10 March 2010

Canelés au Chocolat de François Payard

I'm new to the food-blogging scene, having just started in January of this year.  I would often sit for hours on my computer and read the incredible food blogs of folks like David Lebovitz, Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini, or Fanny over at Foodbeam.  Sure I would daydream about having a blog of my own, but I've never considered myself much of a writer, and could tell that there was a lot of time and energy that went into the postings on all those blogs - so I pretty much dismissed the whole idea.  On top of that, there are only, like about eleventy-nine billlion food blogs floating around the internet - why would anyone want to read mine?  Well, my darling sis, who knows me better than anyone on the planet, ignored my protests and lame excuses and gave me the nudge (or kick in the pants)  I needed to get my butt in gear and at least give it a try.  She must have known then that I would absolutely love it, and become just a tad addicted to the whole thing.

Doing this blog has really changed my life in a way.  It has replaced the creativity that I miss from my floral design days - even though it was really hard work (much harder than most people imagine - those people who used to come up to us at the shop on a busy day and say "it must be fun to sit and play with flowers all day"... keep talking lady, and I'll stab you with my little knife), I was creating beautiful things every day.  Now I spend my days sitting on my bum, in front of a computer, working on a spreadsheet or organizing meetings or babysitting grown men - a sad but true reality.  I no longer have that creative outlet each and every day (unless you count daydreaming of a life in France, or brainstorming about what to make for dinner), and while the money is certainly better and my hands aren't constantly stained, bleeding or covered in bandages, that outlet was something that I needed - perhaps more that I even thought.

So she's created a monster, and I find myself constantly thinking of what to cook and write about next.  In order to help channel my creativity and meet new friends who are food-obsessed as I am, I've joined up with a few food-challenge groups.  My first challenge with the fabulous gals at MacTweets was so much fun, I can hardly believe it.  Since I had so much fun with that, I decided to get on board with the Daring Bakers (though I don't have a challenge yet until next month), the Nutella Challenge and last but not least, Chocolate with François, where we bake our way through Chocolate Epiphany by François Payard, where this month we are baking the Chocolate Canelés on page 47.

I have to admit, I have seen canelés many times when I was in France, but I've never tasted one.  There's always **so many** incredible pastries crying out to be eaten that the relatively plain-jane looking canelés get nary a second glance - not when there is some showy Ispahan or tarte framboise sitting there, beaming at you in all their hot-pink glory.  This was the perfect opportunity to finally get to know this traditional French pastry.  Reading the recipe, I was immediately struck by both the simplicity of the recipe and the quirkiness of the baking process.  These are not a whip-them-up-for-unexpected-guests kind of treat - you have to plan for these.  The batter is simple and quick enough in itself, but then you have to refrigerate and rest the batter for at least 24 hours before you bake them, and once you're finally ready to bake and have heated your oven and filled the molds, M.Payard recommends that you let the batter rest once more, for about 30 minutes, "this allows the flour to settle to the bottom, so the canelés won't rise during baking".  On top of that, for relatively small treats, they bake for an incredibly long time at a frighteningly high temperature - almost like a Yorkshire Pudding which, ironically, is what they do remind me of.  Crisp and chewy on the outside, custardy on the inside, they are quite delicious, and I can easily see how they would be popular... assuming, that is, that I did it right.  Since I've never tasted one, I have no idea if my attempt was success or failure.  Oddly comforting; this idea of not knowing what they should be like, so as long as you don't hate them when they're done, you can pretty much assume you didn't screw it up!

In eager anticipation of my baking task, I set out on Saturday to buy myself a nice canelé mold.  For something I've never seen sold in bakeries here, I had, oddly enough, seen their molds around town many times.  Until, that is, I needed one.  Nope, not one - anywhere.  I got plenty of blank stares from the teenaged part-timers in every kitchenware shop in town though, so it wasn't a total loss - HA!  So I improvised, and bought a NordicWare mold I've had my eye on for a while now, because of the size and variety of shapes that it bakes.  If my canelés were a flop, I could still use the mold for about 100 other things.  So, home I went, to mix my batter and wait....

