So why are my cannelés always a disaster?

And what do I intend to do about it? Lots of curious emails here. The problem I have, as I said, is they explode. I open the oven about three quarters of the way through the bake to find that the top crusts of the cannelés, which are really the bottoms, have popped off, exposing the interiors. Heat and evaporation results in the cakes being mostly hollow with a dense blob of filling at the bottom. Sometimes the outer shells still look good, but they mask a mostly empty interior that contains a single knob of egg putty. My heart sinks just thinking about them.

The problem is, quite simply, air bubbles. Too many of them get into the molds, and when the heat hits them they fill with steam (there’s water aplenty in that loose batter) and…FOOM! I’ve lately realized that the problem is that I generally pour batter from the top of my container like any normal person would. But of course that’s where the air bubbles are, even after a long sitting. They rise out of the batter and settle on the top where some of them pop but many remain. So the problem becomes: how to get the batter into the molds without simply pouring or ladling it in? I’m thinking I can use a funnel that I plug up with my finger, or possibly a turkey baster to suck up batter from further down and squirt it into the mold. That’s the plan at least. Thoughts?

39 thoughts on “So why are my cannelés always a disaster?”

  1. Does that happen even in the copper molds? Are these things related to popovers?

    Really, I think it’s easier to just book a flight to Bordeaux. ;>

  2. Hi Joe, what about pouring the batter through a mesh sieve into the molds? If memory serves, you – or maybe someone else, somewhere else? – recommended that for clafoutis batter.

  3. Turkey baster may to the trick, with an additional rest. Sounds crazy but I think a pass through a very fine mesh chinois could de-aerate the dough somewhat…

    1. That’s what I was thinking. And when using the baster to insert the batter, I’d leave the tip down at the bottom so no air is incorporated at the surface. Like they fill bottles industrially.

  4. I pour with a measuring cup and let the batter sit in the molds for 20 minutes before baking.

  5. Another reason for many of my cannele disasters has to do with the batter temp. I hope you will address that parameter at some point in your research.

    My technique has been standardized for room temp batter. So planning ahead is imperative: make batter early; rest batter; give batter plenty of time to warm up; and then the long baking time.

    No wonder I sometimes prefer to make muffins!

    1. Yes, that’s contributed to my trials also I believe. What do you think cold batter has done to you? Caused similar expansion? That would follow…

      – Joe

      1. Yes, I speculate that it results in early hardening of the outside (cooks fast but the center isn’t ready to start cooking) and excessive expansion, leading to hollow centers.

        I tend to rest the batter 2 hours or more in the fridge, but leave it on the counter at least an hour to warm up before putting in molds… and then let it sit 20 min in the mold before baking.

        Sometimes I just rest it for an hour or so on the countertop. I worry about it going bad, but that actually works best.

        1. I appreciate the tips, Brian. I shall employ them when I finally get a chance to bake some!

          – Joe

  6. Gravy separator? That might be too small… not sure how much batter we’re talking.

    1. Several cups at least, but that’s also a very intriguing idea! Thanks!

      – J

  7. Pour the batter into a ziplock bag that you leave upright in a bowl or (better yet) a funnel, for 40 minutes at room temp. Snip the end off the bag and control flow by pinching the opening.

  8. Hey Joe,

    Wow, what a great co-incidence. I’ve just recently acquired a set of molds ( copper ones, yes I am that much of a tragic) and had been considering writing in to request a series on canneles.

    So far I’ve tried out 2 recipes, Paula Wolfert’s and one from the blog Chez Pim. None of mine have exploded, but I did notice that with the Chez Pim recipe, with 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, the batter tended to rise above the molds like little soufflés. Paula’s recipe, which has only yolks, did not rise at all. Perhaps using yolks only would help with the exploding ?

    Also, I strain the chilled batter into the frozen, wax coated molds just before baking, although I couldn’t really say what difference this makes.
    What are you thoughts on the freezing step? I do it because the recipe says so, but I always find myself feeling oddly resentful..

    1. Hi Gretchen!

      Great comment, and you’ve given me several good ideas. On the freezing I’m not sure yet. I’ll need to run some experiments I think!

