Canelés (Cannelés) de Bordeaux Recipe

For ambitious bakers only.

A whole canelé next to another canelé cut open to reveal its custardy interior.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Why It Works

  • A coating of beeswax and butter creates an outer skin that will help protect the shape of the canelés as they bake.
  • Baking on a stone at high heat from the outset encourages this skin formation, especially on the bottom of the mold.
  • Removing your canelés briefly from the oven while they bake lets them sink back down into the molds, preventing bubbled-over batter disasters.

I'm typing this post from the floor of my kitchen, where I've been sitting for the past 30 minutes with my forehead pressed against the glass of my oven door. As I write, it's 7 a.m. on a Saturday, and this post was due days ago. It's been three weeks since I began working on canelé, and this is what they've reduced me to: crazed, unable to pull myself away, and struggling to put down words that might help you, gentle reader, avoid the madness to which this pastry has driven me.

Up until a few months ago, canelés were just the stuff of pastry legend, known only by their reputation for being fussy and difficult to make in that just-so way. A trip to New York City's Dominique Ansel Bakery sparked my obsession with the pastry. Holding a perfect one in my hand for the first time, I could only make guesses as to how the baker had achieved such a glassy, caramelized exterior contrasted with an impossibly custardy center. Such a delicious mystery to unravel, I began daydreaming in canelé. I couldn't wait to do it myself.

It turned out, I was not alone. A Google search revealed that this was well-worn territory, and my friend MaryKate, a veteran of the pastry department of Sullivan Street Baking Co., had been at it for some time, too. Since she already had the necessary equipment (a set of aluminum molds) and the knowledge she'd gained from many attempts under her belt, she volunteered to help me get started. We had major issues with the canelés rising out of their molds, slumping over the sides, then charring bulbously on top. They were delicious, but they didn't score any points in the beauty department. I was disappointed and determined to get it right.

Weeks wore on, and I attempted canelés again and again, obsessed with perfection. I tried new batters, at all different temperatures in different parts of the oven. I tried water baths. I broke down and bought six of the damn copper molds because I had to know. I obsessed over advice generously dispensed from my pastry chef idols via Twitter, and swapped secret emails with friends at the best bakeries in New York City. The advice only made things more dizzying. For every chef who swears by beeswax, there is another who prefers a spritz of non-stick spray. Some tout silicone (I was out of money for a high-quality silicone mold—that will have to be a project for another pay period) while others said, "copper or nothing." At the end of the day, the lesson was clear: Each baker has a method that works for them, and that's the way to canelé perfection. This is my method; it may not work for everyone, but it works for me, and I've found peace with that idea.

If you attempt canelé at home, it's important to keep these principles in mind:

  • A coating of beeswax and butter, frozen to the molds before baking, helps create a protective outer skin that will help protect the shape of the canelés as they bake. Beeswax can be purchased on the Internet or at the honey stand at a farmers' market.
  • High heat at the outset encourages skin formation, especially on the bottom of the mold. To facilitate this, bake on a stone, and preheat the baking sheet that will hold the molds.
  • If the canelés rise out of the molds early on without having time to form the protective skin, they will fall over or puff out and will be unable to sink vertically back into the molds. I found it critical to watch them carefully for the first 30-45 minutes, and remove them from the oven before they rose too high in the beginning.
  • Many people on the internet advise baking until they are nearly black on the tops. I advise against this: There's a big difference between caramelized and carbonized, in flavor, texture, and appearance. I'm happy to put up with some blond patches to avoid a charred, burned bottom part.
  • Copper really is the best if your goal is the perfect canelé. However, aluminum is pretty good too, and if you're okay with canelés that are a little less than perfect, the ones baked in aluminum are still plenty delicious and cost a fraction of the price of those baked in copper.
  • Practice makes perfect, and mistakes are still delicious.

See below for some more tricks and what to expect during the baking process, then try it yourself, if you dare.

Mixing and Straining the Batter

Gently stirring eggs and butter together for canele batter.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

It's critical that you avoid aerating the batter each step of the way when mixing. Start off by breaking up the eggs (which should ideally be at room temperature) with a fork, but avoid beating them.

Pouring wet ingredients for canelé batter through a strainer

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Instead of beating the ingredients into the batter, which risks incorporating too much air, pass all of the wet ingredients through a strainer into the dry. Use a rubber spatula to push them through.

