ARTICLE

Canelés de Bordeaux (or: my love of copper moulds)

caneleexterior1

I feel myself drawn inexorably to baking projects that have no end, just a rocky path of discoveries, flops, experiments, successes, flops… Not content with macarons and pastéis de nata to add girth and grey hairs to my existence, I started playing with canelés de Bordeaux about a year ago. Why? Why? The lure of something that absolutely required expensive copper moulds and beeswax must have clinched the deal. I let on to readers that I had embarked on another of my baking odysseys back in March, but delivering the goods has taken far too long. It would have been quicker if every batch didn't require advance preparation and considerable time in the oven. At least I'm not alone, for everyone from Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini to the talented Julia at Melanger has had the bug, as have many people on eGullet.

caneleinmoulds

Canelés are fluted cakes made of a very simple rum-flavoured batter. Copper moulds are "greased" with beeswax and filled almost to the top. The desired result is soft, almost gooey on the inside (some people say "custardy") and a shade of rich brown on the outside — preferences range from prettily golden to charred black, though dark brown is the traditional preference.

The name canelé has often been spelled cannelé, but was codified with one N only a few decades ago. The genuine article from the Bordeaux region is designated canelé de Bordeaux, while in other places canelé, canelé bordelais or even just bordelais (plural: canelés bordelaises) are used. (I see no reason to assign two Ns to the non-local version, and it's possible that version is the perpetuation of a typo from somewhere.)

The frustration of these strange objects is in the moulds and the cooking. It's easy to cook something that can be as brown as you like, right? Cool! It's easy to grease a mould so something doesn't stick, right? Yes. But what if the question is how much something should not stick, or how to stop your batter rising a few centimetres out of the mould, or how to avoid ugly air-pockets inside? Hmmm?

Or one could wonder why some recipes insist on freezer-cold moulds while others don't. Why some want the canelés baked on the bottom shelf of a convection oven, or not. Why some place freezing moulds on oven-hot trays, or why some add hot milk to the other ingredients while others wait until the milk is cold… the list of contradictions goes on, and despite the wearyingly long thread on eGullet, most of the crucial parameters go unexplained. So let me summarise what I seem to have found out.

  • Copper moulds (tin-lined) are cool, expensive, and yield the "genuine" texture. 55 mm diameter moulds cost at least EUR 8.50 each (currently AUD 13) in France. I have a grand total of two! Aluminium moulds are cheaper, but not quite as good. Note that copper moulds have to be "seasoned" before the first use (see Wolfert's article link below).
  • Silicone moulds are pretty useful and can yield an interesting, shiny and smooth-as-glass crust that I think is by no means inferior to the "genuine" article. Not all silicone moulds are equal, however. An eight-canelé sheet costs at least EUR 15 in France (about AUD 25) and you would need at least two because you can't use all the cavities (see "Baking", below).
  • Beeswax provides a thin coating on the metal moulds which doesn't melt until the moulds are quite hot (unike butter or oil). It adds a pleasant taste which is part of the genuine "signature" of canelés. It can be hard to buy in smallish quantities, and you would probably have to order it from afar. (I got 500 gm sent to me from a Queensland-based company.)
  • It's possible that strong heat from the bottom is desirable to harden the exterior quickly and brown the batter at the bottom of the mould (which will form the top of the finished product).

RECIPE: Canelés bordelaises

This recipe is an adaptation of the highly respected Paula Wolfert recipe (worth reading too!). I've metricated it, tweaked slightly and added some more technical explanation.

Batter

Makes 10 canelés in 55mm diameter moulds. Prepare at least one day in advance.

480 ml milk
170 gm caster sugar
30 gm butter
85 gm soft flour (or about 70 gm plain flour and 15 gm cornflour/cornstarch )
65 gm egg yolk (approx four yolks)
20 ml rum <-- I don't think you need more to achieve a beautiful aroma
pinch salt

Bring milk to just below boiling (avoid boiling it) and then remove from the heat. Add a third of a vanilla bean, sliced lengthways along one edge to release the seeds into the milk. Stir.

