A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the infamously capricious canelé, the love-rat of baking (as faithful as Darren Day.) But by the end of that post, I wussed out of actually making them. Now it was time to start the journey.
I followed the simplest recipe I could find, although highly suspicious of its brevity, because I am lazy. The prospect of following a variety of Beowulf style recipes (one for the epic medieval English poetry fans there – but if you’re not one, Beowulf is synonymous with mind-numbingly long and tedious) on the subject was exhausting in itself. Actually, David Dunham once said “Efficiency is intelligent laziness“. Clever man; covering his own back with a soundbite. I’ll claim efficiency instead, because I want to build the tips on top of each other until I know the laziest, sorry, most ‘efficient’ way to make great canelés. I can say with no small degree of assurance that I did not find the most efficient way to make great canelés this time.
It seems the recipe was brief because it assumed a certain amount of prior knowledge about baking. It didn’t mention to cool the heated mixture before trying to mix in the egg yolks. You know what’s coming next don’t you? Proof that I really am a culinary cock-up: my mixture had hard boiled egg floating in it. After sieving and re-attempting and chilling, I needed to fill the silicone moulds, but Reynaud didn’t mention greasing them. The mould instructions told me otherwise, so I poured melted butter in and out again to leave a thin coating. No thanks to you Monsieur Reynaud; this was a tip I remembered from previous research, and handed out by an American mademoiselle. Sacré bleu!
The remaining recipe I followed faithfully; I filled the moulds two thirds to the top and whacked them in the oven for an hour at the stated 200 C temperature. This was the result.
They were overcooked and shrunk; the caramelised crusts were teeth-breaking, bitter burnt sugar and the feather-light custard a sweet wallpaper paste. Their only saving grace that they were so shiny, they looked varnished and polished. Maybe this was thanks to coating the moulds. Maybe the TOTAL CANELÉ FAIL was because of coating the moulds. But a quick trawl of the War & Peace style recipes indicate that everyone else puts them in at high heat to start and then plummets the temperature for the rest of cooking. I think I was right to be suspicious.
So back to the drawing board; my boyfriend’s very lovely maman is asking around her friends for tips to pass onto me, and I am wading through endless cooking forums en français for a slightly less ‘efficient’ recipe. To paraphrase, of all people, Richard Nixon, “a girl is not finished when she is defeated. She is finished when she quits“. I’m not finished, I’ve only just begun.
Recipe from Ripailles, Reynaud 2008