Let’s start this post by explaining that many French people are complete food nuts.
Actually, count me in that group…
And then there are the French food nuts that take it to a whole other poetic level, writing luscious and lengthy dissertations on the color, texture, aroma and history of a dish. Take Isabelle Bunisset’s book on canelés, which I was reading while doing my research for this post. Page after page is pure poetry, drama and mouth-watering photographies… More than a recipe book, it’s a window to what the French call Patrimoine culinaire.
But let’s get to the subject! The canelés (also sometimes spelled cannelé) is a tiny individual cake from the city of Bordeaux in the south-west of France, and also my home-town. Inside the hard caramel shell is a heart of dough, which consistency is close to the flan. You know a really great and fresh canelé when it has a crispy caramel shell, releasing as you break into it the aroma of rum and vanilla. .
Although the name is close to the word "cannelle" (cinnamon), be aware that it has nothing to do with that spice. As a side note, you wont find cinnamon in many things in France, unlike in the US where it's sprinkled everywhere.
I will spare you the history treaties on this cake, but let me tell you, the French take pride and joy in learning the ascendance of their recipes. Some of the stories surrounding canelés mention nuns evicted from a convent during the Revolution and selling the recipe to a baker in order to survive. Exciting stuff!
These little cakes are seriously good, and my husband requests a box of six everytime someone from France comes to visit us in the states. They fit in the luggage easily and can stand a day in a box… not ideal, but how else can we get our canelé fix in Missouri?
If you are planning a trip to Bordeaux soon, don’t miss out on walking into one of the canelé stores. Some of them look just like a jewelry store, with the same kind of price tag… you have to see it! Baillardran is one of the most famous makers, but my family is partial to La Maison Du Canelé. Taste it for yourself and let me know!
Although the purists would argue that you must have an aged, copper mold layered by years and years of use, I don’t believe most of us have that in our kitchen. If you can score a silicone mold, it will do great. Try out this recipe at home and let me know exactly how many canelés are actually too many canelés!
Source: Le cannelé, by Isabelle Bunisset, Ed. Féret.