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Petit Fours Misadventures II, The Wrath of Canelé

The fearless Pilinut started a thread just over a month ago, on her trials and tribulations with baking canelés, the little cakes from Bordeaux that are so difficult to make. A number of people joined in the thread, till it grew to an unprecedented 400+ posts. She and I decided that we need a part two thread so that it loads faster, and to reduce scrolling, so this is it.

I like to think that in the discussion on the last thread we formed the crew of a virtual starship, where each person assumed a role based loosely on Star Trek, and appropriately, Part II is named after The Wrath of Khan.

Without meaning to sound corny, this virtual team's mission is to seek out new recipes and baking techiniques, and to boldly go where no Bordelais has gone before. Was that a groaner ?

Just so that newcomers know who's who, the team can be introduced as follows:

In terms of doers, there are 3 crew members on this team:

Pilinut, our fearless Captain, she who buys vanilla from Manila, her home world. She took the lead in starting the previous thread, baring her soul about successes and failures, but at all times in control of this difficult assignment. She has been a source of inspiration to us all. She has admitted to nightmares about this mission, but has surmounted them. We all look up to her, but are unsure if we would trust her with hot waxing our cars !

Trewq, the Borger Queen, First Officer. She has so far been the most successful on this mission, but at a cost, that of damaging her hands. She can easily be identified by the oven gloves she wears at all times. She is an itinerant, who has been known to troll the streets of Montreal in search of canelés and other delectables. If she confesses to a liking for chocolate the location of a superb shop will be revealed to her.

Souschef, Chief Engineer, who insists on measuring everything, to the amazement of some crew members, and perhaps the chagrin of others who lack measuring instruments.

Other crew members are the following:

Caroline1, Counsellor, who tries to keep us sane by doling out sage advice, and calling us to task when necessary.

Buttertart, visiting Vulcan dignitary, who is skeptical that the mission will be a success, and who is taking a wait-and-see approach before diving into the primeordial soup that is canelé-making. She does, however, provide a valuable service.

Chef Chicket, who unknowingly goaded Souschef into making canelés. She did not return from an away mission to locate molds used for making canelés. We all eagerly await her return.

Bushwickgirl, who is AWOL.

And last, but by no means least, imagine if you will a boat where all occupants are rowing, with the exception of one, who is sitting at the back, feet up and arms crossed. When asked why she is not rowing, she responds, "I'm a consultant". So we had to come up with a unique title, unknown before at Starfleet, that of "Consultant", which belongs to Cynsa, she who was tossed into the primeordial soup for not rowing, but was welcomed back at a later date.

Honorable mention must go to Gaetano, who posted valuable advice, then disappeared. Wish we had listened to his advice at the start.

There you have it, the principal players. There have been a number of other posters who have posted brief comments, and some who have since disappeared.

Will this mission ever be successful? Never ! As long as the human being thrives on challenge we will all look for that perfect canelé, not withstanding comments by "irritating guy" that he has already found the perfect one, or a demonstration by "manhandling lady" on how to beat them into submission.

Let the saga continue !

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  1. That was hilarious, souschef! I'm not sure that the Enterprise ever had such a bumbling captain, but you would have to be the equivalent of the incontrovertible Mr. Spock!

    I am considering the possibility of taking a short sabbatical and lending the unsuspecting Cynsa my canelé molds in the hope that she will take up the gauntlet and lend us her expertise.

    18 Replies
    1. re: pilinut

      Confessions of a Kitchenless Chef: 'tis true albeit unbelievable that my ol' O'Keefe & Merrit oven proves fickle and stops heating at the most inopportune moments producing half-baked cold chickens and slightly-warmed batter in place of ethereal cakes. The solution is to prop a broom handle against the reset button but that overrides the thermometer. I have no sink - there is a laundry tub on the back porch. The original 1896 kitchen was no doubt properly appointed over this current work-in-progress kitchen remodel. I traipse outside and down the back deck stairs, rain or shine, to invade my 87-year old mom's kitchen with pots to cook on her stove only to make the return journey with hot pots of dinner up the stairs - comparing the conveniences of the Victorians like poor Mrs. Bob Cratchit who sent Tiny Tim to the baker who would roast their Christmas turkey. So, in true and lasting friendship you would distract me from my condition... with the short-term loan of your treasured canelé molds to save my kitchen sanity and a challenge forthwith? I accept, with glee and apprehensions in absolute horror.

