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Monday, October 19, 2009
One of the things I like about traditional French Pastry is that every pastry seem to have a legend or story behind it. Some of these legends are mysterious and have been handed down from generation to generation... giving the pastry chefs who are still working with these recipes a sense of mission and making them guardians of these traditions.
I did not know what a Cannele was until some 2 years ago when I saw them at one of the fine patisserie in Singapore who calls themselves.. what else, but Canele. That was about the time when Singapore became infected by the Macaron fever. Like every avid baker I knew, I learnt to make macarons and was on a constant quest to seek out macarons from different patisseries to understand and compare. Together with Bakerzin, Canele has one of the best macarons I can find in Singapore. It was during my first trip to Canele that I spotted the cannele- dark crusty little knobs that were going at $1.50 a pop. Out of curiosity, I bought one piece. It was an intriguing little cake - hard, crusty on the outside and soft custardy on the inside. I didn't go ga-ga over it but I was fascinated. It wasn't until much later that I googled about this mysterious cake and discovered the magic behind it.
Originated from Bordeaux about 300 years ago, legend has it that these cakes were made by nuns using flour spilled over the dock by some cargo ships. These sweets were made using copper fluted molds buried in embers and distributed to poor children - Other tales exist about the origin of this cake but what fascinated me was that this almost charcoal black morsel had risen and lost its popularity over the centuries and it was not until about 20 years ago, they started to re-surface with a vengeance. In order to maintain the integrity of the cake, 88 patissiers in Bordeaux formed a brotherhood to safeguard the recipe. To differentiate their devotion to the original recipe, the Bordeaux chefs had spelt their cake as Caneles (with a single n, vs Canneles) and as such, the Canele de Bordeaux is the official cake of the City while elsewhere, the cake is known as Canneles... Such is the intensity of their devotion and commitment to their craft.
For the benefit of those who have not had the chance to partake of this magical cake, this is a egg and milk based recipe baked in traditional copper molds at high temperature for a long time. The end result is a dark caramelised crusty shell with a soft custard like center. The generous use of vanilla and rum gives it a refined yet robust flavour. Best served with coffee. I first learnt to make this using Bakerzin's Daniel Tay's recipe but have grown to prefer another recipe found in one of my favourite cook book Egg by Lyndsay Mikanowski. I don't make Caneles often as it tends to get tedious - not because it is difficult but because I ONLY HAVE 6 MOLDS to work with!!! Each batch needs to be baked at high temperature for an hour... so yes, after 1 hour, I only get 6 little Canneles! Why, you will ask - because the copper molds are so damn expensive! They cost me $30 each! I suppose I can buy a silicone mold but the caramelising effect is quite different from the copper mold.
Until I am willing to splurge over more molds, I probably will not make enough to distribute among friends...
2 whole eggs plus 1 yolk
2 tsp Vanilla Paste
4 tbsp Rum
100g plain flour
One day before :
1. Boil milk with 100g sugar in a heavy saucepan. Once boiling, remove milk from heat and add butter and vanilla paste. (or vanilla pod)
2. Whisk eggs with remaining sugar until mixture whitens.Add flour and mix well. Add in boiled milk mixture.
Sieve and refrigerate for at least 24hours.
1. Coat cooled copper Cannele mold in fridge. Coat molds with melted beewax/butter (1:1).
2. Add rum to the refrigerated batter - sieve again if necessary. Fill the molds with batter and bake at 180C for 60 minutes.
3. Unmold when still hot and leave to cool. Once unmolded, the cake is soft and spongy. The crust will harden as it cools. Ideally, the cake should be almost charcoal black.