SO, um, canelés. Or should it be cannelés? (Those little cakes with a crunchy caramelized exterior and a custardy interior). No matter how you spell them, I’ve made them before, right? A couple of times… I will also admit to eating a LOT of canelés over the summer of 2014 in France (my favourite ones came from Bernard Meysan in Saint-Emilion) – until last fall, I’ve been meaning to make them for years, ever since I read all Pim’s posts about making canelés (and her success using the silicone molds), as opposed to the copper ones which cost an arm and a leg!). My early attempts were perhaps beginner’s luck… Laughing as I write this post to read that back in October I said:
I’m keen to keep trying these as the recipe is dead easy.
LOL big time. The recipe itself might be “dead easy” (it honestly takes 15 minutes to prepare the batter) but getting the technique right has been a labour of love over the past 4 months. they have become what macarons were to me in 2010. So when Redpath’s Acts of Sweetness team contacted me to ask if I would like to be a part of #projectcannelé, I jumped at the chance. They sent me some silicone molds to try out and it turned out these were the ones I had previously had inconsistent results with so I was even more keen to “get it right”.
Back in the fall when I was first starting to experiment with these, I bought a number of different sized silicone molds to try out (and I had a lengthy email exchange with Dorie and her assistant about which size, which brand etc…) and the ones I liked then were not quite “mini” size – too small and they are simply too small to get a decent custard/ crust ratio and the larger ones are too big (unless they are taking the place of a meal. Ahem.).
Turns out that things change and over what must be 30 half-batches, I’ve discovered there are a number of factors in play which contribute to the success (or otherwise) of cannelés and the molds are a huge part of this, so whilst I really liked the size of the molds I had used last year, they aren’t the ones I’ll be using from now on..
But wait… what’s this about the random different spelling of the name of these treats? Well, according to Paula Wolfert, the little cakes were not so popular until the mid 1980s when :
In 1985, stunned by this surge in popularity, 88 Bordeaux patissiers formed a confrérie, or brotherhood, to protect the integrity of their canelés. They staged a “linguistic coup d’etat” by removing one of the n’s from the old spelling (cannelé) to differentiate their cake, with its secret method of preparation, from bastardized versions. Today, canelé de Bordeaux is the official cake of the city, while cannelé bordelais is a generic name used [around the world].
So, since we’re making these outside Bordeaux, we’ll go with cannelé…
Et hop. On y va with the months-long experiment. I’ve drastically condensed the information in this post to what I consider the bare minimum from what I have learned (lest anyone else tell me “life’s short, move on” as one helpful commenter did on a recent Instagram post… I say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…..”) but “bon courage” – there’s still a lot to read.
Cannelé trial and error: a summary
For each of these trials (except the very last round) I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe from Baking Chez Moi which you can find here. As I said, I probably have made over 30 half-batches in the past four months so I’m going to sum up my findings under some distinct categories according to the techniques I used.
1. Silicone molds coated in beeswax and butter.
This is the traditional coating for a cannelé mold and it’s how the little cakes get their rich colour on the outside. Chez Pim, amongst others, offers a lengthy explanation on how to work with beeswax and butter to coat the molds and I happened to get my hands on some food-grade wax from a bee-keeping friend…
I found the wax hard to work with using the silicone molds – it hardens almost immediately it touches the molds and it is NOT fun to remove from your brushes or other kitchen utensils. For me, using these molds with beeswax/butter produced uneven rising and “wonky” looking cannelés. Food-grade beeswax, it turns out, is not so easy to get your hands on so I might not be promoting this method for the average home-baker.
Wonky, right? To get them the right colour on the outside, I feel like I nearly had to overbake them – the interior was quite dry. They also “fell” quite a bit as they cooled, meaning the custardy interior wasn’t quite right…
2. Silicone molds coated in melted butter.
I feel this method is more like what most people will use. For this batch, I coated the molds in melted butter then froze them for about 30 minutes before baking them in the hot oven. I was fairly happy with the results and should have possibly left well enough alone at that point…
3. Silicone molds – uncoated, coated with beeswax/ butter and coated with melted butter only
Because I am a glutton for punishment, and because I had read so many places how you DIDN’T need to coat the silicone molds with anything , I decided to do a side-by side experiment in the same tray. I left one row of molds uncoated, coated one row with beeswax and butter (you can see below how hard it is to get a very light coating) and coated one row with melted butter.
From top: uncoated, coated with melted butter, coated in beeswax/butter:
As you can see, the beeswax/butter coated molds behaved oddly this time, producing “creases” in the cannelés. The butter coated molds produced wonky cannelés which didn’t stand up straight while the uncoated molds produced straight, uncreased cannelés.
And the interiors?
4. Thicker silicone molds uncoated, coated in melted butter, coated in room temperature butter.
(at this point in my experiments, I took a little break, heading to France for a couple of weeks where I, ahem, ate a lot of cannelés for, you know, research, and bought some gorgeous copper molds to test once I have mastered the silicone…)
I found myself in Australia unexpectedly at this point in my research and sans my cannelé molds (though I did take them to France… as you do!). I spent a few days hunting down the molds (they mostly go by the name of “Bordelais” in Australia from what I understand and they are NOT easy to find…). In the end I happened across these Mastrad molds which are slightly bigger and a much thicker quality silicone and, since beggars can’t be choosers, I snapped them up. I liked that they have a rigid edge so they are easier to handle:
This time, I coated the molds in melted butter, room temperature butter (I applied with my fingers a thin coat) and left a few uncoated (as per the instruction on the package). I baked these for 30 minutes at 450˚F and 30 minutes at 400˚F per Dorie’s instructions, however they needed a little extra time to get the colour right on the outside – so they stayed an extra 10 minutes in the oven.
