Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yes, I Cannele!

Yippee!  I have a birthday coming up.  Well, not until September actually, but that won't keep me from creating my bucket list of things I love to eat yet usually deny myself except on my birthday!

C'mon, tell me you don't do the same thing.  We all know calories don't count on your birthday and you can eat anything you damn well please.  While we may suffer through endless salads and unadorned vegetables in our "normal" lives, when it comes to our birthdays, all bets are off!

What's on your list?  Mine is full of carb-laden goodies.  French fries (hopefully with smoked tomato mayo), new potato salad (with bacon, scallions and sour cream) and bread pudding come to mind.  I wouldn't turn down a little lobster mac and cheese, either.  And, thanks to some recent recipe testing in my kitchen, canneles have now made the cut.

You may remember that I talked about these in my last post.  While I mentioned that we had them in St. Martin, I neglected to mention that we didn't like them all that much.  They were dry and sort of tasteless, not at all what I expected.

The backstory:  some months ago, the Cooking Channel resurrected Chicago pastry chef Gale Gand's Sweet Dreams dessert show and I managed to catch a few episodes.  Tragically, it's no longer aired, but one of the segments featured Gale and Pascal Rigo, author of  "The American Boulangerie:  French Pastires and Breads for the Home Kitchen."  They were making Canneles de Bordeaux.  I was intrigued.

Now understand, I had never tasted the things before.  I just thought they looked interesting and right up my alley.  And even though I took a oath not to bring too much crap into the house, in typical Liz impulsive fashion, I immediately burned up the internet to purchase both cannele molds and beeswax - only to subsequently let them languish in the cupboard.

Until I tasted those canneles in St. Martin.  As I said, they were a big disappointment.  So the minute I returned to my crappy kitchen (more about that later), I dragged out those unused supplies and set about making my own.

Admittedly, these are a lot of effort for a small return, and as I was laboring through the process, I concluded this was most likely the kind of recipe you only make once.  You know, like making puff pastry from scratch.  But then I tasted one.  Holy cow!  I don't care how messy they are;  I will definitely make them again!

Here's the recipe.  I don't imagine many of you will travel down this road, but if you do, it will be SO worth it.  Trust me!

CANNELES DE BORDEAUX  (adapted from Pascal Rigo)

3 cups whole milk
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
7 ½ ounces unsalted butter, divided
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pastry flour (see note)
Pinch of salt
1 extra-large egg yolk
2 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoon dark rum
3 ounces beeswax, finely chopped (1/3 cup)

For the batter:
In a small saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean and vanilla bean scrapings.  Bring mixture to the scalding point over medium heat, but do not let it boil.  Remove pan from the heat and add 3 tablespoons of the butter.  Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, eggs and rum.  Whisk the egg mixture into the sugar and flour mixture, then whisk in the lukewarm milk mixture.  Strain into a container then cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  You will need to remove the batter from the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before baking it.

To prepare the molds:
Dice the remaining ¾ cup of cold butter.  Cut the beeswax into small pieces (trust me, this is no easy task; the stuff is like frickin’ mortar – you could probably build a fort with it) and melt it in a saucepan over low heat.  This can take almost 20 minutes.  When beeswax is melted, add the butter and stir until it melts also.  Remove from heat and, using a narrow pastry brush, carefully coat the insides of (18) 2 by 1-inch canneles molds.  Make sure the molds are well-coated.  If beeswax starts to set up while you are working with it, return to the heat for a few moments until it thins out again.

To bake the canneles:
Remember to take the batter out of the refrigerator 1 hour before using.  Preheat oven to 425-degrees.

Place the waxed canneles molds on a heavy baking sheet with a rim, lined with parchment paper.  Fill the molds almost to the top with the batter.  Whisk the batter frequently during this process to ensure it remains well-blended.

Bake the canneles for 50 minutes, or until dark brown.  Remove from oven, but be careful not to spill any hot wax on yourself.  This is a messy job as the canneles will have bubbled over.  Using tongs or an old towel, pick up each mold and tap it upside down to remove the canneles.  If they don’t come out easily, use a small paring knife to loosen from the sides.  Place canneles on paper towels to drain.

To serve the canneles:
You can serve these "naked" but I like to cut them in half lengthwise, then arrange on a plate and drizzle with a little caramel.  You could also add a dollop of whipped cream.  Or not!  

Yield:  18 canneles

Even in this crappy photo (sorry!), 
you can see how delicious these are!

*  No pastry flour on hand?  No worries.  For the 2/3 cup called for here, combine 1/3 + 1/6 cup of cake flour with 1/6 cup unbleached all-purpose flour.  That's what I did and it worked just fine.

*  Don't even think about omitting the rum from this recipe.  Trust me, it is crucial!

*  Another tip?  Remove these guys from their molds immediately after taking them out of the oven.  If they start to set up, you will never be able to turn them out and you will likely hurl those heavy little copper molds through your kitchen window in frustration.  You can trust me on this one, too.

*  Who has 18 canneles molds, anyway?  (Hell, who has even one?)  You can halve the recipe or you can bake in batches.  The batter will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Honestly, these were amazing.  They were dark and caramelized on the outside and custard-like and "rummy" on the inside.  Nothing like those dry little knobs we had in St. Martin.  Guess I could show that fancy French bakery down there a thing or two!


  1. Seems like it's the wax makes these a lot of work. Can't we just use molds coated with butter & flour?

  2. You are so right - the beeswax is what makes this a pain. But, without it, I don't think you will get that caramelized, dark brown crust on the outside, which is part of why these things are so amazing when contrasted with the custardy inside. I'll test it with just buttering and flouring the pans, however and thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I love you.

    and thank you :)