How to make (almost) perfect canelés using silicone molds
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.
I made a batch of my canelé batter, rested it the requisite 48 hours, and set out to test it three ways: a) with butter coating; b) with beeswax+butter combo, and c) with no coating at all, just the bare silicone molds. I tested them separately in a 6-mold silicone pan (2 rows of 3), baking each type of coating by itself, noting the differences. Then I baked them once together to just to be sure of the results – randomizing the positions on the two rows to prevent false results based on differing heat/air circulation at different positions on the pan.
Let me geek out here for a minute:
The side-by-side shot shows the best, most evenly colored canelés in the middle. Those were the ones coated with the beeswax+butter mixture. The butter-coated ones (on the left) are the most unevenly baked, with the top and bottom browning much more than the middle part. The uncoated ones baked up a little better than the butter coated ones, but they were also oddly shiny. (As an aside, from my experience with other baked pastries from silicone molds, they mostly have this odd shine too. I’m not sure what gave them this characteristic but it seems to be pretty common.)
This picture, showing the top and bottom of the canelés, shows the differences even more clearly. The butter coated ones are visibly burnt and darkest on both the top and bottom of the canelé, the no-coating ones are about in the middle, and the beeswax ones showing the best, most even color.
The cross section here is even more interesting. Somehow, the canelés with no coating at all were consistently more cooked on the inside, while the butter and beeswax+butter coatings turned out canelés that were properly custardy inside.
So, the verdict?
1. The beeswax is worth the trouble.
I truly, truly think it’s worth it to use beeswax in the coating. The canelés baked with the traditional beeswax+butter coating turn out to be the most consistent, the best looking, and the most flavorful. The slight hint of honey adds to the complexity of flavor of the simple pastry. The canelés made with beeswax coating also stay crisp the longest. I totally recommend it.
And yes, it’s definitely possible to use beeswax on silicone molds. It’s not any messier than with copper molds, frankly, but well worth the effort.
2. The second best is no-coating at all
Butter seems to contribute to some inconsistency in baking in the silicone molds, with the bottom and top browning far too much. Plus I don’t think it added to much of the flavor compared to the added messy effort of rubbing soft butter in the molds. So, if you don’t want to use beeswax, then don’t even bother with butter. If your non-stick silicone molds stuck without butter? Then it’s time to order the one I recommend. Heh.
So, here we go, my method to get the best out of your silicone molds.
You will need these following equipments:
- de Buyer 6-cavity canelé mold (If you’ve already got one made by a different brand, don’t sweat it, just use it. But if you’re buying new I recommend the de Buyer.)
- the canelé batter as specified in this post, properly rested
- the beeswax+butter coating from the same post
- a pastry brush, a silicone one would be better, as you could see this regular pastry brush I use in the picture below won’t be good for anything much after this experiment.
- 1 wire rack (preferably heat-proof and not non-stick wire rack) to go in the oven. Most silicone molds manufacturers suggest that you put the molds into the oven directly, and not first on a baking sheet to promote even browning. This didn’t work for me because my oven rack is too wide and canelé molds can’t be placed on it evenly. I had to set it first on a more tightly-woven wire rack so my canelé molds can be set down straight and even.
To coat the silicone molds, place the molds in the hot oven for a few minutes to warm. Then, with the pastry brush, paint the hot beeswax+butter mixture on the warm mold. Just brush mostly on the side of the molds, the wax will drip a little down to the bottom on its own. If you brush all the way to the bottom you’ll end up with a thick pool of wax on the bottom of the mold.
You’re aiming for about as thick as you could see in this picture here. Just so you could still see the mold underneath the wax. Be a little bit careful here and definitely err on the side of too little. If you accidentally paint too much wax on, you’ll have to put the molds back into the oven and start again. Don’t worry if the wax layer is not very even. It’ll be fine in the oven.
Then freeze the molds for at least 30 minutes. (Even if you’re not using beeswax on the molds, I still recommend this freezing period.) You want them to be super cold when they go into the oven. You want to keep the batter cold too, just like the method for making canelés in copper molds. This is the only way I found to keep the moist, custardy interior.
When you’re ready to bake, place the molds on top of the heat-proof wire rack on your countertop and fill each cavity almost to the top. The ones you see in the pictures here I underfilled a bit. Now I fill them almost to the top, to get slightly taller canelés. Place the molds (still on top of the wire rack) on the middle rack of your preheated oven.
Bake them for 15 minutes at 450F | 225C (preheated at 475F | 250C then lower the temperature after you put the molds in the oven) and 40 minutes at 375F | 190C (five minutes less than with copper molds). Just one caveat, if you’re not coating the molds at all, you might want to start checking the doneness after 35 minutes at 375F to make sure the interior stays custardy. Also, make sure you turn the molds once in a while too to ensure even baking.
To test one single canelé, pull the molds out of the oven (with gloves on or with a towel) squeeze the bottom of one cavity in the pan to push the canelé up a bit, then grab it and pull out. Check the color and the crust, if it gives a little when you gently squeeze then the inside is still custardy and ok. If the canelé feels a little bit too hard, like they’re cooked all way through, I’d stop right there even if the color is not as brown as you want. You won’t get perfectly mahogany crust like you would from copper molds, but I assure you these will be so good you won’t notice. Well, not much.
There you have it, beautiful canelés you could make even without selling off your firstborn. Give it a try! Oh, and, you’re welcome.