How to Make French Canelés (It’s Simple)
When I set out to write my book, I was looking for recipes that made baking more approachable. Depending on the type of baked good in question, this could mean multiple things. For some baked goods, it meant simplifying a confusing process, or showing multiple ways to do it. For others, it meant explaining how and when ingredients could be flexible: tweaked, subbed, or swapped. But in the case of the fateful recipe in this post, it was about finding a less complicated vessel.
If you’ve ever had a canelé—the incredibly decadent French sweet featuring a deeply caramelized outer crust and a soft, custardy center—you’ve undoubtedly wished they could be ever-present in your life. While the batter is easy to make, canelés are a bit complicated. Traditional methods require copper molds that are coated in an edible beeswax. It’s enough specialized stuff to turn me off, and I’m nearly addicted to these beauties. So I figured there had to be another way. Full disclosure: You still need a special mold to pull these off, but I’ve formulated my recipe to be made in easy, breezy—did I mention inexpensive and easy to clean!?!—silicone, with nothing but a little soft butter to aid the process (yum). Ready to bake up some pure decadence at home? Here’s what you need to know:
This is the easiest part of the whole thing! The first thing to know is the batter needs to rest overnight. Don’t try to skip this step; it’s important. First, you want to take the dairy ingredients—butter, milk, and cream—and bring them to a simmer. Because sugar helps the milk and cream from scalding, I like to throw a portion of it into the pot too (1/4 cup). While you’re waiting for it to simmer, whisk together your dry ingredients: flour and the remaining sugar. Just before the milk comes to a simmer, add the remaining ingredients to the flour/sugar mixture. This includes eggs, egg yolks (helping make it extra custardy), rum, and vanilla extract. Whisk everything well to combine. Add the hot milk/cream/butter mixture to the bowl in a slow, steady steam, whisking constantly until the batter is nice and smooth. Strain the batter through a fine mesh sieve into storage containers with lids, cover, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Preparing the mold
First, get yourself a silicone canelé mold. There’s lots of options—this is the one I use, which costs about $10. Different molds have different amounts of cavities, but luckily most molds have pretty standard depth to each one. Remember that different molds may mean different baking times, but the process is still the same. For reference, I fill each cavity in my mold with about 1/3 cup (75 g) of batter. Use softened butter to generously grease each cavity in the mold. Before adding the batter (not butter), place the buttered mold on a baking sheet and it into a preheated 450° oven. Yes, it’s hot—this high temperature is crucial to how the canelé works! The high oven temperature causes the outside of each pastry to set and caramelize, while the inside continues to cook slowly, eventually setting into a slightly custardy center. You want to preheat the mold so that when you pour the batter in, the mold and butter is already nice and hot. Heat the mold for 3-4 minutes before removing it to add the batter.
Baking (Part 1)
Transfer the batter to a container with a pour spout, such as a large liquid measuring cup. Pour the batter into the preheated mold, filling each cavity about 3/4-way full. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-32 minutes, until the pastries have puffed up and begin to brown. Resist the urge to open the oven door during this time—the pastries are more likely to bake properly with a consistent oven temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 400° F and bake the canelés for another 30-32 minutes—the visible surface of the pastries should be very golden.
The Big Flip
Remove the pan from the oven and use a small offset spatula to loosen each pastry gently from the mold and flip it over inside the mold (this will help brown the pastries evenly all over). Handle the pastries gently, as they are easily dented (remember, they are soft and custardy inside). Return the canelés to the oven and bake until the tops are deeply golden, 12-15 minutes more. Let the pastries cool inside the molds before unmolding and serving.
Are We Done Yet?
This is one of those occasions where you can’t be afraid of over-browning the pastries. They’ll be very dark—a deep golden brown. In this case, that darkness is key to flavor. A lovely, rich caramelized flavor that only comes from intense heat and a rich batter. So don’t be afraid of over-baking; in fact, it’s important not to under-bake. Bon appétit!