Canelés (Cannelés) de Bordeaux Recipe

For ambitious bakers only.

A whole canelé next to another canelé cut open to reveal its custardy interior.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Why It Works

  • A coating of beeswax and butter creates an outer skin that will help protect the shape of the canelés as they bake.
  • Baking on a stone at high heat from the outset encourages this skin formation, especially on the bottom of the mold.
  • Removing your canelés briefly from the oven while they bake lets them sink back down into the molds, preventing bubbled-over batter disasters.

I'm typing this post from the floor of my kitchen, where I've been sitting for the past 30 minutes with my forehead pressed against the glass of my oven door. As I write, it's 7 a.m. on a Saturday, and this post was due days ago. It's been three weeks since I began working on canelé, and this is what they've reduced me to: crazed, unable to pull myself away, and struggling to put down words that might help you, gentle reader, avoid the madness to which this pastry has driven me.

Up until a few months ago, canelés were just the stuff of pastry legend, known only by their reputation for being fussy and difficult to make in that just-so way. A trip to New York City's Dominique Ansel Bakery sparked my obsession with the pastry. Holding a perfect one in my hand for the first time, I could only make guesses as to how the baker had achieved such a glassy, caramelized exterior contrasted with an impossibly custardy center. Such a delicious mystery to unravel, I began daydreaming in canelé. I couldn't wait to do it myself.

Two dark golden homemade French canelés.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

It turned out, I was not alone. A Google search revealed that this was well-worn territory, and my friend MaryKate, a veteran of the pastry department of Sullivan Street Baking Co., had been at it for some time, too. Since she already had the necessary equipment (a set of aluminum molds) and the knowledge she'd gained from many attempts already under her belt, she volunteered to help me get started. We had major issues with the canelés rising out of their molds, slumping over the sides, then charring bulbously on top. They were delicious, but they didn't score any points in the beauty department. I was disappointed and determined to get it right.

Weeks wore on, and I attempted canelés again and again, obsessed with perfection. I tried new batters, at all different temperatures in different parts of the oven. I tried water baths. I broke down and bought six of the damn copper molds because I had to know. I obsessed over advice generously dispensed from my pastry chef idols via Twitter, swapped secret emails with friends at the best bakeries in New York City. The advice only made things more dizzying. For every chef who swears by beeswax there is another who prefers a spritz of non-stick spray. Some tout silicone (I was out of money for a high-quality silicone mold—that will have to be a project for another pay period) while others said, "copper or nothing." At the end of the day, the lesson was clear: Each baker has a method that works for him or her, and that's the way to canelé perfection. My method may not work for everyone, but it works for me, and I've found peace with that idea.

If you attempt canelés at home it's important to keep these principles in mind:

  • A coating of beeswax and butter, frozen to the molds before baking, helps create a protective outer skin that will help protect the shape of the canelés as they bake. Beeswax can be purchased on the internet or at the honey stand at a farmers market.
  • High heat at the outset encourages skin formation, especially on the bottom of the mold. To facilitate this, bake on a stone, and preheat the baking sheet that will hold the molds.
  • If the canelés rise out of the molds early on without having time to form the protective skin, they will fall over or puff out and will be unable to sink vertically back into the molds. I found it critical to watch them carefully for the first 30-45 minutes, and remove them from the oven before they rise too high in the beginning.
  • Many people on the internet advise baking until they are nearly black on the tops. I advise against this; there's a big difference between caramelized and carbonized in flavor, texture, and appearance. I'm happy to put up with some blond patches to avoid a charred, burned bottom part.
  • Copper really is the best if your goal is the perfect canelé. However, the aluminum are pretty good too, and if you're okay with canelés that are a little less than perfect, the ones baked in aluminum are still plenty delicious and cost a fraction of the price of the copper.
  • Practice makes perfect, and mistakes are still delicious.

I'm proud of the final product, and glad that I will be able to sleep better having achieved it. 

