February 9, 2011

I recall the first time that my executive pastry chef at Providence allowed me to bake his very special canelé recipe – it was the first time that I felt he trusted me because he had set me free for the day with his book of formulas, like a book of magic requiring translation. It was the same day that I thought he liked me, even a little bit — because he was allowing me to step away from the usual sauces, molecular gastronomic experiments, bread projects, pate de fruit, and amuse bouché to spend the day making candy, and baking these caramel-y shrines to classical French pastry.

The process to make canelé is specific, and scientific – like any true pastry chefs’ passion. Each ingredient matters, each step is important. And there is no rushing. For sure, the caramel crust that encases the sweet, vanilla + rum custard at the center of these regal looking little cakes is what makes them my favorite pastry. But the process is equally satisfying to my perfectionist soul.

At the restaurant, we would bake the canelé only so that we could whir them in a pacojet along with the sweetest vanilla ice cream to turn out canelé de bordeaux ice cream. In my house now, using my adapted version of the Providence recipe, we eat them in twos, dipped in chai or coffee in the afternoon, and sometimes I coat them with chocolate before serving them. This week, because its my birthday (and because it seemed only proper that the week of my birthday would contain all of my favorite things for me and everyone else,) we ate them even for breakfast and I pedaled a couple of batches of them to work on my cyclocross bike. (Have I mentioned that the pedals of this new commuter bike look like eggbeaters? Perfect for Bake Pedal Mondays.)

You will need special molds to create these treats and so (because they are expensive and the process is worth the effort) I recommend purchasing only a couple of molds and baking in shifts. I have six little molds which means that only 6 little mouths can eat a canelé at once….unless you stockpile. Or hoard. Both are acceptable.

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  • Reply Derek February 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    This is undoubtedly a small piece of heaven. If you have the patience and ambition, I believe everyone will enjoy this.

  • Reply gastroanthropologist February 16, 2011 at 5:40 am

    My dear, caneles are my favorite! And there are very few who have accomplished them – anytime I see them wherever I am in the world I get them. Even the French often fail at making this delicacy! Pierre Herme in Paris makes a pretty darn good one and there is this old man who sells them in the street market in Geneva on Wed/Sats that is probably the best I’ve ever had.
    My molds are packed away somewhere and I haven’t made a batch in such a long time.
    But seriously what could be better than canele? Um, canele ice cream? GENIUS.

    • Reply lentinealexis February 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      Virtual high five! I have thought that it the canele would be absolutely worth a special trip to Europe JUST to hunt down the best out there. For sure. I haven’t tried that at Pierre Herme, but St. Honore Boulangerie in Portland makes a pretty wicked canele. The ice cream WAS killer. And brilliant. It still IS! The next time that you are in L.A. swing by LAMill Coffee…you’ll find pints of it there.

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