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Canneles - Shokolaat is finally open!

After checking their web site for months, I saw that Shokolat finally opened this week, although lunch service won't start until Monday. The interior is sleek and stark - very a la minute, and probably very noisy once it fills up. My husband said it looked like a jewelry store from the outside. The guys behind the counter were very nice, although only one of them seemed to be familiar with the products in the display cases. The dinner menu looked short but sweet (lamb, rib eye, lobster - the usual suspects) but we were there at 3pm, so only bought pastries. Here's a report:

Canneles: the best I've found yet (better than Payard's in NYC, better than my own from Hubert Keller's recipe). These were dark and cararmelized on the outside, custardy and rummy on the inside - yummy!

Raspberry Mousse: sandwiched between a coating of white icing and thin spongecake, and ringed with white chocolate tiles, this was my husband's favorite, but a tad too sweet for me.

Gingerbread mousse: I picked this only because it was pretty (lined with striped spongecake, poached pears hidden inside the mousse) but the flavors were so delicious and pure that this turned out to be my personal favorite.

Chocolate mousse topped with a square of banana: sitting on a thin crust, I thought this was an exceptionally smooth and lucious mousse (and I make a LOT of ganache, mousses, etc.).

Apple tart: our least favorite, despite the caramelized almond topping. The apples were too tough to cut with a fork, breaking the tart into chunks, and the crust and frangipane were curiously flavorless, despite their lovely appearance and texture.

Definitely worth a visit - their pastries rank right up there with Fleur de Cocoa, Satura Cakes, and IMHO evern better than Neto's and Sugar Butter Flour.http://www.shokolaat.com/

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  1. Thanks for the info! I'll definitely be checking this out.

      1. What is a canneles??? From your description I'm pretty sure you don't mean cannolis.

        9 Replies
        1. re: maisonbistro

          Canneles are French pastries: caramelized and a little crispy on the outside, custardy and rummy on the inside. They're a bit tricky to make well, so few bakeries do them. If you search this local board and the Home Cooking board, you'll see discussions of which bakeries have them, and problems people have making them. This recipe calls them cookies, but I think they're more like duo-texture cakes. http://www.bordersmedia.com/recipefil...

          1. re: Claudette

            Thanks for the heads up. I'm in Montreal and we are overloaded with french bakeries, but I've never heard of or seen a Cannele. Weird.

            They are french pastries from France??

              1. re: maisonbistro

                Here's some info on canneles from a popular blog:

                I have yet to try one myself but now I know where to go!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  With all do respect, the pictures on her blog make the canneles appear extremely under-cooked.

                  Take a look at the following two links which I think better depicts "properly" dark and crusty cannele:

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    Thanks for those links. Never having seen a cannele before, I was thinking that C&Z's looked burnt on the edges but now I know that they should be all dark and crusty. Now I really need to try one soon!

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      Yes - the joy of a *really* good cannele is that there is a delightfully burnt caramel flavor to the crust with a tender, custardy interior. Undercooked, to me they just taste gummy and wanting. Perfectly cooked, and the "tooth" physically crunches like a cross between the "brulée" of a creme brulée and English toffee.

                      When you see them in a bakery, make sure to ask for the darkest one you see!

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        I have only had them twice: I went to Mission Beach Cafe in search of the famed almond croissants and they were out of everything except canneles. Disappointed, I bought one and when I bit into it I shrugged and was not happy. It got better and better as I ate it - such a great combination of crusty caramelized exterior and creamy interior. The clerk described it to me as custard baked at a very high temperature.

                        A couple weeks late I was at Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe and I realized that they sold canneles and so I bought one. When I paid for it, I said to the clerk "oh, those are those custards that are baked at a very high temperature" and she replied "no, not at a particularly high temperature". It was a bad sign and a bad cannele: didn't have the caramelized exterior and the interior wasn't as good as I remembered from Mission Beach. Maybe they had to bake it longer to compensate for the lower temperature?

                        Good luck trying one and if you get a chance to go to Mission Beach (14th and Guerrero) you should try theirs (also try their incredible apple turnovers, yum!)

                      2. re: Carrie 218

                        Here's some even more undercooked,
                        That's the dessert platter from a luncheon I attended last year at a well-known chateaux in the Medoc.

                        Thought I'd make it to Shokolaat today, but couldn't get down there until after the 4pm Sunday closing time.

              2. Thanks for the head's up. After yesterday's lovely cannele from Boulette's Larder, I'm revved up again to try other good examples. Will check it out soon.

                516 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301

                14 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I've had the canneles at Boulette's Larder many a time and must admit that those who think they suck are right. Not crusty enough, not custardy enough. They're also pricey.

                  Can't wait to try Shokolaat's version.

                  1. re: choctastic

                    Boulette's canneles are pricey, but where have you found better in the Bay Area? The only ones I've found even comparable are at Mission Beach Cafe. The Bay Bread chain's canneles don't approach Boulette's: tough without crustiness, and gummy without custardiness.