      Many thanks for the very useful comment!

      – Joe

  9. This might be waaaay out there, and I don’t know how thick this dough is, but we have an iced tea jar with a spout at the bottom. Maybe something like that would work.

    1. Good thinking but the batter is too thick for that. A very neat inspiration, however. I shall remember it for other purposes!


      – Joe

  10. I’ve never had a canele, but reading this and the links from others has me wondering about two things:

    1) Vaccuum degassing. This was also mentioned by a commenter at Serious Eats. I was reminded of the degassing I used to do for pouring polyacrylamide gels in the lab. if you have a pump for a food saver or for sous vide, perhaps you could degas. For gels, I filled a bottle halfway or less, put the bottle in a sealed chamber and swirled gently while pumping out the air. You don’t want or need a hard vaccuum, just enough to get some bubbling. Release the vaccuum and just pour out of the bottle.

    Alternative: do the long rest after you’ve filled the molds.

    2) The high initial heat reminded me of the studies debunking the idea of initially searing in the juices for steak. Is there something similar here? What if you set the custard first and then blast it for the crust? After all, that’s kind of what you do for a creme brulee, right?

    1. The degassing is inspired, Jim. Time will tell if I’ll need to try that, but it’s a phenomenal idea. For the first few go-arounds I’m going to concentrate on trying to introduce as few bubbles as I can to begin with. That may be where I erred in the past. Oh heck, it certainly is.

      As to the second point, that’s genius. Why not indeed? Why expend so much time and energy trying to defeat an aggressive rise when you can just, well, not have one? I love it and will try it with the first batch!

      – Joe

  11. If the problem is air bubbles in the batter after mixing, don’t simply let it sit there to un-bubble. Try to manually shake/vibrate the bowl so the bubbles rise faster or at all. It’s a bit exertive, however.

    Another poke in the dark (I never tried channelés):
    Or mix with the paddles fully submerged (if that’s even possible) to minimize any unneeded incorporation of air.

  12. Hi Joe,

    I don’t want to come over “all-knowing because I’m French” ;), but I’ve just re-read your recipe a few pages back and I’ve noticed a couple of differences in your method when compared to most French recipes.

    The oven temperature is much lower. You bake at 400°F/205°C all through, whereas I would start at 480°F/250°C for 8-10 minutes, then lower to 355°F/180°C for the remaining time.

    You fill the molds to the top, I would fill to ¾ maximum.

    Hope that helps…

    1. No worries, Claudine! It’s all good advice and I shall employ it as I bake!

      – Joe

  13. Jim Hu’s post reminded me that I have a “Pump ‘n Seal” food saver pump. These are a little manual pump used to pull a commercial grade vacuum on lots of different things. They have available a couple of flat aluminum covers which can can be used to seal to any flat top (glass or metal being best) bowl, which I use to marinate meats and other foods in a few minutes rather than a few hours. I think Jim hit the nail on the head. Just suck the air out in a few minutes rather than hours or days. I’ve had mine for years and they work great. You can see them at Good Luck

    1. Nice, Jack. Thanks for that. This is a really neat idea for a technique!


      – Joe

  14. Or there are pancake batter dispensers, or pancake pens. There are so many variations and I happen to have one of them.

    Like this:

    Or this: (mine is similar but plastic)

    Additionally I have seen instructions for slowly whisking batter to break bubbles before on other unrelated recipes. Or tapping the bowl/pan (eg. macarons 🙂 )

    1. Yep I’ve certainly seen those, and in fact commercial makers of cannelés use them. I’m just wondering if I can find a way to do it using gear most people have in the kitchen. We’ll see!

      Thanks Julie!

      – Joe

  15. For some reason, this reminds me of a loose, sweet version of pate choux. The center of pate choux is sort of custardy. Maybe the mixing method needs to be changed?

    1. Hey Susan!

      Interesting comparison. Choux is definitely lighter than a cannelé but the comparison is apt to some extent. But I have been mulling over my process all week. I think I am going to go against tradition and try something pretty different. We’ll see what happens!

      – Joe

  16. I always used a piping bag to fill the molds and never more than 3/4 of the way up.

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