Let me be honest. I didn't even KNOW what a cannelé was until about three years ago. I happened across a blog post at 101 Cookbooks, and I read through it fascinated by the description of some brulee like, crepe like concoction that was so difficult to make it made grown men cry. It sounded heavenly, but I didn't plan on making them as it sounded so complicated (and expensive) that I just said to myself that I would eat them some day...while traveling through France or something.
Soon after reading that blog post however, Husband and I decided to go out to dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We booked a posh dinner at Masa's San Francisco as a way to celebrate one of the few anniversaries that we could spend together. I wore my high heels, nicest dress and Husband also looked sharp and elegant in his clothes. Together we sat down to a long, wonderful meal, where we talked for three hours, uninterrupted by the sound and cries of young children. It was one of the most memorable meals of my life - the food was excellent, but more than that, the luxury of just really eating sitting down was amazing.
After dinner, and after dessert, our server brought over a tray of small tiny little delectables. There were handmade candies, caramels, lollipops, cookies, macarons and a host of other things. He explained what all of them were and allowed us to choose several items for a plate. At this point I was soooo stuffed I couldn't even think of it, but Husband, ever the one to want to try something, asked for five or six different things. He pointed to a very dark, crusty thing and said, "I'd like one of those." It was a cannelé. I also said, "I'd like one of those too" and together the two of us bit into it. Husband was immediately ecstatic and asked me "WHAT IS THIS?" and I told him confidently, "It's a cannelé." Only I didn't have the pronunciation correct. I said KAN-ELLE. Husband said promptly, "I need another one."
Our server saw Husband and my looking longingly at that special cart and wheeled it back over. "Would you like something else, sir?" he asked.
I confidently spoke up. "We'd like two more of the KAN-ELLE's please."
He arched his brow. "You mean KAN-NA-LAY." He promptly served us two more.
After he left, and my face slightly pink, I memorized the word. KAN-NA-LAY.
After that experience, I hadn't really thought of them in a long while, until friend SH mentioned them in passing, how they were a holiday tradition at her house.
"YOU MAKE THEM? HOW?" I asked her.
"They're easy," she said with a shrug of her shoulders. SH's Husband proceeded to make them for a cookie exchange, where I promptly gobbled down three and I decided I wanted to make them for Husband.
SH generously lent me her molds, the recipe she used and even the sweetened condensed milk. I went home, made the batter, and baked them up for Christmas Day Dinner. I kept on telling Husband that I was making him something that he liked, but it was a surprise, and when I pulled them out of the oven, he was not impressed. However, after tasting one, and biting into it, he remembered and grinned from ear to ear. The side effect is Daughters ADORE them and know how to say the word perfectly, KAN-NA-LAY.
The downside to all of this? I want to make them often. Daughters and Husband want them often. We have the KAN-NA-LAY obsession and we want them all the time.
Note - I did study a bunch of different recipes for cannelés, and this method is slightly unusual with its use of condensed milk. It also does not call for beeswax or copper molds, which is the traditional method. These however, do turn out wonderfully crusty, moist on the inside and are virtually fool-proof. (If you do want to read about a more traditional and difficult method, try Chef Pim's post.) I, for one, am a fan of this recipe as it is far easier to execute, more forgiving, and you don't need the tricky copper molds.
NOTE: Batter must be made 24 hours in advance of baking. Plan ahead please.
Cannelés (adapted from a recipe by Nick Malgieri, printed in the LA times)
Makes 50 small ones, 25 larger ones
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 egg yolks
5 tablespoons dark rum
2 vanilla beans, split with seeds removed (but save pods for extra flavor in the boiling milk process)
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (powder)
The day before you intend to bake the cannelés, make the batter. Combine the sugar and flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk to mix evenly. Whisk in the eggs, yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and rum. Mixture will be stiff.
Combine the water, vanilla bean seeds and pods, butter and dry milk in a saucepan. Take care to whisk and make the mixture as uniform as possible (get all the nonfat dry milk powder dissolved.). Bring to a boil over low heat, whisking occasionally.
Whisk the hot mixture into the flour-and-egg mixture until thoroughly combined. Pass the batter through a fine-meshed strainer, in order to remove any stray bits of cooked egg and vanilla bean, into a container; let cool slightly, then cover tightly and refrigerate a minimum of 24 hours, a maximum of 5 days.
Preheat oven to 400. Remove the batter from the refrigerator and whisk to combine, 1 minute. Fill cannelés molds 3/4 full. (If using silicone molds, do not grease; tins should be lightly coated with oil.) (smaller molds take about 45 minutes to bake.)
Bake until the cannelés are firm and very dark brown, about 1 hour, changing the position of the pans several times -- back to front and top to bottom during baking. Let sit 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack. Gently pull the sides of the silicone mold out to release the cannelés onto a rack. Serve warm.
Molds - medium sized
Molds - mini sized