French

How to Make French Canelés (It's Simple)

September 27, 2017

When I set out to write my book, I was looking for recipes that made baking more approachable. Depending on the type of baked good in question, this could mean multiple things. For some baked goods, it meant simplifying a confusing process, or showing multiple ways to do it. For others, it meant explaining how and when ingredients could be flexible: tweaked, subbed, or swapped. But in the case of the fateful recipe in this post, it was about finding a less complicated vessel.

You don't need to travel to France to eat these ASAP! Photo by Ren Fuller

If you’ve ever had a canelé—the incredibly decadent French sweet featuring a deeply caramelized outer crust and a soft, custardy center—you’ve undoubtedly wished they could be ever-present in your life. While the batter is easy to make, canelés are a bit complicated. Traditional methods require copper molds that are coated in an edible beeswax. It’s enough specialized stuff to turn me off, and I’m nearly addicted to these beauties. So I figured there had to be another way. Full disclosure: You still need a special mold to pull these off, but I’ve formulated my recipe to be made in easy, breezy—did I mention inexpensive and easy to clean!?!—silicone, with nothing but a little soft butter to aid the process (yum). Ready to bake up some pure decadence at home? Here’s what you need to know:

The Batter

This is the easiest part of the whole thing! The first thing to know is the batter needs to rest overnight. Don’t try to skip this step; it’s important. First, you want to take the dairy ingredients—butter, milk, and cream—and bring them to a simmer. Because sugar helps the milk and cream from scalding, I like to throw a portion of it into the pot too (1/4 cup). While you’re waiting for it to simmer, whisk together your dry ingredients: flour and the remaining sugar. Just before the milk comes to a simmer, add the remaining ingredients to the flour/sugar mixture. This includes eggs, egg yolks (helping make it extra custardy), rum, and vanilla extract. Whisk everything well to combine. Add the hot milk/cream/butter mixture to the bowl in a slow, steady steam, whisking constantly until the batter is nice and smooth. Strain the batter through a fine mesh sieve into storage containers with lids, cover, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

It looks easy to make because it is. Photo by Ren Fuller

Preparing the mold

First, get yourself a silicone canelé mold. There’s lots of options—this is the one I use, which costs about $10. Different molds have different amounts of cavities, but luckily most molds have pretty standard depth to each one. Remember that different molds may mean different baking times, but the process is still the same. For reference, I fill each cavity in my mold with about 1/3 cup (75 g) of batter. Use softened butter to generously grease each cavity in the mold. Before adding the batter (not butter), place the buttered mold on a baking sheet and it into a preheated 450° oven. Yes, it’s hot—this high temperature is crucial to how the canelé works! The high oven temperature causes the outside of each pastry to set and caramelize, while the inside continues to cook slowly, eventually setting into a slightly custardy center. You want to preheat the mold so that when you pour the batter in, the mold and butter is already nice and hot. Heat the mold for 3-4 minutes before removing it to add the batter.

Make sure this baby is pre-heated. Photo by Ren Fuller

Baking (Part 1)

Transfer the batter to a container with a pour spout, such as a large liquid measuring cup. Pour the batter into the preheated mold, filling each cavity about 3/4-way full. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 30-32 minutes, until the pastries have puffed up and begin to brown. Resist the urge to open the oven door during this time—the pastries are more likely to bake properly with a consistent oven temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 400° F and bake the canelés for another 30-32 minutes—the visible surface of the pastries should be very golden.

Be careful—that's a very high temperature! Photo by Ren Fuller

The Big Flip

Remove the pan from the oven and use a small offset spatula to loosen each pastry gently from the mold and flip it over inside the mold (this will help brown the pastries evenly all over). Handle the pastries gently, as they are easily dented (remember, they are soft and custardy inside). Return the canelés to the oven and bake until the tops are deeply golden, 12-15 minutes more. Let the pastries cool inside the molds before unmolding and serving.

Notice the flipped vs. the unflipped. Photo by Ren Fuller

Are We Done Yet?

