With a soft custardy centre and crisp caramelised shell, canelés are about to hit the big time
Bordeaux, a region most famous for wine, has been harbouring a bittersweet secret for more than 300 years in the form of a little fluted cake, the canelé. Bad, bad Bordeaux! How could you keep these from us?
In a word they're ...
To die for. OK, that was three. But then if you eat one, you'll end up eating three anyway, so that's probably quite appropriate.
What do they taste like?
Canelés have soft and slightly chewy centres (not quite custard and not quite cake) enclosed by rich caramelised shells. People call them the portable crème brûlée and to put it bluntly: We. Can't. Get. Enough.
So what's the original recipe?
Well, that's just it. No one knows. Except the proud pâtissieres of Bordeaux, and they're not going to tell anybody. But this we do know: traditionally canelés are flavoured with rum and vanilla, then baked in individual copper moulds that are greased with melted oil and beeswax. Yep, beeswax.
What's in the name?
Quite a lot actually. Their full name is canelés de Bordeaux and they're the official cakes of the city. Bordeaux pâtissieres are highly protective of their canelés and in 1985 staged a "linguistic coup d'etat" by removing one of the n's from the old spelling (cannelé) to differentiate their authentic cakes from bastardised versions. This is serious stuff.
I can't cook. Can I still have one?
Good news is that you can buy them! Babelle (based in London) specialise in the art of the canelé – they're stocked in Fortnum and Mason and some Whole Foods stores. Paul bakery sell a more high street version too, so it's quite possible to have the gratification without the beeswax, sweat and tears.
What do I eat them with?
Anything really – they're so versatile. Classic canelés go well with cognac, wine, black coffee, tea... and they're perfect for teatime or dessert. As a rule, any canelé is best followed by another canelé (they're only small, you know).
How do you make 'em?
The recipes can be enough to drive you crazy... think oven temperature changes, long baking times, small batches, messy beeswax coatings and expensive copper moulds (traditionally bought individually – which is sure to add up). But if you still want to give them a go, try one of these...
Some people like their canelés more carbonised than caramelised on the outside. If you fall into this peculiar category, leave them in the oven a bit longer.
With no need for beeswax and even the option (dare we say it) to use silicone rather than traditional copper moulds, this straightforward recipe is a great place to start.
It's hard to see why adding cocoa powder is so controversial... especially when it makes them so scrummy.
We can just see those Bordeaux pâtissieres getting more red-faced. But honestly, it's only une petite peu d'orange!
And the best thing?
You can eat them for breakfast. Not just out of recklessness but out of tradition. We're sold.
Like this? Then try these:
- Babka is the new black: why it's time you got acquainted with Jewish baking
- The best naked cakes ever made
- The Cronut creator is bringing a bakery to London
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