Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sweet delicacies from Bordeaux--canneles

The stately south-western French city of Bordeaux is of course renowned for its magnificent regional wines, including what are, as far as I'm concerned, the finest and most agreeable red wines in the world. But it's also renowned for the quality of its food, amongst which are such things as rare roast beef with Bordelaise sauce(ie based on Bordeaux red wine); lamb with mushrooms and garlic; scallops in a butter and shallot sauce; herring in Bordelaise sauce; cep mushrooms in a lemon and garlic sauce--and some delightful cakes and sweets, with perhaps the most famous and distinctive being the 'canneles de Bordeaux' (there should be an acute accent over that last e, incidentally--my computer refuses to do it right now!). This is a batter-based dessert which is 'fermented' (or rested) and then baked to produce lovely little cakes which are caramel-golden and crispy on the outside and meltingly tender inside. They are easy enough to prepare(though time-consuming because of the time the batter has to rest) but are not all that easy to get just right.

A few years ago in France my sister gave us some silicone cannele moulds which are a very particular shape(though you can experiment with making canneles in, say, small muffin moulds, it's good if you can get hold of either metal or silicone cannele moulds with their specific shape and pattern). Over the years we've experimented with quite a few cannele recipes, both in French and English, and now we're got them close to right, using a slightly adapted recipe in Stephanie Alexander's Cooking in South West France--and they turn out not quite as good as you might get them warm and crispy and sweet from a Bordeaux patisserie, but not bad at all for a home version. We had some the other day and they were pretty delicious, warm with whipped cream on the side!

To make 12 cakes:125 g plain flour, 250 g caster sugar, 1 egg, 2 egg yolks, 1 and a half tablespoons armagnac, cognac or rum, 500 ml milk,drop vanilla extract, 60 g unsalted butter. Mix the flour and sugar together in one bowl(you can do this by hand or with a food processor). In another, whisk the egg and egg yolks, sugar, milk, vanilla and alcohol. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and mix till you have a good smooth batter. Cover and let it rest for 24 hours(some people say longer works well, and even leaving the batter two or three days makes for a good result.)Butter your moulds with some of the butter, chill them(without any batter inside) for half an hour, then grease with rest of the butter, pour in the batter mix and bake at 180C for about an hour or an hour and a quarter. Serve warm or cool.

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