From my limited, but growing experience with French pastry, I have found that many recipes are technically simple, however it takes experience and the right technique to get something right.
Pate de choux is one example and caneles are another, so in this realm of baking it is important to follow most of the fussy instructions and also be willing to experiment and try and try again (at least in my experience).
I have not yet had the chance to search for (and eat in mass quantity) the perfect canele in the Bordeaux region of France where the recipe originated, but I have read even there it is hard to find quality caneles.
The correct canele should have a caramelized crunchy outer shell which contains an egg-based cake on the inside. The mold they are cooked in is very important and traditionally copper.
Each copper mold costs usually over $20 and even I am not ready to invest that yet. You can achieve the desired results with other molds, but it takes some experimenting with time and temperature;
silicone molds being the most challenging. I have some non-stick aluminum ones from Sur La Table and while still "spendy" to me, they are doable considering the copper price tag.
The ingredients are generally the same among recipes, but each is slightly different and built upon many others, as is mine. Many ingredients are hotly debated like type of flour, bubbles in the batter, what to line the molds with and if the batter should rest for a couple days.
For lining the molds, I use plain old butter, but some people swear by beeswax or a combination of both. Trying many approaches on these debates (not the beeswax yet) I think there are many ways to get a "technically" good canele and it ends up being baker/consumers choice. I also have let this batter rest for two days and it does create a richer flavor, however using it immediately is pretty darn good too.
As you will soon find, caneles are a labor of love and worth the small bit of extra effort despite what their humble appearance may suggest.
Recipe for French Caneles By Marysmaking
Prep time: - Cook time: - Total time: Yield:About 42 caneles (based on 2.25" mold size)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 5 T unsalted butter (plus about 4T more for coating molds)
- 1-2 vanilla beans split
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 2/3 cup bread flour
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/3 cup dark rum
Notes: The cooking temperatures and times are for using 2.25" non-stick aluminum molds from Sur la Table. If using silicone or copper molds, you will have to experiment with temperature and time, because it will vary.
Success for caneles comes from the right temperature and cooking time for the type of mold you are using as well as coating the inside evenly with butter. The end result should be a crunchy dark outer coating and a soft custardy inside.
They may puff up during cooking, but should shrink about even with the bottom of the mold and be brown on the bottom (no white centers or "white butts" as they are called).
After making the batter, you may let it rest in the fridge for two days for a richer flavor and resume the rest of the recipe at that point.
Put molds in freezer until ready to coat with melted butter.
Preheat oven to 450F for convection and 475F for non-convection oven. This is based on my oven, which is true to temp, so if your oven is older you may need to verify it heats to the temperature it says.
Heat butter, vanilla bean and milk over low/med-low heat until butter has melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Add eggs, sugar, flour, rum, salt to a blender and mix until incorporated, while slowly adding the heated milk mixture. If you don't use a blender, then whisk in a large bowl.
Melt 4 T of butter and brush the inside of molds from freezer to evenly coat the inside of the mold. I do this after each round of baking.
Fill molds about 3/4 way full with cool batter
Cook at 450F (convection) or 475F (non-convection) for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 375F and continue to bake for 45 minutes for convection or 50-55 minutes for non-convection.
Remove from oven and immediately turn caneles onto cooling rack. Repeat freeze and butter coating process.