Cannelés are a pastry from Bordeaux, traditionally made with egg yolks, rum, and vanilla. The rum and vanilla came from the Caribbean, while the egg yolk as primary ingredient is said to have come from being leftover from the tradition of using egg whites in the clarification of wine (le collage) during winemaking in Bordeaux. What to do with all the leftover egg yolks? Dessert, of course! Hence, the Cannelé.
Here I present an alternative recipe (while also giving you instructions for the traditional ingredients): a grain-free, low-sweetener rendition of the Cannelé Bordelais, with rum as an option. First, some notes on the ingredients:
This recipe calls for whole milk. But you can also use a combination of whole milk, cream and water, instead of whole milk on its own. If you would like to use this combination of liquids, try the following proportions: 3.4 fl oz (100 ml) whole milk, 6.8 fl oz (200 ml) heavy cream, 6.8 fl oz (200 ml) water. I find it helpful to use a food thermometer when heating milk. Or else watch it closely, stirring often, until you see steam rising from the pot. Something else to note is that much like buttermilk scones, these cannelés can be made with raw whole milk that has “turned” (fermented, turned to buttermilk), which adds a slight tang but may also go unnoticed. No need to waste perfectly good whole milk that has gone a bit past its due date. Don’t cry over turned milk!
The most flavorful cannelés will have real vanilla bean, scraped from the inside of ½ a bean. (Cut in half crosswise, slice open one of the halves lengthwise and scrape out the tiny dark beads inside the half-pod.) Otherwise, use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
As for the flavorful dark rum, which figures in traditional recipes for cannelés, you can use from one to four tablespoons. Cognac may also be used, or you may skip the alcohol altogether.
I add almond extract to my cannelés, because I love the almond flavor, but it does add a tinge of bitterness and is not part of original cannelés recipes. You can leave it out if you choose.
In the photo at the end of this post with the red bowl and vanilla beans, the mini cannelés depicted are made with chestnut flour, from indigenous chestnut trees of the French Southwest, which is why they appear dark – chestnut is a dark flour. In the remaining photos above and throughout, the cannelés pictured are made using cassava flour, a grain-free root. Cassava flour performs most closely to regular white flour in baking but is gluten-free. Be warned, though, that it is highly palatable, meaning, you will want to eat more cannelés!
I prefer not adding sugar when possible to recipes. But to sweeten the deal, I have replaced the 1 cup of white sugar otherwise called for in this recipe with ¼ cup of erythritol (use up to ¾ cup for a sweeter taste). Erythritol is a sweetener that does not interfere with blood glucose levels, nor does it cause digestive disruption, for me, at least. But note that this is a high carb treat, nevertheless. Luckily it has egg yolks!
If you wanted to go the extra-traditional mile, you would use copper molds and grease them with 1/4 cup (50 g) of butter melted with 1/4 cup (50 g) beeswax. Other recipes say 3 parts butter to 2 parts beeswax, for example 60 g butter to 40 g beeswax to make this coating. You would heat the butter/beeswax coating saucepan or else a double boiler, or use a microwave. You would heat the molds in the oven until they are warm to the touch. You would then fill each mold with coating pour it into the next mold and so on. Or you could use a culinary paint brush with the heated butter/beeswax mixture and paint the insides of the heated molds. Coating the molds is what gives the canelés their shine and the typical hard-shelled crunch on the outside. The copper molds transfer the heat throughout the cannelé, but they are on the expensive side. I use silicone molds to make my cannelés, which I grease with butter only. I have written the recipe below largely for using silicone molds. They turn out less shiny and crunchy, but still yummy!
2.1 cups or 17 fl oz (500 ml) whole milk (or buttermilk)
1/4 cup (1.8 oz or 50 g) unsalted butter, plus 1 tsp to grease the mold
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
3.5 oz (100 g) cassava or chestnut flour
Pinch of fine sea salt
1.8 oz (50 g) Erythritol
Combine the milk, butter, vanilla, and almond extract in a thick pot and bring to just under a boil (about 185˚F or 85˚C) over medium high heat. Remove from heat. While waiting for the milk to boil, mix the eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl with a whisk. (Use the leftover egg white to refine your wine in a barrel, or make macaroons!)
Mix the flour, salt, and sweetener together in a small bowl and whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture.
Whisk the heated milk mixture bit by bit into the flour and egg mixture, to temper the eggs, Mix until smooth. If you are adding rum, do so here. Allow to cool in refrigerator for one hour or up to 24 hours.
After the cooling step, preheat the oven to 410˚F (210˚C). Grease the cannelé molds with butter (or, the butter/beeswax combination, if you are using this method), and place the molds on an oven tray or cookie sheet. Silicone molds are wobbly and the tray will prevent spilling when you are moving the filled mold to the oven. Also, the tray will catch overflow as the cannelés rise like soufflés. (Don’t worry, they will recede again.)
Whisk the mixture one more time before filling the molds. Fill the molds to just below the surface, about 1/8 inch to ¼ inch (0.3 cm to 0.6 cm). This allows for a bit of room for the cannelés to rise.
Place the molds and tray into the oven and allow to cook for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 355˚F (180˚C) for about 60 minutes (shorter for copper molds, and temperatures can vary – you will have to experiment!)
Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes before unmolding the cannelés from a silicone mold. If you are using copper molds, use oven mitts to immediately tap each mold upside down to remove the cannelés while they are still hot. Cool on a wire rack or a plate.
Makes 11 cannelés of approximately 2 inches x 2 inches (5 cm x5 cm) each in height and diameter or about 24 mini cannelés in a smaller silicone mold. Serve the cannelés fresh, accompanied by a warm coffe or tea.