In a food processor, throughly mix together flour and butter, then add sugar, egg yolks, rum and salt. Remove the vanilla bean from the hot milk and gradually add the milk to the batter. Strain, and then store the finished batter in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

On the day of baking you should prepare the moulds at least an hour in advance, preferably longer:

Metal moulds: heat the moulds in the oven. While doing this, place a small glass jar or a cupped piece of aluminium foil in about 2 cm water in a saucepan. Place some beeswax and a little neutral-tasting vegetable oil in the glass/foil container. Bring the water to a gentle simmer. The wax will melt very slowly. When melted, mix together the wax and oil using a pastry brush (preferably silicone — easier to clean). This mixture is commonly called "white oil". (For a more detailed description, see the Wolfert article linked to above.)

Brush the insides of the very hot moulds thoroughly with the white oil, then invert them on a layer of paper towel placed on a cooling rack. Place a few layers of paper towel on an oven tray, transfer the metal moulds to the paper on the oven tray and put this in the oven for five minutes to let excess wax drain off. Remove the tray and tip the moulds a little to help final run-off. When the moulds are cool, place them in the freezer for at least an hour.

Silicone moulds: you can't successfully wax these because of temperature and adhesion problems. Instead, butter the moulds (and only every second one — see why a few paragraphs down), making sure there's a good layer of butter on the walls near the top of each mould (otherwise, the batter tends to stick during cooking, resulting in a ballooning of batter as it tries to rise, rather than a flat "shelf" of batter rising out of the mould). Place in the freezer for at least an hour.

canelecoppersilic

Why freeze? It seems that the batter sticks a bit to the walls if the lubricant melts too quickly before the batter has formed an outer skin. As beeswax is solid until quite a high temperature, it helps prevent this sticking, even more so if in a frozen mould. Although silicone moulds are non-stick, they nonetheless aren't adequately slippery without being buttered.

Baking

As mentioned earlier, it seems that a key step is to bake the tray of moulds over a strong heat source. So, for instance, if you have a lot of heat at the bottom of your oven (common for ovens with a concealed gas ring below), you place the tray on the bottom shelf. But if, like me, you have an old-fashioned oven with the gas flame at the back of the base, the heat rises up the back to make the top of the oven the hottest place. Not good. After much experimentation, I put a pizza stone in the centre of the oven, and heated my tray before placing the moulds on it and filling them. Result: perfection.

Moulds need to be filled with cold batter (stir well before pouring) up to about 2-3 mm below the rim of the mould. Metal moulds can be filled and then transferred to the hot tray (keep them quite spaced out), but silicone moulds are too unstable, so must be put on the tray and then quickly filled, leaving every second mould empty (silicone is a poor conductor of heat so you need good circulation of hot air).

canelebulge

Inadequate bottom heat seems to cause a sometimes massive rise out of the mould. The batter then bulges slightly and won't sink back, yielding big bulbous burnt bottoms.

Cooking at 200C, conventional oven (ie, no fan), the batter should develop a slight fringe at 10-15 mins with the surface shimmering, by 20-30 mins it should be rising and rapidly protruding from the moulds, and at 45 mins it will have subsided and be about level with the rim of the mould. I like my canelés to be deep brown, with a strong odour of caramelisation wafting from the oven. It takes my oven about 1h15m to achieve this for the copper moulds and about 1h30m for silicone (by which time the top surface of the batter is charring badly — cover with foil earlier).

Your timing will depend on oven, moulds and personal preference. If you have a convection oven, I suggest dropping the temperature by 10-20C, but making sure the tray is close to the heat source (if at the bottom) or placed on a pizza stone.

The batter at the bottom of a silicone mould is very slow to brown, and the canelés as a whole tend to be more fragile, requiring a little resting time in the mould before removal. In contrast, canelés in copper moulds should be crisp straight from the mould, and fairly easy to get out (at worst, a decent whack on a benchtop should do it). Note that copper moulds stay hot for a very long time, and are very difficult to handle (I think rubber tongs or a slightly dampened tea towel would probably be best -if your towel is too damp you risk steam burns).

caneleinside

The ideal internal texture is soft, almost custardy, with a sort of open-crumb appearance like a loaf of bread, or sometimes described as a honeycomb pattern.

