[Brown butter and bourbon canelés]
There are stories that never get old, no matter how many times you tell them. Here is a collections of the ones I never-ever want to forget.
Every evening, we go to the pond by the house on the other side of the path. Just before the sun sets. From there, we overlook the far-away lake. But really, all I care for are the frog’s eggs floating on the surface not unlike tapioca or soaked basil seeds. For some reason I find them absolutely captivating, and I’m crossing my fingers for us to stay here long enough to see them turn into tadpoles.
One morning, Svante asked me if I had woken up early. I had, but I very well knew that he meant 4am early. Yes, he’d heard some noise coming from the forest.
After we’d had coffee, and a tartine of sourdough bread smeared with butter and topped with hard-boiled eggs and pickled herring, we put our gumboots on and walked through the moss and woods and snow.
As we followed the tracks, dipper and dipper into the woods, the three of us knew one thing for sure. It was a lynx.
Yesterday, as I was sitting on the front steps of the little house – my favourite morning spot to catch the sun and drink up that mug of too-hot coffee – Svante called me from the path. A few metres from us: two rådjur [deers, don’t ask me for the plural form of their Swedish names as I’m still very confused about it all] were eating the grass that the snow-melt made alive again.
The shooting stars we see at night. When it’s so dark we can almost make out the Milky Way.
Every morning, I wake up early. The oven gets turned on and the loaf of bread – of dough, really – that has been slowly fermenting in the fridge overnight, is taken out and left on the counter. Some days, I’ll make coffee. Others, I go back to bed with a book, and – more often than not – I fall back asleep for an hour or so.
The bread goes in the oven and I patiently wait. One morning, we carried firewood from the shelter where it dries up to the main house. On a wheelbarrow. Another time, we went on the rock at the top of the road, where you can watch the sun rise, almost like no other place I’ve ever been.
Bonus campagne tale: I’ve found out that it’s actually way easier to drive on snow and ice rather than mud. The rest should probably remain untold.
Canelés au beurre noisette et au bourbon
Adapted from Pierre Hermé.
I didn’t grow up eating canelés. In fact, I can’t even remember the first time I ever had one. But if I was to guess, I’d say it came frozen, from a box of miniature ones found at Picard (and if you’re not French, I should add that Picard is a frozen-product shop found everywhere across the country).
But somehow, they’ve always seemed fascinating. A crisp almost-burnt-but-not-quite crust and custard-like crumb.
I can’t say I’ve tried a lot of recipes, as when I first tried the ones at Pierre Hermé – back in the summer 2007 during the three-month stage that would change my life – I never even wanted to look back.
Yes, Pierre Hermé’s recipe is my favourite.
I’ve made them traditional, with Tahiti vanilla and aged rum. Or at times, with chocolate in the batter too. Even some pumpkin and cinnamon ones, replacing the milk with roasted pumpkin flesh and a large tablespoon of milk powder, and adding bourbon and brown butter.
I loved this combination so much that I’ve decided to make some simpler ones today.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not quite easy to get them right. But here are a few notes that will help you get those beauties perfect every single time.
1. The batter must be made in advance. In a pinch, I’ve made it rest for only an hour with great results, but they are considerably better if the batter is left to rest at room temperature for at least 12 hours or in the fridge for up to 3 days.
2. As you make the batter, the milk should be around 55°C when you pour it onto your egg mixture. This will start to cook the eggs and the starch, and will prevent the canelés to form too much moisture when they bake, hence reducing the risk of them “growing” out from their moulds as they bake.
3. No matter what I do, I’ll always have at least one canelé trying to escape from its mould during baking. If you let it be, you’ll end up with a white-topped canelé as the batter won’t be in contact with the mould; you do not want this, trust me. My sauve-qui-peut solution is very simple. As soon as the canelés are set enough – around 20 minutes usually – I’ll carefully take out the faulty ones out from the oven, then turn them upside-down – unmoulding them really – then place them back into their moulds. This seems to do the trick every time and they won’t try to escape again.
4. Many people stress about using a mixture of oil and beeswax to grease the moulds. Yes it does give them a special matte finish, but more than that, I think the kind and quality of the moulds matter. I know they’re expensive but Matfer copper moulds make the difference for me.
You see here, I didn’t use any beeswax, just melted butter, brushed inside the moulds, and they came out beautifully. You could also use some cooking spray, I’ve only ever tried OneSpray which worked great.
5. The most fundamental part is – in my opinion – the baking. In professional fan-assisted ovens, I usually preheat to 210°C, then bake for 10 minutes at this temperature, before reducing it to 190°C to finish the baking for an hour or so. At home, in my traditional oven, I’ve found that they are considerably better if I preheat the oven to 270°C and bake them for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 200°C for another 45 to 55 minutes depending on the size of my moulds.
I haven’t tried baking them in a home oven with fan, but I’m assuming that preheating to 250°C and baking at 190°C would work fine. Let me know if you try 🙂
But mostly – please please please – have fun while baking. This makes all the difference.
Canelés au beurre noisette et au bourbon
Makes 20 small canelés (4.5cm wide) or 12 large ones (5.5cm wide).
500 g whole milk
50 g brown butter
2 vanilla pods, sliced lengthways
2 egg yolks
250 g icing sugar
40 g bourbon
100 g plain flour
a pinch of salt
q.s. melted butter, to grease the moulds
In a medium pan, bring the milk, brown butter, vanilla seeds and pods to the boil. Off the heat, cover with a lid and allow to infuse for at least 15-20 minutes while you get on with the rest.
In a bowl, mix the eggs and yolks with the icing sugar until smooth, slowly pour in the bourbon. Add the flour and salt.
Then, pour the warm milk, a little at a time over the egg mixture, mixing as you do so – but trying not to incorporate too much air into the batter. You could pass the batter through a fine-mesh sieve, I don’t.
Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave at room temperature overnight.
Preheat the oven to 270°C/fan 250°C (read note above).
Prepare the moulds. No matter which kind of fat you’re using (read note above), brush a thin layer into the moulds (or in the case of the spray, spray it). Turn the moulds upside-down onto kitchen paper to allow the excess fat to drip, then place in the freezer. If using butter, I like to repeat this one more time.
Mix the batter for a couple of minute to homogenise. Then fill your prepared moulds almost to the rim, leaving 2 or 3 mm on top.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C/fan 190°C and bake for a further 45 minutes for small canelés or 55 minutes for large ones.