Thursday, July 31, 2008

Canelés de Bordeaux

As with all things, there are pros and cons to owning just 10 canelé moulds. The cons: My recipe for canelés will fill about 16 moulds. And because these copper moulds need to be seasoned and frozen for at least 6 hours before baking, you’ll have to wait at least 7 hours between each batch. But that’s assuming you’re a bit of a canelé expert. For a canelé virgin such as I, the 10 moulds proved to be a godsend. It meant I could make mistakes with my first batch and then correct them with my second — and that was not intentional, I assure you. In my mind, my maiden batch of canelé would be beautifully burnished, crisp on the outside and custardy on the inside. I never imagined I would yield beeswax-flavoured pucks of deep, dark brown — okay, black — shelled… things.

As anyone who’s ever made a canelé will tell you, it’s not really hard work. It is simply an amalgamation of several elements which require time and patience. Once you’ve made that initial outlay of effort, your subsequent experiences will then be a cinch.

For starters, new canelé moulds need seasoning — not unlike how you would season a new cast iron grill pan by brushing it with oil and sealing it in with heat. Canelé moulds however, require an initial seasoning with vegetable oil, and then further seasonings with “white oil”, which is made from 1 ounce of beeswax and 1 cup of safflower oil.

First, you have to find a beeswax supplier, which in Singapore, is no mean feat. (Especially not if you don’t want to buy 2kg of it — which is the minimum amount the wholesalers will sell you). So I ordered my soap-bar-sized beeswax through the internet; and shipping from the US to Singapore cost more than the beeswax itself. Safflower oil is much easier — it is available from organic supermarkets.

Before each use, the moulds should be brushed with the white oil, inverted onto a rack set atop a foil-lined baking sheet and baked for a minute to allow the excess oil to run out. You remove the moulds, let them cool to room temperature and then freeze them before filling and baking. In this way, your caneles moulds will remain mercifully non-stick.

The batter is much easier, requiring only that you heat milk to 183 degrees fahrenheit, pulse butter, cake flour and salt in a food processor; add sugar and egg yolks, and finally the hot milk. The batter is then strained through a fine sieve before the addition of rum and vanilla. A day or two later, it is ready to be poured into those gorgeous copper moulds.

Paula Wolfort’s The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen contains the full recipe and everything you need to know about making canelés. I love that she writes each recipe and story with such lyricism and care.

As you can see from the picture above, by the time I was done with first try at canelés, only two emerged edible. In my initial excitement, I baked my first batch of white-oil-brushed canelé moulds crown-side down, which meant I was baking AND filling my moulds with white oil. We had wax flavoured canelés for petite fours at dinner that night.

I prepared four more moulds the next morning (the correct way, this time) and baked the canelés for almost 2 hours at 200 degrees C. They were almost good — the interiors were suitably custardy, but the shells just a bit charred. So this time, we had soot flavoured caneles with our post-prandial coffees.

Yet the next morning, I prepared two more moulds. And this time I baked them at 180 degrees C for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Magic — well, almost. There was the crunchy burnt sugar shell and the sweet luscious filling perfumed with vanilla and rum. But because I had filled them almost to the top, as the recipe implied — and likely because mine is a small oven — the bases of my canelés were slightly burnt.

So those bases were shorn off with a sharp knife and the new pretty canalés were placed on a plate after dinner. Again. No one seemed to mind — and by no one, I really mean my dear lab rat and loving partner C.

Next time, I reckon I’ll fill my moulds just three-quarters full so the batter doesn’t rise out of them, and hopefully, doesn’t burn. And thankfully, the next time around, the white oil is all mixed up and ready to use.


Anonymous Christine Tham said...

May I know where you get your moulds from?

11:55 am  
Blogger Annemarie said...

I've just come back from a vacation around Bordeaux, and the wonderful smell of these lovely sweet things followed you everywhere...leeak

4:08 am  
Blogger Seattle Tall Poppy said...

Oh...these look amazing!

2:35 pm  
Blogger Tartelette said...

They turned out great! I use silicone molds most of the time because I only have a few copper ones, I buy a couple every year, it's like catching with the tooth fairy!!

7:08 am  
Blogger daphne said...

sweetie, your patience is amazing. That sounds like a whole heap of work and the most impt thing is that u did it!

1:44 pm  
Anonymous S said...

I have the exact same problem with the mold to batter ratio. Maybe we should pool molds. I am also happy to split a 2kg bar of beeswax with you :)

6:01 pm  
Blogger Kristin said...

i actually need to get about 2 kgs of beeswax in Singapore, any idea who or where i can get it from ?

3:36 pm  
Blogger Annette said...

Thanks peeps. That's very kind of you all to say :) Kristin, you can get beeswax through Euraco Fine Food in Singapore.

6:38 pm  
Blogger Fen said...

I have seen this form of desserts before... How do they taste like and is there any place in Singapore that sells this?

4:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I make mine with silicon moulds cos ...i wish i had the copper ones! but with many attempts, i have to say...the silicon ones work superb too!
luv ur blog :-)

4:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anywhere in Singapore sells the moulds?


12:33 am  
Blogger Elra said...

I am still dreaming of owning this beautiful cannelle mold, it just so expensive here in California, it will cost me more then $275 (USD) for 10 molds. I just have to wait until summer next year, where I plan to go to Europe for vacation. Did you buy this in S'pore?

Your cannelle look absolutely delicious!

12:45 am  
Blogger Annette said...

Hi Jo and Elra

Yes, I bought the moulds in Singapore through Euraco Fine Foods.

12:05 am  
Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

What a beautiful blog! I've just had these at The Wolseley in London. Wonderful little puffs of flavour.

2:46 am  
Anonymous waitershirt said...

I need to pass this site on to my wife. She is learning to cook. I went to cullinary school but then decided not to work with food.

11:46 pm  

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