Canelés de Bordeaux are one of those under-appreciated and underwhelmingly plain baked goods that are seemingly negligible and insignificant in comparison to other glorified and intricately beautiful desserts. If you have never had a canelé – and rightly so, given that its availability is not so commonplace – imagine a soft, vanilla and rum-scented baked custard with a deeply burnish, caramelised, and crunchy crust that offers a great amount of textural contrast and an almost-adult tasting bitterness – from the rum and slightly charred skin. Or, if you have had a bad canelé: a non-porous, rum-tasting kueh with a caramelised crust – which shouldn’t be the case, and hopefully changes your mind when you bake yours.
The steps to making canelés are rather straightforward and easy to follow, however, it is the dedication to the source of ingredients and the discipline to wait – the entire process takes up to 3 days – that makes making canelés a hassle. But something that is freshly baked with care and dedication can never hold a candle to those commercially available ones.
For something as classic as a canelé, I find it almost unscrupulous to exclude using beeswax for the coating of the canelé moulds. Yes, I make mine using only butter – apologies to the purists and canelé experts. But I find that using only butter works as well in giving the canelés a glossy sheen and crunchy, caramelised crust; though, my only hunch is that it probably won’t stay crunchy as long as using a beeswax-butter mixture in Singapore’s humidity.
(adapted from Lu Sheng Ta)
500g whole milk
50g unsalted butter, and more for coating the canelé moulds
2 egg yolks (~50g)
2 eggs (~100g)
220g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon fleur de sel or any good sea-salt
110g bread flour
12g matcha powder (I use Marukyu-koyamaen)
15g vanilla bean paste (I use Nielsen-Massey)
50g spiced rum
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, heat milk (together with the vanilla bean pod, if you are using) over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off when the edges begin to bubble. Note: do not bring it to boil as it quickly foams over and scalds at the bottom of the saucepan.
Add butter into the heated milk, stir until the butter is melted. Set aside to room temperature (I let mine cool for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, until lukewarm). If you're using vanilla bean pod, steep for at least 30 minutes whilst cooling.
In a separate bowl, gently whisk together caster sugar, fleur de sel, eggs, and egg yolks until combined. Sift bread flour and matcha powder into the mixture and stir slowly until well-combined and smooth. There should be no visible clumps of flour, matcha, or unmixed eggs. Note: do not incorporate too much air such that the egg mixture aerates and lightens significantly. Do not overwork and overmix your mixture.
Stir in vanilla bean paste. Note: skip if you are using vanilla bean pod.
Over a sieve, slowly pour in one-third of the milk (if it is still slightly lukewarm) into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, and stir immediately. This gently increases the temperature of the egg mixture, reducing the possibility of scrambling the eggs. Then, add the rest of the milk into the mixture. If your milk is at room temperature and cool to touch, you need not worry about tempering your egg mixture and may combine all at once.
Stir in spiced rum and gently whisk to combine.
Pass the batter through a sieve remove any flour and matcha clumps or unmixed eggs. Ensure that you push any remnants of flour or matcha through the sieve with the back of your spatula to ensure that it is mixed in with the rest of the batter. Your batter should be smooth at this point.
Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and store in the fridge for at least 48 hours to age. Please do not skip this step and ensure that it ages for a full 48 hours. This ensures that the flour is fully hydrated during the course of ageing, whilst allowing the flavours of rum, vanilla, and matcha to meld together and mature.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 230C (fan-forced) or the highest temperature your oven can go for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, take your chilled batter out of the fridge and whisk it thoroughly but gently to recombine the flour that has sedimented in the course of ageing with the rest of the batter. Pass batter through a sieve to remove any skin formed.
While the oven is preheating, use a brush to thinly coat your canelé moulds with softened butter. Note to evenly coat all crevices of your canelé moulds, and make sure to not coat the moulds too thick, especially at the bottom to prevent "white caps" (where the tops of the canelés are not browned) and uneven caramelisation.
Pour the batter into each mould about 80% full or leave about 1 cm of space. Do not overfill to prevent it from overflowing, which could deform the shape during the course of baking.
To bake, place the canelé moulds on a baking tray and put into the bottom half of the oven. I find this helps to caramelise the tops of the canelés quicker). Lower the temperature to 190C (fan-forced) immediately and bake for 12 minutes. Then reduce heat to 170C (fan-forced) and bake for a further 50 to 70 minutes, until the canelès carry a deep burnish bronze crust. Every oven is different, and I usually check mine at 40 minutes to ensure that the bottoms of the canelés (the area that is exposed to heat) are not burnt. If it looks overly dark or blackened, you may want to tent with aluminium foil.
At 50 minutes, I take my canelé moulds out of the oven and tip the canelés out of its moulds to check the doneness. Some visual cues of its doneness are: an even caramelisation (the canelés should not have any hue of a lighter bronze at all), glossy and shiny, with some excess butter spewing out of the moulds. It should also smell like caramel, but not burnt. Your canelés will not be hard at this point, so do not fret. Note: at this point, your canelés and canelé moulds will be *extremely hot*, please handle with care.
If the canelés carry an uneven caramelisation, tip the canelés back into its moulds with two spoons and carry on baking for an additional 15 minutes. Check for even caramelisation, and repeat in intervals of 15 minutes.
Let cool for at least 30 minutes, the crust should be hard and crunchy at this point.
TIP: Feel free to use your favourite matcha powder - although I highly recommend using a good-quality one for a vibrant emerald green and flavour profile that complements the slight bitterness from the caramelised crust - or omit the matcha powder entirely to make a classic canelé.
TIP: Substitute the spiced rum with your favourite rum, preferably a dark or gold rum. If you are making a classic canelé, I recommend using an aged rum. Though, feel free to play around with different rums with various maturity, complexity, and tasting notes to create one you enjoy.
NOTE: The batter keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Yields about 12 to 14 canelés.
After baking, the crust of the canele should be caramelised and crisp, with a porous, honeycombed, and custardy centre.
These are best eaten within a few hours after baking so it stays crunchy and custardy - along with a cup of hot earl grey tea. Share with me your favourite rum and thoughts on these canelés if you try it! Enjoy! :)