I have long wanted to make cannelés at home. For those of you who don't know what a cannelé is, let me do my best to explain. A cannelé is a small French cake/pastry that is the specialty of the Bordeaux region. Flavored with vanilla and rum, cannelés are known for their amazing texture. The outside of a good cannelé is defined by a deep, dark caramelized crust that half-cracks, half-gives way to a rich, custard-y, chewy interior. You can easily become addicted to these things, especially if you've ever had them fresh.
The problem with making cannelés is that they are typically made in very specific copper molds which give them their distinct dome-like shape. They also have a glisten or a shine to them that is due to the light coating of beeswax which you are supposed to give the molds before pouring in the batter. Given that copper cannelé molds and beeswax are not cheap things to come by, I never attempted to make these myself. But then, this summer, by a stroke of luck, my grandmother (who lives just outside Paris, in France) stumbled upon some silicon cannelé molds that she forgot she had. I knew, from avid reading of other food blogs, that silicon molds are not as good for baking cannelés, since they don't provide the same deep caramelization and beautiful crust, but I appreciated the gift.
Then, I found an extremely detailed post from another food blog that I read about how to make the "perfect cannelés." At the same time, I found someone who said that they had made cannelés that turned out just fine in a muffin tin. And the two things melded together in my mind into one giant scheme. Plus, I wanted to try out the silicon molds and see how large the difference was between the cannelés they produced and the cannelés produced by metal pans.
The resulting "pretender" cannelés were delicious. The long resting time really allowed the scent of the vanilla and rum to permeate throughout the entire pastry. The muffin tins resulted in a slightly uneven caramelization, with the sides getting much darker than the bottoms, but they were addictively good. I ate them both hot from the oven and once they had been allowed to cool. After 10 or 15 minutes of cooling, the cannelé caramel crust becomes firmer, and the custard-y interior becomes more chewy, in a deliciously contrasting way. The crust will soften overnight so there won't be much of a contrast anymore, but you can pop them into a 400F oven for 5 minutes, or you can enjoy them as they are. My family didn't bother with the reheating step, since we found them great as they were.
The batter in the mini cannelé silicon molds did not caramelized ideally at all. After their baking time was over, I actually gave the mini cannelés a brush of butter and popped them, naked, baking into the 400F oven to caramelize some more. My roommate looked at them and called them "little minions." They were as tasty as they were cute. If you are using silicon molds, I suggest you heat your mold first, not butter it, and then pour the batter into the hot molds. The results from the muffin tin were much closer to perfect, however, and that is the method I will be using in the future when I repeat this recipe (because I definitely will be repeating it).
The recipe was definitely a huge success, even when used to make "pretenders." My family was asking for more of them the second we finished the last one, and we've had real cannelés before. I really liked the caramelization that I got from the muffin tins, and I will definitely be making these again. Don't make the same mistake I did and live without these delicious little beauties simply because you don't have copper molds and beeswax.
*For those of you who are too young to know, the title to this blog post is actually a reference to a song by The Platters.