canelés)

500 milliliters of 2% milk
50 grams of unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean pod, split
100 grams of all-purpose flour, sifted
250 grams of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

In a small saucepan over medium heat, pour in the milk, add the butter and vanilla bean. Bring the mixture to a light boil them remove from heat to cool.
Sift the flour into a large bowl.
Gently add the granulated sugar and salt to the sifted flour and stir to incorporate a bit.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and egg yolks together.

When the milk has slightly cooled, remove the vanilla bean pod. Pour the milk and eggs into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Remember, the milk can't be too hot here or your eggs will cook and become scrambled! Gently stir together until smooth (you do not want to incorporate too much air into the batter).

Strain the batter though a sieve into a new clean bowl (preferably one that comes with a lid) until a smooth batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap or the bowl's lid and refrigerate for 48 hours or longer. I gave it a stir after the first 24 hours. So I made the batter Friday night and baked them on Monday morning. This stage is important! Resting the batter yield in a more successful result for most people.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 240°C (460°F). I did not butter the silicone molds. After all that reading material, I felt that the consensus was that it wasn't necessary for silicone molds.

I used an ice cream scoop to pour the batter in, helping me get an even fill in the silicone molds.
Place filled silicone molds on baking tray and slide into oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 190°C (370°F) and bake for 50 minutes. To quickly lower the oven's temperature after the first 15 minutes, I left the oven door open and watched my oven thermometer.

I felt that my oven ran hot as the canelés had very dark tops (also, it was hotter there because of the baking tray). For my second batch, I reduced the baking to 10 minutes at 240°C (460°F) (or you could try reducing the baking time to 45 minutes at 190°C (370°F) if you also have a oven that runs hot). It'll be tricky as I don't want the custard to be under baked.
Fresh out of the oven, most of the canelés were the same height, with a few exceptions. You want to take them out of the molds as soon as possible so they can start to cool and harden for the crispy shell.

As you can see up top, the two in the middle and the one above it decided to lean and slant. The rest stayed upright and didn't slouch their backs. Three out of fifteen, not bad for my first try!
Aside from the obvious ones, a few had soft divots on the side, so tiny collapses. This was puzzling as I didn't incorporate any air, but they still puffed up on the oven before turning to a more acceptable size.
Moment of truth, was the centre a nice custard? I sliced through the crunchy exterior and to my delight, found that it was nice and airy inside. Not dense and not too many air pockets, just the right ratio that I like. The perfect crunch and chewy combination!

The original recipe called for powered sugar, but looking at the cross section of those canelés (Butter and Brioche was the only one who posted a photo of the interior), I saw that they were too dense. Recalling the ChefSteps experiments, they found the same results with powered sugar (although the browning on the exterior is more even), so I used the Redpath Special Fine Granulated Sugar. It's not as course as granulated sugar, so a nice medium between powder and granulated. But honestly, I would have went out and gotten powdered sugar if it came with the better result!

Now the trouble I had was storing them. Yes, I didn't gobble all of the canelés up (very tempted to, but I wanted to share these at work) so I placed them in containers and shut the lid on them. I think this created an environment that caused the canelés to soften up and lose their crunchy shell. They were all moist and spongy the next day. Not having that much luck finding lots and blog posts about this next step!

The most helpful thing I could find was from Dominique Ansel website, if you purchase their canelés box, they recommend that you store it in a cold, dry area. Do not refrigerate and they're best consumed fresh but will keep for up to three days. 

No comments on the type of storage, but I guess a pastry box is implied!

Disclaimer: The silicone mold, apron, vanilla bean, and sugar was sent to me from Michelle Galluzzo on behalf of Redpath Sugar. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. These caneles do look delicious but I doubt I would go to this much trouble except for a special occasion! Nice post!

    Old Fat Guy