From top: room temperature butter coated molds, melted butter coated molds and uncoated molds:
You can see that while the room temperature and melted butter coated molds produced gorgeous custardy interiors and straight-sided cannelés, the uncoated molds produced odd humps on the bottoms meaning they don’t stand up straight. So, not a disaster but not ideal either… the thicker molds definitely seemed to produce a much more even heat colouring (but the butter definitely helped there too).
5. Thicker silicone molds uncoated and coated in melted butter using a tweaked recipe.
For my final round of experimenting, I tweaked the recipe a bit. I was really happy with the results of the previous iteration of the cannelés but wanted to try a couple more times to double check that this was, indeed the mold I would recommend. I had just received my friend Jill Colonna’s new book Teatime in Paris and checked out her recipe for cannelés. It’s a bit different from Dorie’s in both quantity of ingredients and the way the dry ingredients are incorporated in the batter (see more on this below) so I tweaked Dorie’s recipe with some of Jill’s suggestions.
Again, our uncoated molds produced weird shapes – rising a lot out of the molds and not settling properly meaning they don’t stand up properly. The molds coated in a tiny amount of melted butter fared best. The interiors, however, were prefect:
So without further ado –
10 tips for making canelés/ cannelés in silicone moulds
1. Air is not your friend. Too much air in the batter will cause them to puff up too much in the oven…….
2. Use the best quality silicone molds (read: thicker, not flimsy) that you can afford. The thin ones will get too hot too fast and produce inconsistent results no matter what you do and you’ll find yourself having to say “I don’t know” when people ask you if you can bring 60 of them to their party. Because you get different results every time.
3. Don’t fuss too much over the batter. In fact, treat it like you couldn’t care less if it works out or not and it might just cooperate 😉 My most successful “tweak” in technique was borrowed from Jill Colonna, author of the just-released Teatime in Paris whereby you make a paste from the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and flour and them gently whisk in the hot milk/ butter mix. This seemed to help with a less airy batter – when I tried adding the dry ingredients to the hot liquid I always had to whisk much more which led to more bubbles and air (see #1).
4. Rest your batter at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours overnight. Gently stir it (with the back of a knife – you don’t want to whisk too much now it’s all settled).
5. Let your batter come to room temperature before you use it in silicone molds.
6. As you are heating the oven, melt some butter and lightly (ever so lightly, mind) brush the molds with the butter. Make sure it doesn’t pool in the bottom of the molds by turning the molds upside down on a cooling rack set over paper towel to drain excess butter out.
7. Contrary to popular belief, I have had much more success with room temperature molds (another tip from Jill). Maybe they don’t like to be cold then incredibly hot (I mean, I wouldn’t!) like they are if you freeze them (many recipes tell you to use cold molds) before you bake. Room temperature batter and room temperature molds produced the best looking (and best interiors) of all the batches – and the most consistent, even shapes…
8. As the cannelé are baking, you might want to keep an eye on them as they might rise slightly over the top of the molds. If need be, take a toothpick and gently coax the shapes down back into the molds but if your batter is the right consistency and your molds are cooperating you might not need to.
9. About 5 minutes before the cannelé are finished baking (maybe 10), pull the tray out and, with the aid of a toothpick, remove the cannelé from their molds and pop them back in the molds right side up. This will help the tops brown a little more (evenly). Be careful – the oven will be hot and so will the molds.
10. Let your cannelé rest in the molds (still right side up) for about 10 minutes before you take them out and place them on a wire cooling rack. They are best eaten at room temperature – I like them after an hour or so. They are best the same day you make them.
I recommend these silicone molds.
And my recipe? It’s a mish mash of Dorie and Jill’s ingredients, recipe and techniques. With much gratitude to both for answering my constant questions and giving me so much advice…
- 500mls whole milk
- 30g unsalted butter
- 250g granulated sugar
- 140g all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Melted unsalted butter, for the molds
- One day before baking:
- Bring the milk and the butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and cool slightly, stirring occasionally to release some of the heat.
- Place the sugar, flour, eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk gently until you have a soft paste-like consistency.
- Pour in the milk/ butter and continue to whisk gently until you have a smooth liquid.
- Add the vanilla and rum and give it one last stir (you don't want to whisk air into this batter).
- Use a wire strainer, strain the batter over a glass jug, cover the jug with plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
- About an hour or two before baking:
- Remove the batter from the fridge, give it a gentle stir and allow to come to room temperature (or at least, not chilled).
- Prepare the silicone molds by brushing with a little melted butter. Coat the molds sparingly and in necessary, turn the molds upside down over a wire rack placed over paper towels to drain excess butter from inside molds. Set aside (at room temperature)
- Pre-heat oven to 450˚F.
- When the batter is room temperature, give the batter one final stir and pour into the molds about ¾ full.
- Place the silicone molds on a wire cooling rack on a baking tray and bake at 450˚F for 30 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 400˚F and bake for a further 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and, with the aid of a toothpick, carefully remove the cannelé from the molds and place them immediately back in the molds right side up.
- Bake for 10 more minutes.
- Remove molds from oven and place on a wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes before you unmold them and allow to come to room temperature on a wire cooling rack.
- Best eaten the day they are made (after about 2 hours at room temperature).
Disclosure: I received a baking kit including silicone molds and sugar from Redpath Acts of Sweetness. I was not further compensated for writing this post.
Please note: The product links from Amazon and Amazon.ca are affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase the product I have linked to or any other product, I will receive a small percentage of the sale price which helps keep the eat. live. travel. write. household in ingredients to continue experimenting with cannelés.