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What are caneles?

What are canelés? Well, to start with, they “deserve to be known and discovered,” says Céline Legros of Canelé by Céline.

While we have been busy chasing other Instagram-famous pastries such as cronuts, rainbow bagels, and all manner of über-precious, unicorn-themed treats, a humbler, worthier pastry has been flying under the radar, quietly dazzling those who inherently understand the value of substance over style.

If I told you that the custardy, caramelized offspring of a crème brûlée was both portable and appropriate for breakfast (even while spiked with rum), you’d think this would inspire the same kind of frenzy that causes diehard confectionary aficionados to make pilgrimages, if not overnight camp-outs. And yet the humble canelé is often readily available, sharing counter space with the same kind of pastry legends that require advance reservations and sometimes their own websites.

French Copper Canele Molds, 4 for $49.90 on Amazon

The traditional fluted molds for making these sweet treats are also pretty charming in their own right.
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Legros has been part of the movement to bring this beloved pastry to the U.S., opening her catering and direct-order business in 2009. With many of the prominent New York bakeries such as Dominique Ansel, Bouchon, and Balthazar now offering canelés, she is pleased that they are starting to gain traction. “I remember at the beginning having to explain what a canelé is,” she laughs, “and now more people know exactly what it is.”

Canelés are daughters of Bordeaux, a region famous for its baller, stately wines and their corresponding châteaux. Legros hails from La Rochelle, just north of Bordeaux. “What I like the most is that they have very simple ingredients—not complicated, very basic.” They are made from an egg-based, crepe-like batter, and cooked in fluted, buttered molds for a rich, chewy crust and an interior that remains creamy yet spongy.

French pastry Bordeaux caneles

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“They are very caramelized,” explains Legros. “They look burnt, but they aren’t burnt. They are very crispy, but on the inside are very creamy. There’s a contrast of texture. It’s interesting to watch when people get the crunch followed by the flan-like vanilla inside. It’s almost a surprise.” The traditional flavor is vanilla, but Legros offers several other options at Canelé by Céline including sweet flavors such as Nutella, pistachio, and orange blossom, and even some savory options such as parmesan, pesto, and black truffle. These latter options she describes as between a “quiche and a gougére, with a very refined taste.”

Unlike their showier pastry brethren, the canelé is all but innocuous behind the glass, with only its trademark fluted dome shape to make its case for the intrepid pastry consumer. To Legros they have an “elegant, old style appeal.” But it rewards those who would not be swayed by more bedazzled items. Flecked with vanilla bean and lightly spiked with dark rum, it is a poised, petite confection that is as appropriate with morning coffee as it is with a glass of its sister wine for an after-dinner treat.

And the best part is, due to their petite, simple nature, “if you have one and you really want another one, you can get another.”

Non-Stick Carbon Steel Canele Pan, $29.99 on Amazon

If you want to make canales at home, a single cupcake-style pan might be the way to go.
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Related Video: The Perfect Canelé

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