This is one of those occasions where you can’t be afraid of over-browning the pastries. They’ll be very dark—a deep golden brown. In this case, that darkness is key to flavor. A lovely, rich caramelized flavor that only comes from intense heat and a rich batter. So don’t be afraid of over-baking; in fact, it’s important not to under-bake. Bon appétit!

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28 Comments

Ashley M. January 25, 2018
After the batter rests in the refrigerator overnight it kind of separates. Should I stir it and make it all one consistency before filling the heated silicone molds?
 
Ashley M. January 13, 2018
The batter is prepared the day before and then left to rest in the refrigerator.<br />When it's time to bake should you let your batter come to room temperature before filing and baking?
 
Judith R. October 29, 2017
Just made these today, and while I had to adjust for convection baking, these are wonderful! Someone mentioned a 17 page thread on eGullet, and I remember it very well, as my husband was determined to make these using our copper molds. Luckily I also bought a silicone mold. I couldn't get them up easily with a small offset spatula, but mine were well enough baked that I just turned them out onto a kitchen towel, and gingerly popped them back in upside down. I've eaten three already!
 
Casey M. October 5, 2017
Hi Erin,<br /><br />So excited about this recipe -- I adore caneles! If I were to purchase a smaller canele mold (so I could get more out of each batch!), how much would I need to adjust the cooking time to ensure they bake properly?
 
Author Comment
Erin M. October 6, 2017
Hi Casey! You would need to reduce baking time for sure - do you know how big your molds are in comparison to the size I have linked to. I can't offer a specific recommendation without that, but I can say depending on the size you could reduce time by 1/4 - 1/3 and continue to check for the deep color you see in the photos of final pastries in this post!
 
Lily October 3, 2017
Do they keep at all? Is there a way to freeze extras, or can they be made the day ahead?
 
Author Comment
Erin M. October 3, 2017
They keep ok for a day or two, but they are definitely at their best fresh from the oven, same day they are made!
 
Michele G. October 2, 2017
you are all amazing for trying to make these at home. We just came home from a month in southern france and our last stop was Bordeaux and we saw these beauties everywhere. Very different texture, but aftertaste is amazing. I found them at Trade Joes! Now it seems I see them everywhere, or maybe just that I am now aware of them. Don't know if I have the nerve to try to make them myself.
 
Roos D. October 1, 2017
I made them today and they were divine!! Reduced oven temperature 20 degrees (fan) and oven time 20 minutes. Next time I will preheat the silicon mold without butter, then pour in a little melted butter before pouring in the batter.
 
MJ B. October 1, 2017
Have you made these with two pans at one time in the oven, or have you found it is best to use the same pan and make batches one after another?
 
Author Comment
Erin M. October 1, 2017
If you have a steady oven temp, free of hot spots - absolutely safe to make multiple pans at once! Depending on the size of your molds, they can likely even fit on one oven shelf (I do find they cook the best on a rack in the center of the oven).
 
lpaulk September 30, 2017
Followed directions and found that the top of the pastries way overcooked at the 2nd bake at 400 degrees. I was trying to be patient to let them bake the stated amount of time to get proper caramelization but 7 minutes before suggested time the tops were black. I pulled out and flipped and put back in oven at 375 but not feeling that this is going to work. I have made these pastries before with a different recipe. It could be my oven but wish I would have checked them earlier.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. October 1, 2017
Sorry to hear that! There's is likely an oven temperature issue at play here. I've made these in 6 different ovens, but I always check the temperature with my oven thermometer first. Also - how big are your molds? It could be if you're using a smaller mold they really do need less time (even at that high temp). I give a reference of about 1/3 cup batter to fill each of my mold about 2/3 way full - try reducing bake time at each stage, and if your oven runs hot maybe start with a temp of 400 instead.
 
Gordan September 30, 2017
How do you "flip" the not finished baking cannele's? Do you try to flip them over inside the mold, or do you flip them out of the mold and then re-insert them into the mold?
 
Author Comment
Erin M. September 30, 2017
Hi Gordon! It's not as tough as it sounds - the canelés are nearly done at the point that you flip them (and fully set on the outside). You still want to be gentle, but just using a small offset spatula is enough to release them from the molds - then you just turn them over (with the spatula, or your fingers if you can handle the heat!) in the molds!
 