January 2012

Recipe Facts

3.5

(2)

Active: 3 hrs
Total: 74 hrs
Serves: 12 canelés

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Ingredients

  • 17.6 ounces whole milk

  • 1 vanilla bean with the seeds scraped

  • 1.8 ounces butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 2 large eggs

  • 10.6 ounces confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 4.4 ounces all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 ounce dark rum

  • 2 ounces pure beeswax

  • 2 ounces butter

Directions

  1. 3 days before baking: In a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the milk and the vanilla bean pod and seeds. Bring the milk just barely to a boil; turn the heat off when the edges begin to bubble. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and place in the fridge (pod, and all) to steep overnight.

  2. 2 days before baking: Place the eggs and yolks in a bowl and break the yolks with a fork; do not whisk them. Add the melted butter, stir gently with a fork just to incorporate, and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Place a strainer over the bowl, and pour the steeped milk through the strainer; discard the pod from the vanilla bean. Press the egg mixture through the strainer with a rubber spatula, then add the rum to the bowl. Gently mix the batter with a spatula; avoid incorporating air. Wash and dry the strainer, then push the batter through the strainer with a rubber spatula. Cover the batter and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 48 hours.

  3. 3 hours before baking: Set the oven to 350°F and place the metal (either copper or aluminum) canelé molds inside for 10 minutes. While the molds are heating, place the beeswax in a plastic, microwave-safe container and microwave in 30-second increments, swirling each time, until the beeswax is fully liquified. Add the butter and microwave until it has fully melted, then stir until you have a solution of butter and beeswax. (This may also be done on the stovetop in a saucepan, but because cleaning beeswax from pots is an unsavory activity, using the microwave is highly recommended.) Remove the molds from the oven and allow them to cool for 1 minute. Set up a cooling rack with plastic wrap underneath. Grasping the molds one at a time with the tongs, coat the insides of the molds with the wax mixture using a pastry brush (silicone is recommended, you will need to boil the pastry brush to get the wax off later), then invert the molds on top of the cooling rack and allow the excess wax to drip off. Once the wax has cooled back to opaque, place the molds in the freezer for 2 hours.

  4. Once it's time to bake: Set a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven and place a sheet tray on top. Preheat the oven to 500°F. When the oven is ready, remove the molds from the freezer and fill them almost to the top, leaving a centimeter of space at the top of the molds. Remove the preheated sheet tray from the oven, line with parchment, and then place the filled molds on the heated tray, spacing them evenly and far apart. Place the tray of molds onto the stone in the oven, and watch it carefully for the first 30 minutes of baking. The canelés will start to bubble, then rise up out of the molds. When they rise more than one centimeter above the rim of the molds, use tongs to remove the molds and allow the canelés to sink all the way back down into the molds, then return them to the oven. You will need to do this for the first 30-45 minutes of baking, until you notice that the canelés have developed an outer skin and a space has formed between the molds and the canelés on all sides.

    Once this has happened, drop the temperature of the oven to 400°F and allow the canelés to finish baking, approximately 45 more minutes (there is no exact time, since the temperature has fluctuated so much with the oven being opened and closed and the canelés spending time, as needed, out of the oven). Watch for the tops to completely turn a deep golden brown and bubble (this is the butter in the batter) around the edges and middle. When the desired color is achieved on the tops, remove one from the oven using the tongs to test. Allow it to cool for several minutes, then invert the mold onto the cooling rack. If you are pleased with the color of the canelés, then remove the rest from the oven and allow them to cool for several minutes before unmolding. If you are not, return the canelé to its mold and bake the batch longer. The canelés should cool on the rack for 30 minutes before eating, and are best if consumed no more than 5 hours after baking.

Special Equipment

canelé molds, metal tongs, baking stone

We also strongly recommend using a scale for all pastry projects. Serious Eats' recommended kitchen scale is the Oxo Good Grips Scale with Pull Out Display.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
269 Calories
11g Fat
35g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 269
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 146mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 66mg 5%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 98mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)