      1. re: Cynsa

        Cynsa, I fear that there is a plot being hatched by our captain to abandon ship, saying that she lent her molds to the consultant and did not receive them back (the consultant is always easy to blame).

        In order to thwart our captain's diabolical plan I would like to make you a counter-offer: I will give you free/gratis/no-strings-attached the 5 aluminum molds I used to use, and for which I no longer have any use.

        The best results I obtained with them were under the same baking conditions as the Mauviels. The only caveat is that before I put them away, supposedly to never be used again, I scrubbed them clean, so you may have to season them before use, even though I did not.

        My aim is two-fold: to keep Pikinut baking and to make you grab those oars you have been avoiding.

        Please let me know if you accept; it would be good to have one more baker (and put the consultant to work).

        1. re: souschef

          Is it not mutinous to plot against the Captain? Will the proffered molds come with your Mind Meld, Sir Spock? Do canelés multiply like tribbles? If your aluminum molds pass through Airport Security Check, bring them along - please. "No man should know where his dreams come from, it spoils the mystery" said Doctor Noonia Soong. Who is our McCoy to say "I'm a doctor, not a baker"?

          1. re: Cynsa

            This is not a plot against the captain; this is to thwart a ploy BY the captain, so it is self-defense, not mutiny. The molds do not come with the Mind Meld; they do not even come with a silicone brush. I am sure that our captain will be more than pleased to part with her brush. The molds will be in checked luggage, so should pass through easily. Dr. Soong did not try to bake canelés, so what does he know of dreams? Speaking of which, I am looking forward to tasting the real McCoy in Monterey, and perhaps in SFO.

          2. re: souschef

            Mr. Spock never won any popularity awards, did he?

            And I would never DREAM of falsely accusing Cynsa, who is the sweetest gentlest soul imaginable of kidnapping my canelé molds! But as in lending a complex and interesting book, one hopes it would provide many hours of pleasant diversion. . .

            1. re: pilinut

              Mr. Spock never won any popularity awards since he was always candid, and since a canelé shell is candy the approach is appropriate :)

              Mr. Spock also never had any fun. I do :)

              Interesting that in the first thread our captain referred to canelé-making as a "misadventure", but now hopes it will provide many hours of "pleasant" diversion. Hmmmm! I think our captain does not see that I am jes' funnin'.

              I was looking again at the video of "irritating guy", and noticed that those canelés have only a thin candy outer layer (whereas mine also seem to have a chewy inner one, but the thickness varies), and there is a lot ot air in theirs (but not as much in mine). Have any of you San Franciscans tasted one from Boulotte's?

              1. re: souschef

                RWCFoodie assures me that we have tried the Boulette's Larder canelé, and that it was very good, though I have no clear recollection of it. (Which is another good reason to go on sabattical--or maybe retirement;-) The other reason being my mother, seeing me mixing up a batch of batter, goes, "You're making canelés AGAIN?" Fortunately, I have a relation who loves custard, so some of the next batch will be foisted upon her.

                I am thinking that the mold has a "sweet spot"--the point at which it is optimally filled so that it sees just enough of the world outside when it soufflés so that it still decides to return home. I'm thinking 1/2 cm or a bit less than 1/4 inch. What sayest thou, sage Vulcan Spock?

                1. re: pilinut

                  Your thoughts are my thoughts Captain. One-quarter of one inch is what I thought when I perused again (minus sound) the video of the Cardassian Hocker at Boulette's. The artisans at Boulette's left a gap about that size when filling the molds, and when done the soufflés returned like prodigal sons to the the place where they were spawned.

                  Even now I have batter in cold storage for a baking session on Friday, those morsels destined for the sister of my wife. I tired of using thimblefuls of Terran rum that I could not taste, so instead used a goblet of Romulan brandy. Images of my efforts will be posted here on Friday.

                  If you retire, Captain, who will carry the flame? You must explain to most honorable mother that your quest knows no bounds. Do you, like me, find that you are often out of milk for your morning cereal, the milk having been used for batter ? Do you also find yourself too frequently buying chicken eggs ?

                  1. re: souschef

                    Perhaps mater has missed the au lait in her morning café as a result of my midnight baking demands once or twice too often. I shall ensure a separate vessel for her personal use. Thank you for your suggestion!

                    However, I do feel that in view of your greater Vulcan powers of observation and your tireless efforts to redeem the Noble Canelé from its evil twin persona, you should lead the enterprise. I shall be Captain Emeritus. Or maybe Captain Dowager would be more appropriate? And I shall focus my attention on finding that sweet spot in my canelé molds (which, if you must know, were waxed and ready to roll as soon as the last cakes were turned out. So there!)