Stirring lumpy canele batter with a spatula

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Then, once all of the wet ingredients have been added through the strainer, gently stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, and allow the batter to sit for a few minutes to hydrate as you clean the strainer. There should be lots and lots of lumps.

After the batter has sat for a few minutes, pass it through a clean strainer. Push all of the lumps through with a rubber spatula, which will help mix the batter without adding extra air. Then, rest the batter for no less than 48 hours, covered in the fridge. This resting time helps hydrate the flour, dissolve the sugar, and gives the proteins in the eggs time to change so the texture of the canelé is just right.

Preparing the Molds

Copper canele molds on a wire rack.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

After brushing the preheated molds with the butter-beeswax mixture, place them upside down on a cooling rack placed over a sheet of plastic wrap to allow the excess wax to drip off. You don't want to get too much wax in the molds, or you'll end up with a waxy film on your tongue. Once the wax has cooled to a solid state, place the molds in the freezer for at least 2 hours. This is an important step that helps the wax stay solid long enough to properly coat the outside of the canelé while they bake.

Preparing to Bake

A quart container filled with canele batter.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Place a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven and place a baking sheet on top. You'll need to start out baking in a blazing hot oven (500°F/260°C) to develop the outer crust. When the oven is ready, remove the rested batter from the fridge. It will have separated, so you will need to gently stir it before portioning it into the molds. Remember, avoid incorporating air into the batter, which will cause puffing in the oven.

Canele molds filled with batter ready for baking

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Once the oven is preheated, remove the sheet tray from the top of the stone and pull the molds out of the freezer. Pour batter into each, stopping just a centimeter from the tops of the molds. Place the cold molds on the hot tray, then place the tray directly on top of the hot stone.

Babysitting the Oven

Molds with partially-baked canele inside them.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Here's where this process gets maddening. You need to hang out by the oven, watching the canelés as they bake. After about 10 minutes, they will begin to rise up out of the molds, nearly an inch over the edge. When this happens, remove the mold from the tray with metal tongs and place it outside the oven, where it will fall back into the molds on its own. Once the canelé returns to its original height, put it back on the tray in the oven to continue baking.

A canele mold with a partially-baked canele rising from the top

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

This rising and falling process will continue, and you'll need to keep taking them out of the oven for the first 30-45 minutes, until you begin to notice that they have formed a skin on the outside that starts to take on some color. This skin will protect the canelé and keep it from falling over.

You'll know that you can stop moving the canelés in and out of the oven when the aforementioned skin forms, and the canelés shrink a bit inside the molds, so there is space all around.

Turning Down the Heat, But Still Keeping an Eye Out

A partially-baked canele sinking in a copper mold.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Once the danger time has passed, you can leave the canelés to bake. Lower the temperature of the oven to 400°F, and bake for approximately 45 minutes more. Since you've had the oven open and the canelés have gone in and out, you'll need to rely on what you see to know how much more time they require.

Testing for Doneness

A partially-baked canele in a copper mold.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

After a while, the canelés will settle into their molds and the tops will turn more and more golden as they bake.

A dark brown canele in a copper mold.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

When the canelés shrink back into their molds almost to the point where they started, AND the tops are getting very dark, but not burnt, it's time to test one for doneness.

Removing a canele from an aluminum mold.

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Use the tongs to pull a test canelé out of the oven. Allow it to sit in the mold for a couple of minutes before turning it out onto the rack. The canelé in the photo above is still too light on top for my liking, so I return it to the mold, and the mold to the oven.

A dark golden brown canele next to the copper mold it was baked in

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

I continue to test the tester canelé until it is the right color, then I remove the rest and allow them to sit for a few minutes before unmolding. There is a broad range of colors for canelé. This is an example of one made in a copper mold that is still a bit on the light side.

Aluminum vs. Copper

A canele baked in an aluminum mold next to a canele baked in a copper mold

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

Pictured above: The difference between a canelé baked in an aluminum mold and one baked in a copper mold (same exact baking time and oven rotation). The size difference of the mold puts the aluminum at a disadvantage.

Caneles in varying shades of brown that were baked in aluminum molds

Serious Eats / Lauren Weisnethal

The photo shows three canelés all baked in aluminum molds for the exact same amount of time and rotations in the oven. The biggest shortcoming with aluminum molds is that the coloring is wildly inconsistent because aluminum is not as good at conducting heat.

Two caneles made in copper molds.

