Canneles are a specialty kind of cake that originated over 2 centuries ago in the Bordeaux region of France. The little pastries are unique in that they have a crispy, caramelized outer coating and a soft, custardy center. Because of this contrast in textures, in addition to the fact that they are usually flavored with vanilla, canneles are sometimes referred to as “portable creme brulees.” They range from about 2-3 inches in height and for such small cakes have the impressively long baking time of over an hour. The pans are prepared with melted butter and beeswax to allow the sides of the cake to properly caramelize while preventing them from sticking to the molds. They can be quite tricky to make and, as a result, are not the sort of thing that you’ll regularly come across in cafes or bakeries – not in the US, anyway. I was very surprised to find a box of Canneles de Bordeaux sitting in the freezer case of my local Trader Joe’s.
The canneles come six to a box and are fully baked. They are traditionally baked – beeswax and all – before being frozen, and all you need to do is defrost them for 20 minutes before eating. Alternatively, they can be heated in the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up.
Unfortunately, these are no substitute for a real, fresh cannele. The flavor is good, and both the caramel and vanilla are very strong. The center is custardy, slightly better when warmed up. The problem lies in the exterior of the cannele. After being frozen, it isn’t crispy and the pastry isn’t going to recover that just-baked texture in the same way that you can’t quite recreate a fresh-from-the-oven cookie without starting with dough and an oven. The thin beeswax coating also contributes a slight chewiness to these that isn’t noticeable in the fresh version. So, they’re tasty and will make an enjoyable snack, but they’re not going to satisfy a craving for the real thing.