Canelés are best enjoyed still slightly warm, and certainly fresh (within a few hours of production). They go well with a dessert wine or strong coffee (as Wolfert also suggests), but they don't really need any accompaniment. When no longer fresh, it's best to refresh the canelés in a hot oven for a few minutes, then let them cool and crisp a little.

Finally, about those copper moulds… Although I'm all in favour of modern materials, the copper moulds really do produce a great product (and they're soooo stylish;) ). I haven't used aluminium ones. Silicone moulds are just trickier for a few reasons, but are an acceptable compromise if you see stars at the thought of coughing up the price of multiple copper ones (and I assure you, I'd love to have more than the paltry two I already own, but life goes on!).

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

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COMMENTS

37 responses to “Canelés de Bordeaux (or: my love of copper moulds)”

  1. Janet

    Hello

    I have been making them since last year using the copper molds. I also have the flexiable molds – but it just isn't the same.

    Happy New Year and Baking
    Janet

  2. SJ

    Hi Duncan,

    Our neighbours up the road cooked us Caneles in silicon moulds for our neighbourhood Christmas get-to-gether last week. I can see they were right up with the times! I might need to give these ago, particularly as I have already eaten them in Bordeaux earlier this year (rather than obsessing about macarons for years until I finally *got* to Paris). Thanks for the research! Happy Christmas.

  3. Cindy

    Oh, Duncan! I wonder if you are equal parts glutton for punishment and plain ol' glutton. :-D

    I ate one of these at Bistro Vue last year – they didn't have quite the intensity of your caramel crust but I think they were closer to the real deal than those macarooons the Vue fleet sell.

  4. Duncan

    hi everyone! Thanks for the comments. @Cindy: oh I'm sure there's a plain ol' glutton in here too. :P

  5. Manggy

    Bravo. I bow in your presence. (and you know that is not hollow sycophancy!) Having never been to a patisserie in France, I've written these off as ho-hum pastries since I tried one at (respected San Francisco boulangerie). Of course you topped them, after many tries. And now I see that some people have been successful with them too (the Amazon reviewer for the one copper mold being offered seems to have them down as well) — I wonder if they too will share their formulas?

    I'm now just wondering what accounts for the discrepancy between this recipe and others from renowned pastry chefs (okay, I know we've all seen the mac recipes…). Also, I see that Amazon is offering a copper *tin*-lined mold. I wonder if that has any impact on the canele.

  6. Barbara

    Yours are perfect Duncan. I have the aluminium moulds which others have found successful. Mine were a disaster. I used butter and will source some beeswax next time I try them. They did taste fantastic though.

    http://www.winosandfoodies.com/2005/12/wawhhh_i_need_h.html

  7. Georgie

    Duncan,

    Yay for the focus on caneles! I've made them before once with a muffin tray (shock horror! but I was too impatient waiting to get my molds) and with the De Buyer (red) silicon molds (for budget reasons copper was not possible) and while they browned excellently there were a couple of things to note down.

    1. forget trying to beeswax coat the silicon as you said. I used a mix of butter and beeswax to try and thin it down after getting largish blobs of beeswax on the finished product in both bottom/tops of the molds, leaving a very waxy mouth feel

    2. I would almost forget greasing the silicon molds at all as they still have some beeswax residue (despite multiple washes) as they 'pushed' themselves half out of the mold as they rose during baking, resulting in some odd shapes.

    also, not being a purist, and a meddler, I used brandy or cointreau and a spattering of home made candied orange peel finely sliced to help them along.

    I used this recipe: http://fxcuisine.com/Default.asp?language=2&Display=54&resolution=high&page=1
    but now want to try yours.
    Also any beeswax from health food shops intended for lip balm making is fine to use and comes in 1oz bars for less than $5.

