Oftentimes I hear comments about how difficult the French kitchen is. All those techniques. All that precision. French cooking, and especially French baking, is for the real pros. In other words, French chefs and bakers. So, if we want authentic French taste, our safest bet is to head to a French restaurant or bakery.
French cooking is only as complicated as we want it to be. Of course, there’s an element of know-how involved, but there’s also an element of passion, and perhaps even more important, an element of simplicity. When creating some of the more ‘difficult’ French recipes, I make sure to include all three factors.
Take Canelés de Bordeaux. I can’t tell you how many disasters I’ve seen.
Canelés that are too dark, too puffy, too bland, too soft, too cakey, too… The list goes on and on. And then I read the recipe and understand why. The batter was fanatically whisked, thus making them rise a little too gloriously. No, this isn’t a souffle. No hardcore whisking necessary. They were baked at the wrong temperature. Start too high for too long and they scorch insted of beautifully caramelize. A silicone mold was used. Granted, copper is expensive and sometimes hard to find. In that case, then yes, you should get them at a good baker and not attempt them yourself. And beeswax on silicone is not going to solve that much either. In fact, I don’t think you need beeswax at all (some people use it with copper molds too). Butter, copper and high heat for the right amount of time is all you need.
OK, so there are indeed a few essential factors to making the perfect canelés (chilling the batter for at least 24 hours is one of them as well), but what’s so complicated about them?? Nothing! The only thing left to add is a good dose of passion! Pour yourself a glass of wine, play a nice French record, open the windows and sing along so everyone can hear! Do that and those babies will be perfect. But first, read the following recipe carefully (twice at least) and watch my video. I’d love to hear your results.
Canelés de Bordeaux
- 500 ml milk
- 40 g butter (plus extra, for brushing the molds)
- vanilla pod, split down the middle and seeds scraped out
- 2 eggs (M)
- 2 egg yolks (M)
- 100 g all-purpose flour
- 200 g sugar
- fat pinch fleur de sel
- 65 ml rum
Simmer milk, butter, vanilla pod and seeds for three minutes. Once that’s done, set aside to cool and in a small bowl, gently stir the eggs and the yolks with a fork. Don’t whisk, as you don’t want any air in this mixture! In a larger bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Now add the eggs and the cooled milk mixture to the flour and stir gently, breaking up the biggest lumps with the back of your spoon. Once again, don’t stir too fanatically as you don’t want any air in the batter! Stir in the rum and gently continue to break up the tiny lumps. At this point, your batter should not be smooth. Strain the batter into a clean bowl and make sure you stir out the remaining tiny lumps. Now your batter should be smooth! Place a lid on the bowl or cover tightly with cling film and leave to rest for at least 24 hrs and up to three days. The next day, preheat the oven to 225°C, brush the inside of your copper molds with plenty of melted butter and place them on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Take the batter out of the fridge, give it a gentle stir and pour it into the molds, almost to the top. Bake the canelés at this high temperature for 20 minutes. This will give them that perfect caramelly exterior. Then, reduce the heat to 190°C and continue to bake for an additional 45-50 minutes. Check the canelés halfway through. If the tops are too dark (dark brown is great, black is not), cover with foil. Once done, unmold, place on a rack and let them cool completely before eating. Canelés are best eaten on the day they’re made.