These classic French pastries have fascinated me for a long time. The recipe, a crêpe-like batter, is uncomplicated. But when the batter is poured into the traditional tin-lined copper molds and baked, the result is not crêpe-like at all. Instead the outsides of the Cannelés are dark and crisp while the insides are slightly chewy and taste of custard. The recipe uses butter, but I have substituted extra-virgin olive oil and like the taste even better.
The trick to a perfect Cannelé is in the baking. The temperature must be hot enough to caramelize the outside and the baking time sufficient to prevent a soggy center.
The glossy sheen of the Cannelés’ exterior comes from a special treatment of the molds: they’re brushed with a mixture of warm butter and beeswax before they are filled.
The batter rests overnight in the refrigerator so make it a day ahead.
I bought the special molds the last time I was in Paris (now you have an excuse to go) and ordered pharmaceutical grade beeswax on the internet.
8 large Cannelés (The molds are 2-inches tall and 2-1/8-inches in diameter)
For the batter:
1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split horizontally or ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1 ¾ ounces) unbleached pastry flour
1 extra-large egg plus one extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
2/3 cup (4 ½ ounces) granulated cane sugar
1 ½ teaspoons dark rum
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon mild extra-virgin olive oil (with little bitterness and pungency)
For the molds:
I ½ teaspoons unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons beeswax
Make the batter:
Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the bean into the pan and then add the bean. (Or add the vanilla bean paste to the milk.) Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the top with plastic wrap, and let it steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the milk through a sieve, pushing down on the vanilla seeds to transfer them to the milk. Discard the vanilla bean. Set the milk aside.
Sift the flour and set it aside.
Crack the egg into a medium bowl. Add the egg yolk and beat a few strokes with a hand whisk. Add the sugar and whisk until the sugar is completely absorbed and there are no lumps, about 1 minute. Whisk in the rum and the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the flour all at once and whisk until smooth. Add the milk all at once and whisk. The batter will have the consistency of crêpe batter.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the molds:
Line two small baking pans with parchment paper.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 275°F (250°F convection.)
Heat the molds in the oven for ten minutes.
While the molds are heating, melt the butter and beeswax in a small bowl over simmering water.
Remove the molds from the oven. Wearing oven mitts, use a small brush to coat the inside of each mold with the melted butter-beeswax. As you work, turn each mold upside down on one of the parchment-lined pans to drain any excess. If the butter-beeswax solidifies, heat it again. Let the molds cool to room temperature.
Increase the oven temperature to 375°F (350°F convection.)
Remove the batter from the refrigerator and whisk it a few times to make sure that it is homogeneous.
Put the lined molds right side up on the second baking pan. Pour the batter into the molds, filling them to about ½-inch from the top.
When the oven is at temperature, put the molds in the oven. Bake, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through, for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The cakes will puff slightly above the tops of the molds and will be the color of dark chocolate. Don’t be tempted to take them out before the recommended time.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the molds cool on a rack for about 5 minutes. Wearing oven mitts, carefully unmold the Cannelés while they are still warm. Let them cool completely.
These are best eaten the same day they are baked, but will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.