The Story Behind the Iconic Canelé and the Recipe
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Aug 6, 2022

The Story Behind the Iconic Canelé and the Recipe

The Story Behind the Iconic Canelé and the Recipe
Franck Point

Born in Lyon (capital of gastronomy), France, Franck moved to Vancouver with his family in 2006 and is currently the co-founder of Best of France. He started a business in the food industry over 10 years ago and has since been actively serving the local French community, and seating at the board of various French associations.

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A sweet treat with a special story

Although the Canelé may not be as famous as other French pastries, it is still one of the most popular, with a passionate and flourishing fanbase all around the world. While Canelés are a delicious sweet treat for almost any occasion, there is also a fascinating story behind their origin and success. Each Canelé produced in the French confectionery industry comes contained with these special secrets. After learning more about the Canelé’s past, feel free to enjoy its present by whipping up your very own batch with our recipe for a sweet and mouth-watering delight.

Also, don’t forget to share pictures whenever you indulge in this iconic French delicacy on the Facebook group French Food & Wine - Canada or the Instagram page @bestoffrance!

The Tale Behind the Iconic Canelé

A tray of Canelés
A tray of Canelés

Originally called Canelé Bordelais, the Canelé is generally known as a time-consuming pastry that requires excellent skills and patience to prepare. Due to the complicated nature of their recipe, they are becoming less popular in the US. Fortunately, they still have a lot of popularity in Europe, most notably in France. When prepared well, they are a compact and fabulous treat to have for dessert or with a cup of coffee on the go. And like most French pastries, this treat comes with its own legends and origins.

Its History

Its recipe has not changed much since its creation and is strictly kept secret from the public. The more classic Canelés are always made in fluted copper molds, never silicone molds, which gives them their distinctive form. Relatedly, the word Canelé originates from the French word for “fluted.” The Canelé is believed to date back between the 15th and 18th centuries. Most historians claim that the sweet custard pastry came from different places in Bordeaux or Southern France, regions known to be heavily inhabited by local winemakers. Winemakers typically used eggs, more specifically the egg whites, to clarify the wine they made. The excess egg yolks that were left were then allegedly given to local nuns to make a flour-based type of food for the poor. Over time, more ingredients were added to the recipe, and the Canelé was created. However, this is mainly just speculation. Countless wars and disruptions occurred in the region in this era, and most books with painstakingly recorded history were destroyed. Hence, the specifics of the Canelés’ origins are still unclear. Regardless, these pastries have come and gone numerous times in Bordeaux.

It was not until 1985 that a group of bakers finally decided to claim the recipes as an iconic part of French heritage and make them the official property of Bordeaux. They made it their responsibility to keep the traditional recipes secret and only pass them down to future bakers worthy of that knowledge.

Its Present

As mentioned before, the Canelé’s original recipes are heavily guarded as it is of great importance for France to protect its culinary heritage. Indeed, the food industry regularly exploits these cultural foods for selfish profit and creates fraudulent versions that can be easily mass-produced. The confectionery industry, even in France, is sometimes affected by passing culinary fads and trends, and the need to urgently propose something different often results in trading integrity for cheap cash grabs. 

The only thing that should change in a Canelé is its color while baking! For instance, the Canelé can be baked till it appears to be black, resulting in a distinctive flavor and a crunchier consistency. While this may be perfectly normal in France, this kind of Canelé would be mistakenly seen as overcooked in the US. Most customers would think it is burnt or of an unknown flavor. Therefore, it is probably wiser for American bakers to avoid baking the Canelé till it is black, even if it means missing out on a different flavor and texture. 

Tips and Tricks

Perhaps the most important thing that goes into the treat’s production isn’t an ingredient. Instead, what about the classically copper mold that gives it its distinctive shape? Copper is a fantastic conductor of heat, thus giving the Canelés their perfect texture. A common alternative to the copper mold is the silicone mold, but beware! If you use very cheap silicone molds, the resulting Canelés pale in comparison; they are often soggy and flavorless. However, since silicone molds are much more affordable than copper molds, they are popular among those on a budget. 

You can easily buy Canelé molds online. To grease the mold, whichever type is decided, use either nonstick spray, butter, or beeswax. According to the traditional method, butter and beeswax are preferable as they will give the Canelés a nice glossy finish.

Recipe for Canelé

Typical French Canelés
Typical French Canelés

Preparation Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 1 hr

Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax

Directions


Step 1: Place the flour, egg yolks, sugar, rum, salt, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Mix it all into a smooth paste.

Step 2: Pour the butter and milk into a saucepan. When the mixture starts simmering while cooking on medium-high heat, remove it. Slowly add half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture from step 1. Mix it all into a smooth paste. Slowly add the rest of the milk mixture and mix again till it’s a smooth batter.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 230 degrees celsius.

Step 4: Go ahead and melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of beeswax in a pan on medium heat. Mix it, then remove it and coat the insides of the Canelé molds with it. 

Step 5: Pour the batter from step 2 into the molds till it reaches 75% of each mold. You don’t want them to be completely full as they will expand while baking. Place them into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Step 6: Reduce the oven’s heat to 190 degrees Celsius, then bake for 50 more minutes till the Canelés are nicely deep brown.

Step 7: Take them out and let them cool down for 5 minutes. Use tongs to carefully turn over the molds and bang them onto a cooling wire rack, or use a blade to gently take out each Canelé from the molds and place them on the rack. Finally, allow them to get to room temperature in order to reach their signature crispy outer texture. Remember to be delicate; the iconic shape of the Canelé must be preserved for the best presentation!

What is Next?

How a Canelé looks on the inside
How a Canelé looks on the inside

The Canelés are the jewels of Bordeaux. As one of France's most famous pastries, it is important to know the rich history behind this delight and never let its confection secrets fade away. If you tried the recipe but didn't have much luck making your own batch, perhaps you could let professionals make you high-quality Canelés. 

If you happen to be in Saint-Loubès, France, stop by at Aquitaine Spécialités. They are the acclaimed world leaders in the production of Canelés, and they offer a colorful catalog. As a family-owned business, quality is at the absolute center of their values. Their highly innovative manufacturing techniques ensure the production of Canelés with no preservatives, additives, coloring, or GMOs.

Also, check out Best of France's other incredible articles such as 'Tarte Tatin - the story behind the iconic pie and the recipe' and 'The Boulangerie - a French exception'. Don't hesitate to tell us your experience while making Canelés in the comments below. Were your first batches not so great? Were they all delicious successes? We want to hear all about it!