Michael M. September 29, 2017
I'm obsessed with canelés, too! I also use a silicone mould and coat it with a butter and beeswax mixture. I'm generally happy with the taste of them but the two issues I have are that I don't get the really deep and complete caramelization and while baking, they often rise well above the the top of the mould. I'll try the flip method for the caramelization but I'm trying to figure out how to stop them from rising so high. I make sure not to aerate the batter when stirring and I don't fill the moulds to the top. I'm certain the excessive rising is caused by steam building up between the bottom of the mould and the cooking batter. Have you had to contend with this issue? Thanks in advance.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. September 29, 2017
Hi Micheal! How deep are you filling your molds? It could be as simple as you're filling them too full! Try reducing the amount - having less in the molds makes even caramelization easier, too!
 
Michael M. September 29, 2017
I fill them up about 3/4 full or less. Hmm, my oven is calibrated and I've tried with a perforated sheet pan as well as a non-perforated pan to rest the mould on. I will try again following your recipe. Thank you!
 
Miguel November 23, 2017
1st time around everything went well, the second time the same thing happened to me. Not sure what went wrong.
 
Roos D. September 28, 2017
Thank you!! I’ve had one in Amsterdam and bought moulds in France after that. I’ve always wanted to make them but, like you, the recipe turned me off. This seems simple and I was salivating thoughout reading the recipe. Definately going to give this a shot!
 
Ashley M. September 28, 2017
Do you think that a 2% or lower fat milk would work instead of whole milk? <br />I absolutely LOVE canelés. Run all over Paris to find the best ones when we are there. Next I'd love your version of a financier....my other French favorite!
 
Author Comment
Erin M. September 28, 2017
It would probably turn out OK, but this is really a time to use whole - you need a rich batter to make the proper custardy center!
 
Martin B. September 28, 2017
Hi Erin, great to see you're posting a recipe for these wonderful treats. Could you add a little more explanation of why you need to flip the canelés? Mightn't they be at a really delicate stage and liable to get torn by the spatula? I'm puzzled because I've baked hundreds of canelés successfully and never needed to flip them. And I'm not that great; I just follow Paula Wolpert's thoroughly researched recipe.<br /><br />And why not just use white oil as the French do (definitely NOT paraffin): it's only a 50:50 mix of beeswax and vegetable oil which would take a handful of seconds longer to put together and melt than the butter? You're skipping an added layer of authentic flavour (and also making it harder to get a crisp skin).
 
Author Comment
Erin M. September 28, 2017
Hi Martin - after dozens of tests, I found that flipping the canelé is an important step when baking in a silicone mold to ensure that the top gets caramelized enough. Silicone doesn't conduct heat the way a typical copper canelé mold does, so leaving them unflipped results in a top that's less golden. You only flip towards the very end of baking time, and while being delicate with your spatula is important, the outside of the pastries are very set, and aren't likely to rip or tear at that stage. <br /><br />I also agree using white oil is great, and you totally can! I found that this method produces really, really delicious results without having to buy a special ingredient, which just might make it more accessible for folks who don't want to order the special stuff. That said, you're right about authenticity - and I fully support using the real deal. But butter is pretty delicious, too!
 
txchick57 September 28, 2017
Nice hacks. I recall reading a 17 page thread years ago on EGullet on how to make these. It shouldn't be that hard. I'm looking forward to your book, have it on preorder.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. September 28, 2017
I agree - sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to get just right! This batter is so simple hopefully my equipment trials and tests make the process easier. Can't wait to share the book with you + thank you!!!
 
soosie September 27, 2017
Our friends in the Bordeaux area insist that the secret is placing a few drops of paraffin in the molds before filling. That's what has always stopped me from trying.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. September 27, 2017
That is the traditional way (and boy, is it good the traditional way!!!!) but I worked and worked to make a version that's easier to make at home - and these are very close the wonderful ones I've had in France + from the best bakeries here in NYC!