Thursday, February 3, 2011
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So, you heard me going on and on about how to make the perfect canelés. You got all excited and about to roll up your sleeves and head into your kitchen to play. Then you got to the part about how you’d need these precious little fluted, tin-lined, copper molds made specifically for these babies. And the part about how it’s $20 a piece. A single piece. To make a single canelé. Albeit a potentially perfect one. And you’d need 6 or 12 of them to do this properly. That’s when you stopped. The idea of selling your current or future firstborn so you could afford them didn’t appeal to you too much. I have good news for you. It is possible to make (nearly) perfect canelés using the inexpensive (ok, not so expensive) silicone molds. Read on.
This all began after a pretty spirited discussion with some friends, when they told me, in no uncertain terms, that, unlike me, they would indeed not exchange their firstborns for culinary achievements, I decided that I would give these silicone molds a try. In the spirit of research. Ok, actually, mostly to prove myself right.
I started googling around to see what others have done with silicone canelé molds. The resulting canelés I’ve seen are not so inspiring. I don’t need to name names or link links here, but I’m sure you all have seen them: oddly blond canelés with brown or black spots, with a crust so wimpy they don’t even hold the fluted shape of the pastry. If that’s all silicone molds could do I wouldn’t want anything to do with them.
After I got my hands on a couple silicone molds I began to see one reason why. Most canelé recipes supplied by the silicone mold producers just didn’t look very good. They seem to treat canelés as though they’re just another cake, suggesting baking temperature absurdly low and baking time ridiculously short. Most also suggest not coating the molds at all, or at best with only butter. That didn’t sound right. So I began treating the silicone molds with the same method I’d been successful with for my regular copper molds, resting the batter and baking at high temperature first then lower the temperature. The results turned out quite a bit better, I was able to make canelés that were crisp outside and properly custardy inside, but I still wasn’t fully happy.
Another problem with many silicone molds are the shape. Canelés baked in proper copper molds have pronounced fluted shape, but the first few I tried on silicone molds turned out oddly cylindrical, with hardly any fluted edge at all. They look so odd they might as well have been baked in popover pans or muffin tins. Part of the problem there is how flimsy some of the molds are. Most of them have very vague fluted edge to begin with. Once the batter expands in the soft molds as it bakes in the oven, there goes your hope for beautiful, characteristically fluted canelés out of those molds.
The silicone mold I ended up liking the best is the one from de Buyer. (In case you’re wondering, no, they’re not sponsoring this post. I bought it off of Amazon.) I already own a de Buyer silicone mold, for mini rectangular cakes. (That one, just for the record, I got in a swag bag from the Omnivore conference in Deauville last year.) I like the heft and the general quality of the pan I have, so I thought I’d give their canelé molds a try. The de Buyer molds turn out the nicest fluted shapes and generally the best looking canelés, so that’s the one I now recommend.
But I still had one last puzzle I wanted to solve. I already knew that the combination of beeswax and butter (or a neutral-flavor oil) was indispensable for canelés made in copper molds, but what about for silicone molds? Would they make a difference? So that was one last experiment to try.