  8. Trissa

    Hi Duncan – great job on the canele – I couldn't bring myself to purchase canele molds years ago when I first encountered the canele (almost the same time I was obsessing about macarons) so I got myself silicone molds which worked fine for me then. Looking at your post, I didn't realize they only cost AUD 13! Last time I checked (and that was years ago) they were around AUD 40 each! or maybe it just felt that way… anyway, as always great tips.

  9. astheroshe

    thank-you for this post! I have been wanting to make these for months. I just got 8 molds for xmas, and now i can. Great recipe and advice. I did not know i needed to season my molds.:)

  10. Julia @ Mélanger

    Duncan, I have been eagerly awaiting this post since you mentioned you were experimenting with the Canelé. I knew you'd thoroughly review the process step by step.

    Yours are just perfect. Golden on the outside and creamy on the inside. I didn't seem to get the deep colour on mine that I wanted. I think I need to reposition my tray lower in the oven.

    Good news is, I have enough beeswax to last me a decade. And for plenty more trials! (I need to give some to Barbara next time I see her….save her buying 500g herself, too!)

    Anyway, great information here, as always. Will be good for me to find another baking obsession. I think I'm macaron'ed out…..for now! LOL.

  11. neil

    Wow Duncan, really impressive, you almost make me want to buy copper moulds and beeswax! You find the most interesting things to write about, worth the wait. Happy new year.

  12. Sarah

    Ok, WOW! Fantastic work, Duncan! Shall I be expecting a big batch of these next time you come around? :P

    You know Cafe Vue @ 401 St Kilda rd have these on their menu but *never* actually have them whenever I go! Booo. I'm sure yours would be better!

    xox Sarah

  13. timham

    Hi Duncan,
    found you looking for macaron recipes! Lo and behold canele!!! Sadly at $A50 per mold I have just one…fluted aluminium works very well. I have used the Wolfert recipe and seeing your pix I hate you for turning out something so perfect lol! Your detailed instructions are very generous. I struggle with the "white arse" and feel my white oil is too runny so your advice reinforces my feeling that I need more wax to make it stickier. Some of your other tips I have found out the hard way, but the heat/oven/pizza stone stuff sounds excellent. I use pottery kiln shelves when baking bread to good effect. Thank you also for the "inside" shot I haven't been sure how soft they should be.
    You have reinvigorated me to "get back on the horse" again! Cheers Tim.

  14. Emily

    Wow – your caneles look absolutely gorgeous. I have been wanting to make these as I am wheat free and I cannot ordinarily eat them. The precise instructions are great – I just need to shell out for some moulds and devote some serious time to them!!! Thanks

  15. Y

    Love this post – I guess you knew I would already. I read this awhile ago and can't believe I forgot to comment. When I get those copper moulds, I'm coming right back to begin baking :)

  16. Azelia

    I haven't visited your site in a while. Interesting read your canele post, like the fact you always go into such detail.

    They look terribly pretty from the outside the copper ones but I'm struggling to sense what they would taste like from the look of the inside, I guess not far from clafoutis maybe…

  17. LT

    Duncan,

    Thanks for the detailed analysis.

    I spent a small fortune on 24 moulds (I think I must have been drunk), and started baking caneles almost every week for 3 months and I had used Paula Wolfert's recipe as a starting point.

    I have not used beeswax, because firstly, I wasn't able to get it and secondly, when I got hold of some, I wasn't sure if I wanted to eat that.

    But after reading about your explanations, I think I'll rekindle my affair with caneles. The moulds had been lovingly packed into storage, but will hopefully make a reappearance soon in the kitchen.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  18. Azelia

    OK I'm in Megeve, France right now and early this morning we found a patisserie called le Mazot de Boulanger that makes the most amazing delicious pain au levain and other regional pastries and they had the Canelés de Bordeaux which of course after reading this article I had to try. I have even considered one day buying the tins to make them.

    From your photo of the inside of the Canelés de Bordeaux I was expecting for them to taste of a firm version of Clafoutis and I was right only they were much chewier than I was expecting, so now I know if you like a chewy clafoutis this is the dessert for you…. :-)

  19. Lady Macaron

    Thanks for the detailed write up of caneles! Will def try to make them when i have the time. It is a rare sight in Jakarta, where I live at the moment. Great to see someone in Melbourne is pursuing them…
    :)

  20. Gfron1

    I was just thinking this morning…"I need a little something – just a bite really – to give my guests at the end of the meal." I'm off to eBay to find some molds.