Sunday morning, I pre-heated my oven and the mold along with it, sprayed and filled each tiny little mold and then waited - for 30 whole minutes - before baking them.  Because my mold makes cakes that are considerably smaller than the original product, I decided to shave down the cooking time, in effort to avoid burning.  Problem is, though, if you've never had one or baked one, how the hell do you know if it's actually done?  Especially when you're foolish enough to improvise with a teeny-tiny mold that was not meant for the food you are baking in the first place - sure they'll be adorable when they're done, but cute and burnt is not one one is generally aiming for in their baking.... I checked them at 30 minutes to see if they were "crisp and set, and spring back when touched lightly"; hmmmm, set? yes.  spring back? yup.  Crisp? hmmmm....sort of, I guess.  I removed one from it's mold and let it cool on the counter while I slid the rest of them back into the oven for another 10 minutes.  When I finally removed them from the oven and tasted them side by side, I preferred the 30 minute one;  it was more "crisp", but with a very lava-cake type centre, whereas the 40 minute one was more "chewy" in a tough sort of way, but not necessarily any more cooked at the core.  Again - I'm a canelé virgin here, so how the heck do I know which one is closer to the real deal?  I've got no choice but to follow my gut on this one...

So here you have it, the recipe as it is in M. Payard's fabulous book.  Give it a try and let me know what you think - I'd love some feedback!

Happy Baking!

Chocolate Canelés, from Chocolate Epiphany by François Payard

3 oz, (90 g) dark chocolate (72%) chopped
2 Cups (500 ml) whole milk
4 Tbsp (60 g) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 Cup plus 2 Tbsp (90 g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (14g) cocoa powder
2/3 Cup plus 1/4 Cup (180 g) sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp (40 g) dark rum or Armagnac
vegetable cooking spray, for the molds

Make the batter:  put the chocolate in a medium bowl.  Put the milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and scrape he seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan (reserve the pod for use in another recipe).  Scald the mixture, removing the pan from the heat when small bubbles form at the edges.  Pour the mixture over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt over a medium bowl.  Combine the egg, egg yolks and rum and whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.  If you go too fast, lumps will form.  Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture, whisking until the mixture is smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days

Bake the canelés: place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat them to 400ºF.
If using copper molds, heat them in the oven for 10 minutes or until they are hot.  This step is not necessary of using silicone molds.
Spray the molds with vegetable cooking spray, doing so more generously of using cooper molds.  If using silicone molds, arrange them on a baking sheet. Stir the batter, and transfer to a large measuring cup or pitcher if desired, which will make it easier to pour the batter into the molds.  Fill the molds almost to the top and let the batter rest for 30 minutes.  This allows the flour to settle to the bottom, so the canelés won't rise during baking.
Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the exterior of the canelés is crisp and set, and springs back when you lightly touch the top.
Remove the molds from the oven and turn them over onto a wire cooling rack.  Let the canelés cool in the molds, which keeps them from shrinking and becoming dense.  When cool, unmold them, and keep them in an airtight container.


Deeba PAB said...

Right ... theses are brilliant litle cakes! I love them and am glad you chose to blog. It changed my life, as it has yours! Loved reading your post, and have just bough a mini bundt pan...with mac failures galore, and egg yolks building pressure on me, any yolk recipes ideas nstantly grab my attention! BTW, LOVED the haiku foot fetish quote...thanks for sharing it!!

Cecilia said...

Wow Julia, these look amazing! I'm curious about your mold, is it a fleximold or a metal mold? The shapes are so beautiful. I've made the traditional canelés before, in the fleximolds since I refuse to deal with the copper ones that need a beeswax coating. I let the batter sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours so that the flavor gets really intense. But I have never made them with chocolate. I will try this recipe, thanks for a great post!

Patty said...

Wow these are amazing, they take a while to cook but are worth the wait!

Frank said...

Chocolate with Francois??? How delicious is that!!! Somehow, I think that anything with Francois is delicious!!!

astheroshe said...

Yours look great!!! I will be making mine next week, along with the March Bakers Challenge.:)

Cindy said...

I'm in love! Looks like round brownies.