                    1. re: pilinut

                      Surely you do not want to exit at such in inopportune time, when things are finally beginning to work out. Who is going to egg Cynsa on ? No, I don't mean throw eggs at her !

                      I strongly urge you to reconsider the Captain Dowager title as for me "Dowager" brings to mind cobwebs, blue hair, tiaras and warm milk (I hate warm milk).

                      You make me think an interesting thought: do the molds have to rest between consecutive uses ? Just kidding; thought I would throw that in so all would think I had lost my marbles. But seriously, if you bake with molds that you first throw into the freezer, I think it would be a bad idea to take them out of the oven, wax them, and immediately throw them into the freezer.

                      I am baking two batches on Friday, and what I plan to do is bake the first batch, make and bake scones, then bake the second batch of canelés

                      1. re: souschef

                        Woe is me! While preparing victuals in the galley it occurred to me that I forgot to add butter to the batter, which was already cool and resting comfortably in the fridge. I attempted to remedy the situation by melting some butter, cooling it, stirring a bit of batter into the butter, then adding the mixture to the batter. What think ye all? Will it work okay? Should I throw out the batter and start again? Should I bake a batch tomorrow, and if it does not work toss out the rest ? Opinions please. I think I should have no problem at all.

                        This really taught me (once again) the importance of mise en place.

                        1. re: souschef

                          I wouldn't worry too much about the late addition of butter to the batter, as long as there are no perceptible granules of fat floating around. It might help to strain it again, though.

                          1. re: pilinut

                            The butter did get incorporated well into the batter, but I do plan to strain it, perhaps twice.

                            I was recently talking to a French pastry chef who told me that I should not bake too many at the same time - there should be a lot of space surrounding each mold. We fortunately do not have to resort to force fields around each mold.

                            1. re: souschef

                              No, no need for force fields, but it would be nice if there was some way of making the batter mature at warp speed. Those two-day waits are excruciating. My molds have been sitting in their box, in a drawer for almost a week now, but I have to wait for an opportune time to make a new batch of batter. I think it may be better to add the butter to the hot milk than to melt it and add it to the beaten eggs. What do our wise counselors say? Does it make a difference how the butter gets into the batter?

                              1. re: pilinut

                                what chemical reaction occurs upon freezing the batter in smaller batches? - this could lead to a home-based business of individual frozen portions of canelé batter ready for baking. Can't you just envision individual packets to squirt into each waxed mold? or, small frozen pitchers of batter with four to six servings? remove from freezer the night before and it's ready for the molds by morning. I'm wondering if the freezing process would warp-speed the batter's maturation.
                                If we had access to the Star Trek 24th century replicator...to simply rearrange the subatomic particles.

                                1. re: Cynsa

                                  Novel idea. Freezing slows down chemical reactions, but by the time the batter was purchased it could possibly have matured. Of course anyone buying frozen batter would also use silicone molds, but hey, what do you care, you'd be laughing all the way to the bank!

                                2. re: pilinut

                                  Those two-day waits ARE a pain for sure. One of these days I am going to bake a batch after a 2-hour rest, just to see how it turns out.

                                  I have wondered about the addition of the butter as well. There seem to be as many methods as there are bakers. I normally add the hot milk to the beaten eggs and then add the butter to the mix.

                              2. re: pilinut

                                Some of the butter got set in the batter (guess I did not cool it enough), and it made for lumpy batter, so I strained it, twice.

          3. A most engaging narrative and summation, but the Counselor has but one question: Where do the petite fours enter?

            11 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              Canelés are so small that they may be considered petits fours. I got the idea from Michel Roux's book, where he says that they can be served with other petits fours (implying that they are also petits fours).

              1. re: souschef

                Welllllllllll.... maybe in MODERN culinary French. But I'm a classicist. When I read or say "petite fours" I expect frosting and tiny little roses, or seasonal motifs or something drop dead gorgeous! Not that caneles aren't gorgeous. But it' sort of like a nudist on the runway in the midst of a bunch of fine vintage Balenciaga ball gowns! '-)

                1. re: Caroline1

                  I hear you. I too think of petits fours as little cakes covered in poured fondant and daintily iced, but I bowed to the master, Michel Roux, who is a MOF, and is retired, so I assumed was also a classicist. I should instead heed the advice of our counsellor, but it is too late to change the title of the thread. BTW I guess you do not think that a nudist can be drop dead gorgeous. Pity!

