Despite its comforting name, my initial reaction to Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking Chez Moi” was a feeling of intimidation. Flipping through the recipes and photos of perfectly baked goods begged the question, is this cookbook really meant for home cooks? She reassures in the introduction when she writes that the recipes in the book were compiled from French friends, who leave the fancy baking to pastry shops. That detail alleviated some of my fears, and later, when I tried the recipe for the lavender galettes, my anxiety completely dissipated. Now I’m excited to try more. Her advice is so encouraging, with tips that speak of her experience in perfecting the recipe — it’s like being introduced to a new friend. After one recipe, I feel that I can trust her (recipes) and look forward to spending more time together with her (cookbook).
Excerpted from BAKING CHEZ MOI, © 2014 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
It’s thought that these little cakes were first made centuries ago by cloistered nuns in Bordeaux; however, it’s a fact that they’re very beloved—and not just in Bordeaux, but in Paris, other parts of France, and in bakeries across America. They’re a sweet completely different from any other, so it’s easy to understand how they’d capture the imaginations of pastry lovers everywhere.
The name comes from the shape of the molds in which they’re baked: Cannelé means “channeled,” or “crenelated,” and the molds, traditionally made of copper, are beautifully ridged, flat on the bottom and slightly indented on top. The cakes are made from a thin batter, like the kind you’d use for crêpes, which is highly flavored with rum and vanilla and left to rest in the refrigerator overnight. When the cannelés are baked, the exterior becomes dark and firm, and the interior, a fascinating cross between custardy and chewy, remains very moist. Pull one apart, and you’ll find irregular pockets and holes—almost like the ones in a yeast cake, like babka or kugelhopf.
Traditionally, cannelés were made in copper molds brushed with beeswax, and they turned almost as dark as nuggets of coal. Today, most bakers use silicone molds and forego the beeswax. You can get that charred color with silicone and without beeswax, but I call them done when the bottoms are almost black and the sides a deep caramel. Silicone molds are available as minis, which I use, and large; if you use the large ones, you’ll have to adjust the baking time (and, obviously, you’ll get a different yield). Mini Bundt molds also make lovely cannelés.
This recipe was given to me by Joëlle Caussade, whose husband, Gilles, owns a lively Paris bistro, Le Petit Vendôme, where Joëlle makes the mini cannelés that are served with coffee.
A word on timing: The batter needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, so plan ahead.
Serving: Cannelés are traditionally served alongside coffee or tea and often turn up on trays of mignardises, the small sweets that are after-dessert desserts.
Storing: The batter needs to be refrigerated for at least 12 hours, but it can hold there for up to 3 days. As for the baked cannelés, they’re perfect the day they are made and still good, but firmer and chewier, the day after. Keep the cannelés in a dry place at room temperature. Lightly cover them if you like.