                    Mission Beach Cafe
                    198 Guerrero St., San Francisco, CA 94103

                    1. re: david kaplan

                      The Bay Bread ones vary *drastically*. When they are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they are horrid. It can depend on who is making them, how long they've been sitting there that day in the case, and also the *weather*.

                      1. re: Atomica

                        Concur that Bay Bread's vary drastically, as does Boulette's -- I have had great ones from both places and I have had some that were beyond insipid. Just last weekend, I picked one up from Boulette's that was the best I had had from a purchased establishment (Paula Wolfert's home-made versions being far superior). Doubtful I'll be in Palo Alto any time soon but hope some trustful folks to report back on Shokolaat...

                        1. re: Atomica

                          Having made dozens of canneles, I can attest that they are tricky. 1 or two minutes too long, and they are dried out; 1 or two minutes too soon, and they are not crusty enough. Plus sitting around tends to steam them, depending on the weather and environs. The one at Payard cost a small fortune and was burnt beyond repair, even for me...

                          1. re: Claudette

                            I have made several dozen of them as well -- trying both the latex moulds and copper ones. The copper work infinitely better in producing a crispy exterior.

                            1. re: Carrie 218

                              I totally agree - the latex ones are better for things that don't need to caramelize, like mufffins, loaf cakes, etc.

                          2. re: Atomica

                            Yeah I keep hitting them at a bad time. I havne't had a good one in quite a while.

                            1. re: choctastic

                              I have yet to have a good one at Bay Bread that comes close to anything described on this board. After 2-3 times I'm not willing to try anymore.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Well I've had more than 2-3 bad ones at Boulettes. However, I did have a good one a while back so maybe that is why I still try them.

                                I recently had a really good one at Bay Bread so that is why I'm currently happy with them.

                        2. re: choctastic

                          I have had them at Boulette's Larder twice...and both times they were VERY crusty and custardy...the best ones I have had in S.F........however I can't wait to head 'south' and try the ones at Shokolaat's!!!

                          1. re: choctastic

                            Yes, BL's are pricey. $3.50 pricey, and I don't like the glassine bag and ribbon overpackaging. My first try of the cannele from BL, finally saw some in the window that looked like they might deliver and luckily I was right. I've had less than satisfactory ones from Bay Bread and other places, you just have to be picky and walk away if they don't look right.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I ALWAYS eat them there (yes I order 2 of them!) with coffee...sometimes there are no seats and I eat them standing up! So, I don't know about the packaging...They have always been dark and crusty, giving way to custardy interior...

                              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                Mmm, maybe I've been luckier since I haven't been disappointed by Bay Bread's canneles so far. Don't know if it makes a difference, but I always get them from the Boulangerie on Pine, where they bake them on-site. They're always done just right and have a dark, crispy crust with a slight chew that gives way to a soft and custardy interior. I just wished the rum flavor was stronger.

                                I actually got two yesterday, and although they looked slightly smaller and flatter than they used to, they still tasted really good. The crust was well-caramelized and very crispy. Here are a few shots of them ... sorry that the cannele in cross-section looks awful; I didn't have a knife to cut it properly at that time. -__-||

                                And just out of curiosity, does the darkness and the crunch of the canneles have any thing to do with the fact that they coat the cannele molds with beeswax?

                        3. I went to Shokolaat today and sampled their canneles (see photo). They are pricey: $3.25 each; but, they are bigger than the ones at Bay Bread. I also sampled them at 2 PM, so they may have lost some crunch; I'll return some day at 8 AM and repeat the experiment. They are good overall: partly chewy, but with some crunchiness at the more blackened top and bottom. The interior is sufficiently firm, as opposed to the ones at Bay Bread or Mission Beach Cafe, which tend to seem undercooked to me. I think the closest comparison is with the canneles at Palo Alto baking company; in comparison, the Shokolaat canneles are denser (I actually prefer a lighter interior), but are a bit crunchier and have a slightly more intense rum flavor.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ssfire

                            The cannele I bought at Palo Alto bakery last month was really dry, almost inedible, but then it was 3:30pm. It was also flavorless, compared to those from other bakeries. They're tricky little things...

                          2. I went back to Shokolaat in Palo Alto today at 8 AM. The Canneles were really bad: too chewy, not flavorful enough, and way too dense. They were not nearly as good as last week. Maybe the baker neglected to compensate for the change in weather.

                            The pastries are baked in a factory in San Mateo. Which means that unlike Cafe Borrone, nothing is hot out of the oven.

                            I tried the plain croissant; it actually squirted when I bit into it, because the bottom was completely saturated in grease. Then I tried an almond croissant. They are not quite twice-baked, because they get only a brief toasting after the filling is added. Not only was this one more greasy than the plain croissant, but the filling itself was super-greasy. It was basically inedible.

                            I also tried the "apple nougat" tarte. I agree with the OP; it was not as good as it looked. I may return and sample some of the other mousse desserts.