                  1. re: souschef

                    Isn't there something in "our" Observer French Cookery School that says there are two types of petits fours: the fancypants tiny cakes, tartelettes etc and the petits fours secs genre madeleines tuiles etc? Usually made in smaller than normal size for this purpose? Now there's a thought, a mini canelé...

                    1. re: buttertart

                      You are right, I had forgotten the two types. There do exist molds for miniature canelés, but are we really willing to go to all of this trouble to bake something that has to be looked at with a hand lens? I don't think so!

                      1. re: souschef

                        Ah but it would be le comble de la raffinesse! Knock those baby madeleines out of the ballpark.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          I do actually have a sheet of molds for baby madeleines, which cost me a lot of money as it had to be special-ordered. I used it maybe twice as it seems like a lot of trouble for just a bunch of tiny cakes. They do look nice in a plate of mignardises at the end of a fine meal, but a lot of trouble as I said. Maybe some New Year's Eve I'll make them again and serve them with some marrons glacés and mini tuiles.

                          1. re: souschef

                            Invite us! His favorite cookie is the madeleine.

                    2. re: souschef

                      BTW I guess you do not think that a nudist can be drop dead gorgeous. Pity!
                      .....................................................................................souschef

                      Now, now now... Don't put words in my mouth! For many years my prime avocation and sometime vocation was as a fine artist. Many is the nude I have painted, and I'm not talking body painting as in "Laugh In." Nudes, male and female. But I will admit that one of the more awkward moments of my early college years was walking into one of my fine arts labs, and there, perched atop a ladder stark naked for all to sketch, was a guy who had been flirting with me an hour before. I had no idea we would meet again so soon....!

                      There are times when nudity is appropriate and there are times when it is just plain awkward. When I make petites fours, as with everything else, I do them "over the top." A poor darling little canele might wither with embarrassment at its au natural state!

                      Don't feel defensive. I very much like your title/subject line. But I will admit to getting all excited over little cakes to go with some lovely tea! But I will gladly settle for a lovely little nude canele and glass of Sauterne any day! '-)

                      And on another note, I *DO* like your new avatar! I'm sure you slice nice!

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        ROFLMAO!! Post of the day! Thanks for the laughs! For once I am lost for words; I cannot think and laugh at the same time!

              2. Souschef, So glad you started a new thread. Just wanted to let you know I have not abandon ship. I'm actually on the ferry crossing the St.Lawrence heading to Charlevoix, scouring for canneles. I hope to report success upon my return.
                Did someone mention CHOCOLATE? :)

                13 Replies
                1. re: trewq

                  I did not lie - Trewq is indeed an itinerant!
                  Chocolate: go to Le Maitre Chocolatier on Sherbrooke, just West of Guy in Montreal. Ask for Nada and tell her I sent you. She will direct you to my favourites.
                  Why do I get the feeling that trewq is a Quebecoise who when she says she's going to Canada means she's going to Ontario ?

                  1. re: souschef

                    Hey hey, and you in our nation's capital! Fomenting separatism!

                    1. re: buttertart

                      Not at all. I was just theorizing that trewq was trying to keep her home base (possibly somewhere in
                      Quebec) a secret, not that there's anything wrong with that.

                      1. re: souschef

                        I was just ribbing you. Certainly sounds like QC to me.

                  2. re: trewq

                    There is also "La Maison du Canelé" in Rimouski. Looking forward to your report.

                    1. re: souschef

                      Now you tell me this? I left Rimouski this morning. ;(
                      Do you know any place in Quebec city?

                      Aye aye, Captain. Shall make full report upon returning to the mother ship.

                      1. re: trewq

                        I only just found out. When you mentioned Charlevoix I googled canele patissiers charlevoix, and it came up with a couple there and Rimouski. I have actually been to Rimouski; that was 18 years ago !

                        Why did you have to cross the St. Laurent to go from Rimouski to Charlevoix when they are on the same side of the river ? Did you get out on the wrong side of the bed this morning?

                        I just found out that there is Patisserie de Gascogne in Montreal that makes canelés. They have 5 locations in the city. I could not find any places in Quebec City.

                        Correction on your last sentence: I am not the Captain, just the humble Chief Engineer, but I do have access to all the logs.

                        1. re: souschef

                          Is the St.Laurent the same river as the St.Lawrence? We went up to the gaspe and the tourism lady said we had to take the ferry to Charlevoix. Maybe she saw me coming. Crazy lady who doesn't speak french.