  21. Gfron1

    Mold size question. I see your recipe is for a 55mm mold. I have the 38mm (1.5 inch) molds now and am concerned about oven temp and time. Have you seen any guidance on small molds?

  22. Lingy

    I've recently had some of these caneles from a stall at Richmond market. They are pretty good hehe. I like some of my things old, copper moulds definitely look way better! ha ha

  23. lennyk

    I use the silicone molds,
    the trick with them is not to use a sheet pan
    instead rest them on a grill
    the heat penetrates better
    you will notice a big difference between using a grill vs sheet

  24. Anna

    I had my first ever taste of these babies at the harvest picnic on the weekend. I now have a LOT more respect for the people who'd made them, especially in the quantities that they had there.

    They were delicious, but at the moment I don't think my sanity would stand up to trying to make them myself :)

  25. han

    Hi Duncan.

    I tried the recipe today and they turn out beautifully!! Nice little blossom! So yummy, a bit crunchy on the outside and soft custardy body. I omitted the rum because I can't find a small quantity rum/rum flavour. Thank you for the recipe :D

  26. karen brown

    Oh, I love canele. I make them quite a lot and never considered them to be difficult. I just whizz up the batter in my blender, makes it easy to pour into the molds. I always think they're a wee bit like creme brulee in flavour, but with that lovely caramelly crust. I bought my molds at D.Herrillion on my first trip to Paris,15 years ago, just because they looked so pretty, and the salesman,(who suddenly became kind and helpful after I explained that I was a Kiwi, not English) and I've been using the recipe that came with the molds since then. I had a neighbour who kept bees for a while so I used to be able to use fresh comb wax, now I get it from a honey shop, but I miss the comb wax, it had a certain fragrance that made my kitchen smell divine. Cheer, Karen

  27. Kariza

    I have recently discovered the wonderful taste of Caneles, at James St Bakery, Geelong. Since then I have been reading and learning as much as I can about the Caneles and am enthused to make some. Your website is very informative and mouthwatering! However, I was a bit alarmed when I read your instructions re: handling the hot copper moulds (just above the last photo).. You suggest using a "damp" tea towel to hold them. I learnt the hard way, some years ago, that only a dry cloth should be used to handle hot items from the oven – a damp cloth conducts the heat very quickly resulting in (steam) burns to the fingers. Very Painful!!

  28. Kariza

    Thanks Duncan. After, further consideration, I don't think I'll be making my own – I think the cost of copper moulds might be a bit prohibitive, and it seems to me to be a little expensive to just cook 2 Caneles at at time, seeing that they need a long time in the oven. So I'll just continue to be self indulgent and frequent my local cafe "as needed", ie often ;)

  29. Guy

    Hi Duncan,

    So happy to find this post. I ate my first Canele in Paris last month. So strange that I've never heard of them before.
    Anyways, I was hooked and the minute I came back to the US, I bought 6 molds and Bee's wax.

    I've made them today and they rose up out of the mold. That's how I found your blog.
    Second batch: I put them on the stone and used the bee's wax as you suggested but they still were coming out of the mold and never came back.

    Reading your post, I now understand that it should be related to heat @the bottom of the mold. Since putting the molds on the stone didn't help, I'm curious to hear what you think about turning the stove up to 220 for the first 10-15 minutes. It usually what you do with breads.

    Thanks again for this post,

    Guy

  30. Michael

    This is the reply I get in regards to bees wax:

    "No it's not listed as food safe, or 'BP' grade as that is referred to.
    It can be used in cosmetics and many do use it for lip balm as beeswax is fairly inert and not a hazardous material. "

    This bees wax is clearly listed ok for lip balm but its not food safe or BP grade.

    So my question is, is it safe to use for canele? and can someone please direct me to where I can source this in Australia?

    Thanks

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