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.