Have you ever tried a “Cannelé Bordelais”? It’s one of my all-time favourite French cakes, and each time I travel back home to Paris I always make sure to visit Eric Kayser’s bakery in the 5th arrondissement to indulge in a couple of divine cannelés.
Cannelés or canelés - pronounced [ka-nuh-leh] – are a humble regional speciality from Bordeaux, in the southwest of France. They're an absolute must-try if you're visiting that part of France, with its world-famous vineyards. They date back from the 18th century and were invented by the nuns of the local convent of Annonciades, who would bake them for the city’s homeless kids.
Cannelés are made from a vamped-up crepe batter cooked in tiny copper molds, baked at a high temperature until a really nice caramelized shell develops, hiding and protecting a rich custardy interior. The crunchy burnt sugar shell makes an exquisite complement to the smooth sweet filling fragrant with vanilla and rum (back then, Bordeaux was the important port for French trade with the Caribbean, hence the invention of a cake stuffed with rum, sugar, and vanilla).
The traditional cannelé is made in copper molds, but nowadays homebakers use silicon molds instead - not exactly the same results, but good enough.
Image courtesy of FXCuisine.com
Cannelés cost about 2 euros per unit and are available from the famous Baillardran pastry in Bordeaux (they also have outlets in train stations and airports in Paris and the Basque Country). Most good Parisian pastry shops also bake cannelés these days, including the brilliant Eric Kayser.
If you want to try your hand at baking cannelés yourself, here’s a great recipe in English from the fabulous Chocolate & Zucchini food blog.