Canelés have somehow escaped my foodie radar; the first time I ate one – a traditional vanilla flavour – was just a few weeks ago, served with an Afternoon Tea. However, I was so taken by them that I couldn’t wait to make a batch, and have since made several batches of differing flavours!
With their crisp, caramelised exteriors and soft custardy filling, canelés are gorgeous little treats and are very easy to make…the only challenge is waiting up to 48 hours (ideally) for the mixture to rest: see below!
As well as the flavour, I love the shine of the exterior, the thin crisp crust and the almost honeycombed interiors of the canelés.
This particular recipe:
I looked at many of the recipes that can be found online, taking a lot of my inspiration for the basic approach from a variety of recipes out there. As I love putting a twist on bakes, using flavours I adore, I decided to come up with lemongrass and ginger canelés.
This is not at all traditional in terms of the flavours here, and I quite understand the purists who might shriek in horror. However, I offer no apologies in this case, as for me it is about the taste and the experience rather than sticking rigidly to tradition!
I used vanilla sugar to give a hint of vanilla flavour here, but the lemongrass and ginger are the star flavours.
Canelés are typically darker than these but I prefer a deep golden appearance, which still gives a great caramelised crust, and I wouldn’t like to take these too much further in the oven!
Traditionally flavoured canelés:
If making traditional vanilla canelés omit the lemongrass and the ginger but instead add a couple of split vanilla pods to the milk as it heats up, and leave them to infuse until the batter has rested. You can also add 2 teaspoons of best quality vanilla extract to the batter.
Resting the batter:
The batter needs to be rested in the fridge, covered, for between 1 and 2 days. I did make a batch with just a few hours’ resting, but the texture was not light enough and the interior was not as honeycombed as it should be. However, an overnight resting gives excellent results.
Copper moulds, brushed with beeswax, are traditional but as I had neither to hand (the copper moulds are so expensive!) I used mini silicone canelé moulds which give 18 mini canelés.
Even though the moulds are non-stick, I found I got better results buttering the moulds rather than leaving them unbuttered: without buttering, some stuck to the moulds and some expanded too much.
It is easiest to brush the empty moulds with melted butter before freezing them for about 30 minutes: the freezing also gives better results than not freezing in terms of the exterior crunch of the baked cannelés and them not expanding too much.
Filling the moulds:
I fill the moulds just over 2/3 full: this amount allows them to rise up to and go just beyond the top while they bake. You can go for even taller canelés (as I did with one of the batches below) by filling the moulds to about half a centimetre from the rims, but there is a tendency for them to rise too much out of the moulds and go wonky!
If you prefer canelés that are more squat, fill them half-way.
Experiment to see what you prefer, but either way, they will taste wonderful!
Sweet and savoury variations:
Since falling for these delighful bakes, I have made other flavoured canelés, both sweet and savoury: the savoury ones are amazing as canapés! My current favourites include:
- chocolate (especially chocolate and chilli!)
- coconut & lime
- Parmesan, basil & toasted pine nuts
- smoked bacon
- roasted garlic and rosemary
Savoury canelés, served warm (not hot!) are terrific as canapés, and can be made en masse, frozen and later reheated for whenever they are to be served.
For savoury canelés, omit the lemongrass, ginger, rum and all but about 20g of the sugar. Add the savoury flavours to the batter either at the blitzing stage at the start or just before pouring the batter into the moulds: in the latter case, the savoury additions should very finely chopped or puréed so that they do not sink.
Freezing the batter & the baked canelés
The rested batter can be frozen and then defrosted in the fridge if not being used in one go.
The baked cannelés can be frozen: simply defrost them and warm them in the oven at 190C(fan) for about 5 minutes to crispen up.
Lemongrass & ginger canelés: makes about 48 mini canelés
- 500g full-fat milk
- 50g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for the moulds
- 3 sticks lemongrass, roughly chopped
- about 3″ chunk fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 130g strong plain flour
- 230g vanilla caster sugar
- 3g sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 50ml dark rum
(1) Put the lemongrass and ginger in a small blender and blitz to a coarse paste.
(2) Heat the milk, butter and the lemongrass and ginger paste together on a medium heat, until the butter is completely melted. Bring just to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely, to allow the flavours to infuse.
(3) Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve, squeezing the lemongrass and ginger pulp to extract as much flavour as possible before discarding them.
(4) Gently reheat the milk mixture until it is just warm. Place all the other ingredients into a blender and blend on the slowest speed, slowly incorporating the warm milk and butter mixture.
(5) Pulse very gently just until smooth: don’t over-do it as you don’t want too much aeration here. You should have a very thin batter that has the most inviting fragrance.
(6) Cover and refrigerate for between 24 and 48 hours: the longer the better, if you can bear the waiting!
(7) Preheat the oven to 200C (fan). Brush just a little extra melted butter into the moulds and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
(8) Place the moulds on a solid baking tray. Stir the mixture gently and pour into the moulds, going between 2/3 full and within about 5mm of the rims. You should have enough batter to fill the moulds 3 times over: just chill the surplus batter and refill the washed moulds once each batch has been turned out.
(9) Bake these small canelés at this temperature for 5 minutes before turning the temperature down to 190C (fan) for 25-30 minutes. NB: They will look darker than the usual “golden brown” that is sought after for many bakes, and they need to be here, but watch that they do not burn. The tops should feel set but with a bit of spring in them.
(10) Turn them out onto a wire rack to cooling: as they do so, they will develop their crust. Store any remaining canelés in an airtight container: they can be reheated for about 5 minutes at 190C (fan) and will re-crispen up as they then cool.