There is good reason why you have probably never heard of the canelé. You certainly won’t have seen it on Masterchef, or The Great British Bake Off. Why? Because the moon must be in a particular lunar phase and the stars align to make the perfect canelé. It is witchcraft. Some dare to attempt the soufflé on TV, but not one has been foolish enough to attempt the canelé.
Notoriously difficult though they are, the perfect canelé is worth it. Its shiny mahogany caramelised coating yields to a feather-light vanilla custard pastry, laced with rum. It stands proud, a unique shape, a unique cake, bite-sized and begging to be eaten. The canelé is an incorrigible flirt.
My boyfriend is from Bordeaux, where they are a speciality, and multiple visits ago I treated myself to the best silicone moulds money can buy. Since, they have languished amongst my pots and trays, piercing me with guilt and no small element of fear each time I come across them. As I trawl the internet for tips, I find that some of not just the longest recipes but the longest web pages of any type are dedicated to trying to get them right. I would not be surprised if some had been driven mad in their quest; reduced to quivering wrecks, hallucinating killer canelé.
The only French cookbook I own that dares to approach these little mouthfuls of heaven, recites easily the shortest recipe for them by far, in just two short steps. I simply don’t trust this at all, compared to all of the complex recipes available, and it doesn’t even mention the one thing that the rest of the recipes insist upon: beeswax. That’s right. The wax you make candles from. I’m guessing I won’t find that in the baking section in Waitrose.
Look at how much beeswax there is. Look.
It’s for coating the moulds, a process which itself merits endless pages of instruction and discussion. The moulds must not be too cool or too hot, the ratio of beeswax to butter must be just so, the coating must not be too thin or too thick, else you end up eating a candle and not a canelé.
As I survey an internet littered with failed canelés, I realise that the whole process will undoubtedly take several ruined batches to begin to master. So as soon as I find the beeswax, I will update you with repeated ruined batches, and maybe one day, the perfect canelé.