Caneles are little rum cakes with a crunchy caramelized exterior and a custardy center. Commonly known as Caneles de Bordeaux, they were a wine-country specialty, to use up all the leftover egg yolks, as egg whites are frequently used as a "fining" agent in wine production. You can learn more about the fining process here. In a nutshell, the albumin in egg whites binds to hydroxyl groups found in tannin, causing the particles to settle; the sediments are then removed by racking. As a byproduct to fine wine, we got some fine custard-based desserts.
Traditionally, caneles are made in copper molds that are coated with beeswax - both can be a challenge for casual home cooks. Food-grade beeswax is genuinely difficult to find in the US. I couldn't even find any reliable source on Amazon, as most products are labeled "cosmetic-grade". Copper molds are crazy expensive to buy - authentic French-made ones cost ~$30 each. Unless you can write off a set of 12 as a business expense, the cost is a little hard to justify. Additionally, the batter is traditionally supposed to be chilled for 48 hrs in the fridge before baking. This is done to assure level rise as the batter is baked. When baked immediately after the batter is prepared, bakers often get lopsided popovers rather than evenly risen, uniform shaped caneles.
To offer reasonable alternatives to the burdensome traditions, let's consider the purpose of each of those finicky requirements. Copper cookware is famed for quick, even heating, and dazzling price tag. As a conductor of heat, it is like the reverse cast iron - very responsive to temperature change: heats up quickly, and also loses heat quickly. This temperature sensitivity can be a great quality for skilled chefs for stove top cooking, but for a dish that's going to be in the oven for an hour or more, that heat sensitivity is honestly an overkill, not to mention, if your heat source (oven) isn't as up-to-standard as your bakeware, temperature fluctuation & uneven heating from the oven will be much more reflected in your copper bakeware than in another thick metal bakeware with greater heat retention. Fine copper bakeware probably has its place, in a pro's commercial kitchen. For home use, go for any good-quality metal bakeware. Just avoid silicone. Rule of thumb, for anything that involves lots of browning, always pick metal over silicone. I got my 12-cavity carbon steel mold for ~$20; the cheapest silicone ones cost at least $15. The difference is definitely worth the marginal cost. If you don't want to invest in another bakeware just for the appearance, any mini- or regular bundt cake pan will work well too. Even muffin pans will do if we're not being shallow.
Moving on to the beeswax. From what I've read, beeswax coating was primarily used as a nonstick coating for copper molds, which are prone to sticking, very delicate, and need to be cleaned gently. While I haven't been able to buy food grade beeswax as a stand-alone product, I have bought honeycomb from farmer's markets (and Trader Joe's) before, and know for a fact beeswax doesn't really taste like anything. Nor is its texture anything to miss. The crunchy exterior really comes from the high temperature baking & resting rather than from the beeswax. I've had many batches of good crunchy caneles without the beeswax. Just use baking spray with a nonstick pan. This one is certifiably skippable imo.
The extended resting cannot be easily replaced entirely. If you can plan ahead or wait, the 48hr batter will rise a lot more evenly. But if you don't have the patience, there are hacks. Consider the effect of the long resting - what does that achieve? I think it's primarily 3 part:
- loss of air bubbles,
- lowered batter temperature, and
- developed gluten.
So for 1), avoid whipping too much air into the batter (with a mixer or blender.), and tap some air out before making. Consider how hard it is to whip up a meringue or heavy cream by hand, it's hard to whip too much air into the mixture without trying.
For 2), I quickly chilled my batter in an ice water bath until the batter is about fridge temperature. Because we're baking the batter at a much higher temperature for the first 10 minutes and lowering it for the rest of the hour, a colder batter will keep the inner batter from rising too soon while the outer crust forms, thus preventing the popover effect.
For 3), go ahead and whisk the flour up. When you leave water and flour for a long time, you get lots of gluten formation. Think overnight no-knead bread. So to mimic the effect of a long rested batter, introduce flour to wet ingredients early and whisk rigorously in the same direction. Unlike most cake recipes that calls for gentle folding, we want gluten formation here. Use bread flour, or add wheat gluten if you have them.
- 2 cup milk
- 1 cup flour (use bread flour for
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 1/4 cup rum
- Microwave milk & butter for 90 seconds in the microwave, or until very warm.
- Mix egg yolk with sugar and rum. Add vanilla. Whisk well.
- Add flour. Whisk until flour is completely mixed in and you have a thick paste.
- Add a third of the milk to loosen up the flour paste. Whisk until even.
- Stir in the rest of the milk. Mix until well combined. Filter through a mesh sieve.
- Whisk the mixture over an ice water bath until batter is as cold as milk from the fridge.
- Bake at 450F for 10min; lower the oven to 350F, bake for another 50~60min, until top is very brown.
- Let cool completely on a cooling rack. The exterior will harden as it cools. Enjoy!
Checkout my YouTube Channel for step-by-step video!