Thursday, November 08, 2007

K is guest-blogging about Cannelés, those little caramelised, irresistible buns from Bordeaux

[Pille is off to Budapest for a few days, so K. is using the opportunity to guest-blog again..]

Few years ago I took some French language courses in the city of Bordeaux, and opted for accommodation with a local family. I ended up staying with an excellent old-school French hosts: a retired couple Marie-Lucie and her husband Jean-Pierre, who had accommodated over hundred language students over the years.

Just before my arrival, the family had accommodated a student from Saudi Arabia, for whom it was the first trip outside his home country. Coming from deeply religious surroundings he couldn’t eat pork or drink wine. Seeing students from all over the world, always joyful Marie-Lucie was used to different cultures. But she also adored cooking and eating traditional and delicious French food, including some Clairet wine and hearty pork dishes... Sitting together at a dinner table was a sacred tradition for Marie-Lucie and Jean-Pierre. You can imagine how relieved they were to welcome a hungry Estonian guy appreciating everything her kitchen had to offer. In turn, I was ready to learn and be seduced by the Bordeaux cuisine.

During my two-week stay we savoured four-course dinners at home almost on a daily basis. The entire house was open for guests, except the kitchen in the mornings. It was behind these closed kitchen doors that Marie-Lucie and Jean-Pierre decided on the evening's menu. Most of the recipes were kept as small handwritten notes in huge plastic boxes labelled “poissons/crustaces”, “viande”, “entrées/legumes” etc (see photo on the right).

As expected, I could not keep myself out of the kitchen, and I learned many things. For example, do you know what the secret of happy marriage is? If wife and husband do not have an argument about finances, but argue about the perfect recipe for Tomates Antiboise. Jean-Pierre put the capers together with canned tuna into a blender. While I asked tête-à-tête from Marie-Lucie whether it would be better to chop the capers, she said that when they had been younger, she had a big argument with Jean-Pierre about this fundamental issue and she personally thinks that the capers should be chopped with knife instead of crushed in blender. But now, after several decades of conjugal life, she has given up and lets her beloved husband to do like he wants. On the other hand, although Jean-Pierre liked tête de veau, a French classic dish so vividly described in A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain, and knew how to make it, it was a forgotten delicacy in the family as Marie-Lucie was not particularly fond of it.

I also had breakfasts at their home, enjoying different jams and cheeses. One weekend morning I was served innocent-looking buns that tasted superb. Before even noticing, I was already reaching for the fifth bun. Later I have learned that substantial quantities of cannelés can vanish very quickly in the presence of children and grown-ups alike. This was my first experience with cannelés, a miracle bun from Bordeaux that has not only an extensive Wikipedia entry in English, but even several dedicated web sites in French. Cannelé has interesting history, wrapped in the mystery.

This simple pastry, made of eggs, milk and flour flavoured with rum and vanilla is currently hugely popular both in Aquitaine and Gironde, with hundreds of producers. But as it turns out, it is rather easy to bake at home. Marie-Lucie kept always the batter on hand when the grandchildren were visiting, because they always asked for cannelés.

Traditionally, cannelés are baked in special metal fluted moulds (cannelé means 'fluted'). We have got silicone moulds at home - they are easier to handle, even if they don't yield as caramelised crust as metal moulds do. Usually 8 cannelés can be made with one mould and I strongly recommend buying at least two. If you're based in the US, then you can buy tin-lined copper cannelé molds and silicon mini cannelé molds - both by Matfer Bourgeat - from

(Cannelé koogikesed)
Makes 16

500 ml milk
25 g butter
100 g plain/all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
250 g sugar
4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites
1 Tbsp of rum
2 tsp of Bourbon vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, eggs and flour in a large bowl.
Bring milk and butter to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly whish into the egg mixture, stirring constantly.
Add vanilla.
Let cool to room temperature, then add rum.
The batter should be rather runny, just like a crepe batter.
Cover the mixture and keep it in the fridge for at least overnight or up to two days.
When ready to bake your cannelés, stir the batter again, and fill the prepared cannelé moulds three-quarters full.
Start baking at 275C, after 5-10 minutes lower the temperature to 200C and continue baking around 40-50 minutes until cannelés are dark golden to almost blackish brown*.
Extract from the moulds when cannelés are still hot. Cannelés should have a caramelised crust and be chewy, yet soft, inside.

Although I am very happy with the flavour of these cannelés, I have not yet figured out why my cannelés always 'climb' out of the moulds during baking. They finally fall back to the 'normal' size, but not always evenly, leaving the shapes somewhat uneven. I appreciate if you can give me a hint on this one.

* There seem to be two schools: those, who like cannelés golden brown outside and those who prefer them caramelised to black. At the stores in Bordeaux they are usually blackish.

You can read more about cannelés from these foodblogs: Chocolate & Zucchini, Kuidaore, La Tartine Gourmande (and Bea again), The Traveler's Lunchbox and 101 Cookbooks.

Previous guest posts on Nami-nami:
K is guest-blogging about Heston Blumenthal's perfect ice cream (August 2007)


Kevin Kossowan said...

They look fantastic! Well done.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Nice to have you back as a guest blogger. Love this story about the couple you stayed with.

Christina said...

Oh, yum!

lobstersquad said...

oh, K!!! My heart stopped several beats when I saw that picture. Best breakfast of my life, ever!