                            1. I got 2 canneles at $3.25 each. They are kinda pricey and they are crunchy and chewy , just ok.

                              Hubby got a small latte which is pricey at $4 for a small/$4.25 for a large.

                              French macarons when I went there were 2 kinds (didn't ask what they were) $2.50 ea.

                              Chocolate candy:
                              $2 ea or
                              24 pc @ $1.75 ea
                              48 pc @ $1.65 ea

                              Other desserts $5+; they also sell breads (didn't ask about them, did see them in the background)

                              Total was $11.37.

                              Nice patio in front to sit and people watch, inside seating available too.

                              Separate bathrooms available.

                              Cross st: Cowper

                              Patisseries: Tues-Sat 8-4; 4-9 to go
                              Tu-Sat 11:30-2 Lunch; 5-10 dinner
                              Bar until 11pm


                              3 Replies
                              1. re: hhc

                                With all the pastry talk, I forgot they had a restaurant. Reading just about the pasteries and looking initially at the website put it at the bottom of my to-try place. It just sounds to precious for words ... and precious can be appealing to me.

                                Looking at the yelp reviews people seem to like the restauarant ... but $18 appetizers and $30 entrees ... in Palo Alto, yet ... yikes. Any chowhound eat at the restaurant ... worth the prices? How's the wine bar?

                                And let me tell you ... at $3.25 for a cannele they should be tossing bad batches and not serving them up. I'd return the thing. Given all of this talk about the lack of consistancy in canneles, then I swear to the food gods the one perfect cannele I ever had ... what everyone talks about was at Talevera in Berkeley that is now under new ownership and doesn't make them anymore.

                                1. re: hhc

                                  I meant to add this last week - on my way over to Napa for the weekend (via the Ferry), I stopped in at Boulette's Larder and picked up a single cannele. This one *was* perfect; very rich, dark crunchy exterior and a delightfully tender, moist interior. For store-bought, Boulette's moves to the top of my list over Bay Breads.

                                  1. re: hhc

                                    my god those macarons are expensive! And people were bitching about the $1.25 ones at Boule in L.A.! Of course, theirs have been crappy since the move to the new store, so the complaining about Boule is warranted I guess.

                                  2. Anyone know where to get good ones in the East Bay... Berkeley, Oakland, Albany and beyond???

                                    1. Is this only in Palo Alto, or is there one in the City?

                                      1. I stopped in this weekend. I don't know that I can give a really thorough post, because I only got one chocolate, but...

                                        They had beautiful looking pastries. Lemon tart, gingerbread bavarian both looked really good to me, but I am allergic to wheat, so couldn't have one and my husband wouldn't allow me to live vicariously through him...darn him and wanting to watch his waistline.

                                        The atmosphere is very modern, but it was completely deserted which made the modern seem a bit cold. With people I bet it would be very nice. I agree it would be nice if they had a place to sit that wasn't set up for dinner service to enjoy the pastries.

                                        I had the shockolaat chocolate, which is a pistachio marzipan with saffron, cardamom and rose. I really could only taste saffron with pistachio. It wasn't my favorite, but I am guessing I just got the wrong flavor for me. They had some dark chocolates and a lot of liquor based chocolates.

                                        They did have macarons, two flavors, but I am not sure which kind (they were dyed pin k and yellow).

                                        The service was strange and detached. They certainly didn't make me feel wanted, and seemed put off by me coming in, asking questions, and that I only bought one chocolate. Price is $2 per chocolate and they are very small.

                                        1. The good news: Shokolaat lowered the price of their canneles to $2.50 each, perhaps a result of the apoplectic howls from chowhound.

                                          The bad news: I picked one up this morning, and it was an unmitigated disaster (see photo). Really chewy and hard, not crunchy on the outside, and the inside was an blob of goo.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ssfire

                                            Ugh. That looks atrocious. I'd be willing to put money down that they are being baked in silicone bake pans and not copper (the only way to get the truly rich, crunchy exterior).

                                            BTW, tried back-to-back canneles at Boulet's Larder and Bay Bread yesterday. Boulet's was -- by far -- superior although next to your picture, Bay Bread's would easily have been the winner.

                                            1. re: Carrie 218

                                              Wow, how did it get hollow inside, besides looking kinda raw? I had one from Boulangerie on Pine this morning and it was good as it has always been ... crispy and caramelized crust with some chew, and soft and custardy insides.

                                            2. re: ssfire

                                              By far, the worst cannele I've tasted. I should have changed my mind before I ordered it; I could tell from the way it looked that it wasn't going to be good, but it was beyond awful. It wasn't hollow inside but it was sodden and the overwhelming flavor was just sugary sweet with nothing else. I didn't post about it at the time (about 3 wks ago) because it just made me so sad because it's just about a 10 minute ride from my home and I really had high hopes...sigh... 0 stars, 4 thumbs down.

                                            3. I just saw the review from SJ Merc on the restuarant side, and it looks pretty good - anybody try the restaurant yet?
                                              SJ Mercury article: