Today’s French cannelé recipe comes with a story, compliments of Thad Jones. Canneles are one of our favorite snacks, and even though were trying to live clean and healthy, they occasionally find their way into our diets. What can I say? They’re well worth the sugar hangover.
Walnut brown, caramelized, creamy bread pudding, fully nomable… it’s a cannelé and it’s calling my and Steph’s names. We try very hard to resist, but I’m always the first one to give in when we’re near a certain San Francisco pâtisserie. Cannelés are super special to us since we can’t find them in the East Bay (if you know of any, please leave a comment!), so when the stars align we decide to make the journey across the bay, braving the infamous Bay Bridge traffic that generally keeps us from traveling into the city. That’s how devoted we are to these little bite sized pieces of heaven; we find them at La Boulange in Hayes Valley, just north of Market Street.
When we arrive in Hayes Valley, we find sun! Yes, I think it’s sun, but you have to look two or three times in this part of the Bay Area. One neighborhood might be sunny, while two blocks away everyone is soaking in fog as thick as potato leek soup. But today it’s such a perfect day to drive in from Oakland; the city is warm, there seems to be zero fog, and more importantly, Google Maps says there is not a lick of traffic on the bridge. HOORAY!
I love driving across the Bay Bridge with the windows down. It’s nice and cool, with no radiant heat at all. Music blasting as we gaze out at the cargo ships on the bay before we pass through Treasure Island. Soon we are rushing towards the huge cityscape of the Financial District, watching the huge buildings loom closer, and then the SOMA district, where I once called ‘work’ while I played all night DJ events. Now PacBell Park takes up most of the area that was my stomping ground almost two decades ago. Times and places change.
A few minutes later we pass into a more gentrified ‘hipster’ area. We are so close to where we need to be now; Hayes Valley, and our beloved cannelés. Fifteen years ago this area was a dog’s rear end. It was run down and you wouldn’t dare park your car here; hell, there wasn’t any good reason to be here, unless some underground party was happening late at night. Now Hayes Valley is a full on yuppie-hipsters-urban city center with a small park dotted with sculptures from Burning Man, and every shop is either an expensive eatery or a high-end boutique selling clothes, furniture, or knick-knacks. Actually, Steph and I quite like the area, but like many of the hip, urban areas in SF, the price of living here is impossible; property values are so high that after all bills are said and done, there wouldn’t be much money left to play with.
As we pass Chantal Guillon – quite possibly the best macrons I’ve ever tasted – it occurs to us that it’s Saturday, which means parking is going to be near impossible. It’s not unheard of to have to park six block away, but what should be an hour-long hunt for a spot turns into more good luck as someone pulls out just as we turn the corner to the bakery! And guess what? THERE IS STILL TIME ON THE METER! What sort of luck have we stumbled into, and how is the universe going to align itself with all the good fortune we’ve had on this trip?
We both just shrug and chalk it up to having played the karma roulette enough times before, and we are just finally getting a bit of what is due back. That is a pretty bold determination, and maybe we should have reflected a bit more on that, but less than half a block from the car is La Boulange, and a half dozen cannelé that we plan to devour, making our perfect day even better.
- 1 ounce beeswax, cut into small cubes with a knife
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, split down the middle, tiny beans removed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 egg yolks
- Prepare the molds (technique a la Pim): Cure your molds (see note at bottom of recipe). Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place your molds on top of the foil. Slide the baking sheet into the oven/
- Fashion a small double boiler from a small pot and a bowl that will fit comfortable into the pot within falling inside. Fill the pot halfway with water, and bring it to a boil. To the bowl add the cubed beeswax. Turn the heat to low and place the bowl with the beeswax into the pot, stirring gently to melt help the wax melt evenly. Once it is melted, add the butter cubes and stir gently until completely combined.
- Line a second baking sheet with parchment, setting a wire baking rack on top of the parchment layer. Remove the one hot mold from the oven, and with a heavily gloved hand, place it face-up on the wire rack. Pour the beeswax-butter into the mold, and with your still heavily-gloved hand, swirl the mold around so that the wax thinly covers the inside. Pour the excess wax back into the pot from which is came. Shake the mold so that any excess drippings fall back into the pot. Place the mold face-down on the wire rack, so that any extra wax drips through the wire rack and onto the parchment. Continue with the rest of your molds. If the wax gets too hard, place it back into your double-boiler to melt.
- Place molds in the freezer for at least 1 hour before baking.
- Prepare the batter: 1. Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Use an oven thermometer to make sure your temperature is accurate.
- In a medium saucepan heat milk, sugar, vanilla beans, salt, butter, and rum, bringing just to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
- When the batter is at room temperature, gently stir in the egg yolks, making sure to not incorporate too much air into the mixture. Spoon the batter into the cold molds, filling until they are ½-inch from the top. Arrange the molds on a baking sheet, allowing 2-inches of space between the molds. Slide the baking sheet into the oven.
- After 15 minutes turn the oven to 375 degrees, and turn the baking sheet around inside of the oven. Bake for another 40 minutes at 375, or until the top of the canelés are a deep golden brown (not burnt!).
- Using your again heavily-gloved hand, pick up each mold and invert it over a cooling rack. Tap gently until the cannelé slides out, and allow them to cool before eating.
A note on curing molds:
Before using your molds for the first time, Paula Wolfert recommends that you season them. Here are her steps:
To season new cannelé molds:
- heat oven to 350F degrees
- wash the molds in soapy water
- dry thoroughly
- heavily grease the interiors with vegetable shortening or oil
- place on sheet tray
- place in oven 1 hour
- remove from oven
- place upside down on a rack
- return to oven
- heat 15 minutes
- turn off heat
- leave in the oven until room temperature
- after baking, don’t wash or scrub the interiors of the molds
- to remove baked debris: place the molds in a moderate oven; heat until debris burns; remove debris with paper toweling
- store lightly oiled molds in a cool covered place