Next Attempt: The Popover Method

Readers Chana, Charm and others have remarked on the cannelé’s similarity to the popover, and indeed they are correct. Cannelé batter is very, very similar to popover batter, save for the fact that it’s much sweeter. I find that an interesting direction to try next since as I mentioned below, these first cannelés were far to dense for my liking. I much prefer a more open, lighter crumb of the kind I see in this Wikipedia photo.

To get a result like that I’ll need a much stronger structure for the batter, one that won’t collapse after the bubbles are formed, but will instead lock in place, the way a popover batter does when it’s fully inflated. I’ll need to give the batter more of the building material a strong cake needs: flour and egg whites and maybe some acid to help the egg white proteins set. Of course if I’m going to embrace volume rather than avoid it, I’ll need to add a lot less batter to the molds. Indeed you can see from the photo how much empty space there is in that cannelé. I’ll need to fill the mold less than half way by the look of it. So here’s a standard popover formula and process:

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) melted, unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
16 ounces (2 cups) milk, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a popover pan. Put all the ingredients in the blender or food processor and blend for about 30 seconds. Pour the batter evenly into the pan cups and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and bake another 15 to 20 minutes until the popovers are well browned. Place the popovers on a rack and poke each one with a knife or skewer to allow steam to escape. Serve them warm.

The original cannelé formula went like this:

16 ounces (2 cups) whole milk
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter
3 egg yolks
1 egg white
8.75 ounces (1 1/4 cups) sugar
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum

Now then. Looking back to the popover formula, I’ll keep the butter and lose most of the salt (I’ll keep a little because it strengthens gluten and I want some of that). I’ll keep two whole eggs because I don’t want to go too nuts on structure, but I’ll put back two yolks because I want that nice yellow color. I’ll keep all the milk because those are the same in both. The flour and sugar are a little tougher. I need the batter to be sweet but also strong, so I’ll bump up the original flour by 50% instead of 100% (so, 2.5 ounces) and cut down the sugar by the same weight. That gives me this:

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) melted, unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
2 yolks, room temperature
16 ounces (2 cups milk), room temperature
7.5 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) sugar

And because popovers are my starting point I’m going to use lots of agitation so the gluten is well developed. I’ll use a food processor for a mixer, then pan it and bake it immediately. What am I expecting? Dramatic expansion of course, but I’ll only fill the mold about a third of the way up. If it sets and holds I’ll know I’m on to something. I can adjust from there. But I’ll also hold some of the batter in the fridge overnight to see how well it calms down the next day if it’s too explosive. Wish me luck!

12 thoughts on “Next Attempt: The Popover Method”

  1. You probably got a bunch of these already, but just in case you didn’t… In the popover style recipe, you have “16 ounces (1 cup milk), room temperature”. Your ounces and cups don’t measure up to the same amounts. These Cannelés are tricky little buggars, but I have the utmost confidence that you will be victorious. 😀


  2. Can’t say I’ve ever done cannelès or are much inclined to be tempted to but, just shooting from the hip, if it’s structure you want, how about bread flour with more protein?

    1. Hey Rainey!

      Good thinking, though activated gluten from mere AP went…floof! I think I need to go in another direction! 😉

      – Joe

  3. Question: you don’t rest your popover batter? I always thought every batter (popover, crepe, clafoutis, canneles; most cakes… but not pancake and waffle) should be rested to ensure starch hydration as much as to relax gluten. Am I practicing an odd assortment of resting rituals?

    This cannele recipe is very close to mine that has proven successful (in my own opinion and nobody elses, of course) if you get the bake time right. Wild expansion – probably… but it should settle down as the bake continues. Or not. 🙂

    1. I don’t actually. But I learned today that you can rest it and still create big puffs!

      I think I overdid the agitation on this one. In fact I;m sure I did. 😉

      – joe

  4. These quantities are pretty much the standard French recipe (eg Pierre Hermé) minus the rhum. I’ve had surprisingly good results in silicone moulds coated with beeswax and cooked for 20mins at 230C then 40-45mins at 190C.

    If I want a slightly chewier cake I swap out an egg for a yolk, increase the flour a bit and dial back the butter a touch. I’m not sure if this tallies with your experience.

    Looking forward to the next update. 🙂

  5. The cannele recipe includes a significant amount of sugar. Is that just for taste? Or does it play a significant role in the structure and browning of the finished product?
    And. Um. Heresy to follow, so look away if you must: If cannele are so similar to popovers but are such a pain to make, why not just make (and eat) popovers, which are proven and problem free? Just wondering….

    1. Heh, good questions. The popovers really are excellent, a lot better than the cannelés I’ve made so far!

      As for why they’re sweet, I think that’s just standard. The French recipe I’m going to try next is even sweeter!

      – Joe

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