The canelé (also written as cannelé) is a sweet speciality of the Bordeaux region known for its thick, caramelised crust and soft, custard-like interior. It is recognisable by its cylindrical shape and characteristic striations.
Biting into one of these scrumptious treats is a divine foodie experience! The crunchiness of the caramel quickly gives way to a luscious, creamy vanilla and rum-infused centre.
Currently riding a wave of popularity, the canelé has a long and interesting history. Indeed, its origins date back to the 18th or 17th centuries, depending on the legend. The name is thought to come from the Gascon word canelat, which means cannelure (striation) in French.
According to one theory, canelés were invented during the 18th century by nuns of the Annonciades convent in Bordeaux, who called them canelas or canelons. More likely, they date back even earlier. The invention of the cakes is believed to be tied to Bordeaux’s wine industry, which traditionally involved the abundant use of egg whites to filter wine. The process resulted in plenty of leftover egg yolks, which wound up being made into little cakes. These flour-and-egg-yolk cakes, called canaules or canaulets, were in fact already sold in Bordeaux as early as the 17th century.
The cakes were so popular that the artisans who made them, known as canauliers, formed their own guild in 1693. Over the years, the recipe was modified through the addition of milk and sugar—two ingredients that in the past could only be used by pâtissiers. (The canauliers took the pâtissiers to court over this and won!)
By 1785, there were 39 canauliers in Bordeaux. While other guilds were dissolved by the French Revolution, canauliers continued to prosper until the 19th century, before their product fell out of fashion.
In the early 20th century, however, the canelé reappeared. A local pastry chef revived the ancient recipe, improving it with the addition of rum and vanilla.
Today, there are hundreds of canelé makers in the Bordeaux region. (One of the most famous is Baillardran, which has a shop in Paris.)
Remember, when it comes to making canelés, a certain amount of trial and error is required in order to achieve the perfect shape, characteristic crust and soft interior.
Canelés (or cannelés) de Bordeaux
Adapted from La Cuisine de Mercotte. Makes 14 to 16 canelés.
This recipe calls for more rum than other canelé recipes, which results in a softer, creamier interior. For firmer canelés, use less rum. Mercotte’s recipe also uses Moscovado sugar instead of regular sugar for stronger flavour.
The batter should be prepared at least a day before baking.
- 500 ml whole milk
- 25 grams butter
- 2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 100 grams flour
- 200 grams sugar
- 150 ml dark rum
- In a saucepan, scrape out the contents of the vanilla bean and add to the milk. Add butter and bring to a boil.
- While the milk is heating, combine flour and sugar in large bowl. Add the lightly beaten eggs, stirring well. To this mixture, gradually add the boiling milk, stirring constantly. The resulting batter should be fairly runny. Allow to cool, then add the rum. Pour the batter into glass container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Allow batter to sit at room temperature for one hour before baking. Preheat oven to 275 degrees Celsius (525 degrees F). Fill canelés moulds to within 1 mm of the top, as they will not rise. Bake at 275 degrees C (525 degrees F) for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) and bake for one hour.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from moulds.
Enjoy canelés at breakfast, with coffee anytime, or as a dessert. They will keep for up to three days at room temperature, though will noticeably soften after the first day. To firm up the crust, simply reheat in the oven for a few minutes.
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