Shaun said...

K. - Thank you for regaling us readers with your experience as a French language student. It was a lovely and kind picture you painted of your hosts. Do you keep in touch with them? I bet they'd love to hear what wonderful cooks you and Pille are.

I, too, adore canneles. I think you should always have the batter prepared, like Marie-Lucie. I love the texture of your canneles so much - in fact, they look as perfect as I remember them. I wish I had advise regarding the rising issue you are having, but I am only a competent baker at best.

Anonymous said...

Hi K! Nice to see you guest blogging here :) Those canneles look perfect! I have never had one (wah!) but have seen them in a number of've made it sound so simple to make. Now if only I can find those molds...I am drooling at your photos!!!

Gloria Baker said...

Pille this looks sooo yummy! really and nice history!!! I like this a lot. Gloria

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I've never had the good fortune to savor a cannele, and your pics are making my mouth water. I may just have to make them myself, and since you make it sound pretty easy, I really don't have an excuse! Thanks for guest blogging.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Great experience, I would love to do that! What was the school you went to? Have have been wanting to make these Cannelés for forever. I really must get the molds. Gorgeous Cannelés!

Anonymous said...

Kuulen sellistest küpsetistest esimest korda, paistavad olevat pranstlaslikult rammusad ja head, aga kas nad peavadki natukene kõrbenud olema nagu retsepti pealkirja all oleval fotol?

Katie Zeller said...

That's the best thing about the local Christmas fairs - I can buy boxes and boxes (4 or 6 to a box) of Canneles...enought that I can usually manage to get some home. But they're best fresh - or so I keep telling myself!

Anonymous said...

yum. I love this!!!

Anonymous said...

Superb! Yum. Lovely story.

Anonymous said...

kevin, lydia, christina,
joey, susan, gloria, mycookinghut,vegeyum

Thank you for the comments. And yes, cannelés are easy to make. It is interesting to watch the cannelés baking. First the dough will collapse, then they suddenly raise agressively like soufflés and finally settle to the proper size and start to change colour. As baking time is relatively long, it leaves enough time for choosing the favourite level of caramellisation.


I am glad that I seduced you with the recipe smuggled out from your Hexagon neighbours :-)


Thank you for your kind comment. I bake cannelés on regular basis and always earn my easy moment of fame. To my knowledge there are neither professional bakeries nor home cooks in Estonia baking cannelés.


The language school was BLS I took a cultural program including wine tour in St Emillion, wine training, short cooking course (we prepared maigret de canard en croute among other things), excursion to Dune de Pila etc. The group consisted of francophiles from all over the world and we had really great fun. The lessons were also well organised.


Tegelikult ei ole mustjas cannelé mitte kõrbenud, vaid see on karamelliseerunud suhkrukiht, võrdlus oleks ehk kohane kukekommiga. Bordeaux's lasevad pagarid canneléd tihti väljast täiesti mustaks; mina eelistan, tõsi küll, pigem mustjaspruune.


You are right: cannelés are the best when they are fresh as the croute is the crustiest.

Tony said...

These look fantastic. I will be trying these with my dinner guests this week. Fingers crossed they will be as nice as yours!

I visted Estonia several years ago and really loved it. I may even have a ago at one of your Estonian recipies!

Warm regards from London



Jeanne said...

Oh K,your guest posts are always great fun! I am ashamed to say I don't think I've ever had canneles... But after reading these mouth-watering descriptions I will have to go and find me some. Beautiful pics!

Anonymous said...

They look delicious Pille, just moist and smooth as they should be. Miam !

Helene said...

Great post K! My mom finally brought me the cannele molds I was coveting for years and I have enjoyed baking the recipe that ny sister in law, native of Bordeaux gave me last Christmas. Problem is....they never last in the house...and it's all my fault!

Anonymous said...

I think that Estonian canneles just might put the French ones to shame! Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Olen novembrist saadik Eestis ja kõigis külastatud Euroopa riikide poodides ringi nuhkinud ja pole sellist kuju andvaid vorme kusagilt leidnud. Kas need on üksikud vormid või nagu muffini pann?
Kust teie omat pärit on? Äkki olete neid Eestis ka müügil näinud? Või on teile teada lähim koht, kust neid võiks leida?


Robin said...

How are the molds prepped? The recipe only says tp put the batter in the prepared cannele molds. These look wonderful and nI keep wanting to try canneles.


Pille said...

Anthony - there are plenty of Estonian recipes on the site here - hope you'll find something you recognise :)

Jeanne - have you had canneles now? They're definitely worth looking for!!

Bea - I am lucky to have K. who bakes them for me :)

Tartelette - they disappear quickly in our house, too!!

Alanna - I'll tell that to K:)

Helen - vaata palun eestikeelse Nami-Nami foorumisse - seal on nii cannele teema kui ka cannele vormidest juttu. Eestis on neid müüa küll!

Robin - as we're using silicone moulds, they're not prepped in any special way.

Mold Inspection said...

They look fantastic! Well done

Arizona foreclosures said...

Tartelette - they disappear quickly in our house, too!! Mold Inspection

Mariya K said...

Awesome and simple version of this recipe :D will try it this weekend..

As for climbing I heard its because you mix too much, like a souffle.. air is the enemy of canele.. or so I hear, you have to stir it super gently. It is sad that I can't use my kitchenaid for it :(