These canelés were made in copper molds. The results are very satisfying, but you must ask yourself: Are these worth 20 dollars per piece? For me, the satisfaction of getting it right in the end was worth it.

This recipe was originally published as part of the column "Sweet Technique."

January 2012

Recipe Facts

3.5

(2)

Active: 3 hrs
Total: 74 hrs
Serves: 12 canelés

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Ingredients

  • 17.6 ounces whole milk

  • 1 vanilla bean with the seeds scraped

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 2 eggs

  • 1.8 ounces butter, melted and cooled

  • 10.6 ounces confectioners' sugar, sifted

  • 4.4 ounces all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 ounce dark rum

  • 2 ounces pure beeswax

  • 2 ounces butter

Directions

  1. 3 days before baking: In a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together milk and vanilla bean pod and seeds. Bring milk just barely to a boil; turn heat off when the edges begin to bubble. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and place in the fridge (pod, and all) to steep overnight.

    Small saucepan with vanilla beans soaking in milk for canelé batter.
  2. 2 days before baking: Place eggs and yolks in a bowl and break yolks with a fork; do not whisk them. Add melted butter, stir gently with a fork just to incorporate, and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Place a strainer over the bowl, and pour the steeped milk through the strainer; discard the pod from the vanilla bean. Press egg mixture through strainer with a rubber spatula, then add rum to the bowl. Gently mix the batter with a spatula; avoid incorporating air. Wash and dry the strainer, then push the batter through the strainer with a rubber spatula. Cover the batter and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 48 hours.

    Pushing canele batter through a sieve into a quart container

    Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

  3. 3 hours before baking: Set oven to 350°F (180°C) and place the metal (either copper or aluminum) canelé molds inside for 10 minutes. While molds are heating, place beeswax in a plastic, microwave-safe container and microwave in 30-second increments, swirling each time, until beeswax is fully liquified. Add butter and microwave until it has fully melted, then stir until you have a solution of butter and beeswax. (This may also be done on the stovetop in a saucepan, but because cleaning beeswax from pots is an unsavory activity, using the microwave is highly recommended.) Remove molds from the oven and allow them to cool for 1 minute. Set up a cooling rack with plastic wrap underneath. Grasping molds one at a time with the tongs, coat the insides with the wax mixture using a pastry brush (silicone is recommended, you will need to boil the pastry brush to get the wax off later), then invert molds on top of the cooling rack and allow the excess wax to drip off. Once the wax has cooled back to opaque, place molds in the freezer for 2 hours.

    Brushing the inside of canele molds with melted beeswax.

    Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

  4. Once it's time to bake: Set a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven and place a sheet tray on top. Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C). When oven is ready, remove molds from freezer and fill them almost to the top, leaving a centimeter of space at the top of the molds. Remove preheated sheet tray from the oven, line with parchment, and then place the filled molds on the heated tray, spacing them evenly and far apart. Place the tray of molds onto the stone in the oven, and watch it carefully for the first 30 minutes of baking. The canelés will start to bubble, then rise up out of the molds. When they rise more than one centimeter above the rim of the molds, use tongs to remove the molds and allow the canelés to sink all the way back down into the molds, then return them to the oven. You will need to do this for the first 30-45 minutes of baking, until you notice that the canelés have developed an outer skin and a space has formed between the molds and the canelés on all sides.

    A partially-baked canele in a copper mold.

    Serious Eats / Lauren Weisenthal

    Once this has happened, drop the temperature of the oven to 400°F (200°C) and allow the canelés to finish baking, approximately 45 more minutes (there is no exact time, since the temperature has fluctuated so much with the oven being opened and closed and the canelés spending time, as needed, out of the oven). Watch for the tops to completely turn a deep golden brown and bubble (this is the butter in the batter) around the edges and middle. When the desired color is achieved on the tops, remove one from the oven using the tongs to test. Allow it to cool for several minutes, then invert the mold onto the cooling rack. If you are pleased with the color of the canelés, then remove the rest from the oven and allow them to cool for several minutes before unmolding. If you are not, return the canelé to its mold and bake the batch longer. The canelés should cool on the rack for 30 minutes before eating, and are best if consumed no more than 5 hours after baking.

Special Equipment

Canelé molds, metal tongs, baking stone

We also strongly recommend using a scale for all pastry projects.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
269 Calories
11g Fat
35g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 269
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 146mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 66mg 5%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 98mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)