Explaining Canelé Molds

These copper molds are used to prepare a French confection known as canelé de Bordeaux.

This copper mold is used to prepare a French confection known as canelé de Bordeaux (or cannelé bordelais), which dates back about 300 years. The molds, which range from 1 1/4 to 2 inches tall, are said to be key for producing a dark caramelized crust, the perfect contrast to the vanilla- and rum-spiked custardy interior of these little cakes.

We followed the lead of a few respected recipes, seasoning a half-dozen of the largest-size copper molds, lightly coating them with a beeswax and oil mixture known as white oil (which purportedly encourages caramelization while preventing sticking), and freezing them before filling them with batter and baking them. The results were impressive. Still, these days silicone canelé molds can be purchased online, and we found that they made respectable canelés (though the exterior was less impressive) and they didn’t require the seasoning and white oil steps. Plus, they cost a fraction of the price (you can buy a sheet for 18 small canelé for $13, the same price as one copper mold). If we find bargain copper molds, we’ll snatch them up, but until then we’ll settle for silicone. C’est la vie.

These fluted copper molds produce pastries worth the trouble but not the price.

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