                          Aye aye, Scotty

                          1. re: trewq

                            Yup, it's the same river.

                            There was a tourism lady deep in the heart of Quebec who did not speak French ? Was your universal translator working ? Or were you playing Maxwell Smart and the Cone of SIlence ?

                            We never discussed this before, except for a brief mention by our Counsellor: what does one drink with canelés? I agree about the Sauternes, but it could also be a Montbazillac. How about a demi-sec Champagne ?

                            I think it's safe to discuss booze here and not in the wine thread as we are discussing a pairing with food.

                            1. re: souschef

                              It is I who does not speak french. She, the tourism lady, spoke french very well. When I try to speak french I seem to butcher the beautiful language to the embarrassment of my children. So now I speak mostly with gestures. Can you imagine if I handed her my smart shoe (now we have smart phones ;)) ). She would probably throw it at me. And I rather be 99 but then again she didn't have all the gadgets Max did.
                              As for drinking I am designated designated driver. I leave the drinking to the mr.. It's probably because I have a low tolerance for alcohol.

                                1. re: souschef

                                  Beam me up, Scotty
                                  (I must say it is much easier to read this thread on the computer then on my phone)
                                  Trewq reporting for duty, Sir.

                                  Operation cannele was unsuccessful.
                                  In Charlevoix they told me they never heard of this cannele and sent me off.
                                  In Quebec city, I went to a few pastry shops where I was told cannele is not food it is a spoon. A SPOON!!! All this time we have been making spoons. Then I was told that it is cinnamon. Cinnamon?
                                  Souschef, thanks for all the travel advice!! And I will try Patisserie de Gascogne on my next trip to Montreal. How often do you go to Montreal? And I think a nice cup of rose tea would go well with the cannele, at least for me. The mr. did pick up a nice bottle of single malt whiskey at the duty free.

                                  1. re: trewq

                                    So sorry to read that your away mission was unsuccessful, but at least the monsieur was able to get some sippin' whisky.

                                    I agree that this thread is easier to read on the computer, but accents are so much easier on my iPhone.

                                    A spoon is a "cuillère", which is nowhere near Canelé, so I don't understand that.

                                    Cinnamon is "Canelle", so the confusion is understandable. You just have to stress the wrong syllable :)

                                    I get to Montreal about once or twice a month; that said, I was last there about 6 weeks ago.

                                    You can get a selection of teas at Le Maitre Chocolatier. They do a very nice high tea, but for that you have to call ahead and reserve.

                  3. the trekky vibe to this thread is really nice - let it and live long and prosper. petit fours remind me of lee anne wong in the original top chef. if memory serves, it was wedding wars and she got sent home for them???? everytime i see petit fours in a cookbook i turn the page quickly in deep fear of something soooo french, only jacques torres can manage to read it off the page.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: epabella

                      While we certainly associate petits fours with the French, the very best petit four I have eaten was made by a German, right here in Ottawa (Stubbe Chocolates). The sponge cake was layered with white chocolate Champagne buttercream and covered with poured fondant. The taste was truly sublime; and I normally do not like white chocolate. Unfortunately Herr Stubbe does not make it any more, saying that it was a lot of trouble and did not sell well. I tried to replicate it once but failed. I'd try again, but can't remember the taste of something I last had over ten years ago.

                      1. re: souschef

                        ok, i'll take that as good advice. there's this really cute liebchien (maybe a frau now) a few streets away from where i work who does all these suckertorts (spelling intentionally wrong) - i'll go see one of these tags if she makes these frightful desserts. good luck on your voyage, i'll be reading your logs.

                        1. re: epabella

                          Haha! I think you mean "liebchen".
                          I have eaten one of those suckertorts at the Hotel Sucker in Vienna. I was not particularly impressed.

                    2. A couple of things i was thinking about:

                      1) I read recently somewhere that egg whites last only a month in the freezer, so anyone storing them may want to toss them after a month. I don't bother as I could never use that many, unless I bought a vineyard and used them for clarifying wine, and that is not likely to happen !

                      2) Anyone attempting the method in the Baillardran video should not attempt to do it by hand as in the video (it makes for clumps of egg), but should do as manhandling lady does and use a mixer. Yes buttertart, I know that you're thinking that I am the only one who would do it by hand :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: souschef

                        No, that's Bushwickgirl's bailiwick thinking-wise.