At Least Some of Your Beeswax: Canelé Play and Pointers

By Joe Sevier

By

Joe Sevier

If you haven’t poured melted beeswax into a canelé mold, only to pour it directly back out, you’ve never felt real satisfaction. I say this because when Pastry Chef Mikiko Yui led attendees of the International Chefs Congress through her canelé technique—including prepping molds with a soup of beeswax and clarified butter—the chefs were transfixed as each took turns pouring the hot wax mixture into cool room temperature copper molds, emptying them, and then studying the thin film of wax that had instantly solidified on the molds’ interior walls.

The waxing technique is more than mere show, of course, says Yui, who prefers a wax temperature of 190ºF when coating her molds. Any colder and the wax will adhere too thickly; any hotter and it might not adhere at all. Too much beeswax will result in waxy canelé that’s too waxy, and “if you don’t have enough beeswax, [the canelé] won’t get crunchy.”

And it’s that crunchy exterior—set against the spongy, sweet interior—that sets the deeply burnished pastries apart. That and Yui’s playful flavors that she most recently plied at of State Bird Provisions and The Progress in San Francisco. Her matcha canelé (which might be garnished with whipped goat cheese and strawberries, pomelo, and white chocolate; ginger mousse; or even cookies and cream) cracks open to reveal a dazzling bright green. 

In addition to matcha, Yui flavors canelé with spiced rum, or by infusing vodka with Earl Grey tea, coffee, cherries, and more to add highly customized, nontraditional flavors to the old-school fluted treat. She stresses the importance of treating the canelé batter like a living thing. “Just because my canelés bake in a 425ºF oven for 45 minutes, doesn’t mean yours will,” she warns. Your oven may cook canelés best at a temperature anywhere from 375°F to 450°F.

And that's where the fun comes in: tweaking each aspect of the recipe so that it works best in your kitchen with your flavor and texture preferences. Want a dryer canelé? Just freeze the batter after making it and then defrost in the refrigerator until it's just portion-able. The frozen batter will also take a little longer to bake, about 60 to 90 minutes. You'll know it's done when the skin is very dark—almost, but not quite burnt. Freezing the batter is also a great way to keep it around (for up to three months), if you want to prep large batches ahead of time.

Since the batter must rest for at least 24 hours (and up to three days) before baking attendees took home their wares with advice from Yui to play around with the base by adding flavorful spirits. For the record, Yui’s ideal batter rests for just two days in the refrigerator, and then is poured cold into the waxed, cooled molds and baked straightaway. 

To close out the session, Yui passed out canelés that she’d made earlier in the day, along with matcha cream, apricot jam, freshly sliced strawberries, goat cheese mousse, candied ginger, and matcha powder. Attendees went to town filling, garnishing, and adorning canelé at will. And then of course, eating the canelé they’d decorated. It was pretty sweet.

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