The Thinking So Far

So OK, I’ve been mulling these over for a couple of days and I have my action plan together. It goes like this: first, I’m going to lower the heat. Reader Jim H’s provocative comment from late last week got me thinking. Why bother with a very hot oven at all…at least to start? Why not start low and let the eggs set — and allow the steam to steadily escape — instead of the rocket-hot traditional way that causes any bubbles in the batter to expand explosively?

I mean, preventing crazy expansion has got to be the reason why most “traditional” recipes call for chilled batter and molds, right? To try to slow down the heat penetration so the batter can set a bit before the upward-and-outward steam rush begins. So what if we take the oven down to, say, 325 Fahrenheit for the first 45 minutes or so of baking? Then we can blast it to get the dark crusts on the things. By that time the crumb will probably be well set and (mostly) explosion proof. Probably.

This approach might have several advantages. We could do away with the long resting periods and bubble freak-outs that accompany most formulas. At least for the most part. I’ll still avoid vigorous whisking so as not to push my luck. Also I’ll take the egg white out of the formula and replace it with two yolks. I mean these little cakes are supposed to be all about yolks, right? All egg whites will do is, well, what egg whites do: make bubbles. And create structure, but between the yolks and the flour we should have enough of that.

I’ll also rest the batter a bit before baking, about an hour just to let any of the larger bubbles rise out. Of course we’ll still need some bubbles if we don’t want actual custard, but perhaps this way we’ll tame the ones that remain enough so that they’ll create a little lightness but not an explosion.

Could the low stress, low heat, no-wait cannelé become a reality? We shall soon see, won’t we?

7 thoughts on “The Thinking So Far”

  1. I can’t wait. I’ve not tried the technique you are planning. I’ve done 350 the whole time and not been too happy with the texture of the center. My normal is 450 for 15 min, then 375 for 60 min. With the cups filled with 1/2 inch or so to spare, mine soufflé up during the bake and then settle back to a full cup near the end. I can’t wait to hear of your results!

  2. If you want to borrow bubble reduction from other materials handling experiences there is a very effective method if you have a vacuum chamber handy… A bit simpler, though I’m not sure how effective with batter, is “needling”. It involves pouring into the mold (pan) in a stream so narrow that bubbles cannot remain (needle thin). It actually doesn’t produce air intrusion as it pools in the mold (pan) as you might think.

    1. Hey James!

      That’s fascinating indeed. I don’t know if I’ll have need for such a process yet…but who knows? I may need to get technical before I”m done! 😉

      Cheers and thanks!

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe,

    I’ve been reading your posts about cannelés with a lot of interest. I live in France and find cannelés everywhere, some better than others of course. Anyway, I recently acquired a foolproof recipe that uses whole eggs *and* yolks (1 yolk for every whole egg). In addition, the baking time and temperatures are quite different from what you’ve tried so far. It says to preheat the oven to 300°C (575°F), fill the molds 3/4 full, and begin baking at that temperature for 5 minutes. Then the temperature gets reduced to 160-180°C (320-350°F) for an hour or an hour and 10 minutes (more or less, depending on how brown you like your cannelés). The cannelés rise beautifully, do not explode and are moist but not soggy. Could this help?

    1. I’m interested, Jill, certainly! Differences in ingredients (especially flour) might mean it won’t work over here, but it never hurts to try!

      Thanks!

      – Joe

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