It’s been icy, snowy, cold and not at all hospitable. I baked all weekend, because nothing says happy like the smell of baked goods in the oven. I wobbled through my first experience with canelé. I made a sensational and surprisingly simple caramel chocolate tart. And then I baked for Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.
I’ve long been a canelé fan but once I tasted an official canelé in their Bordeaux birthplace, I was a goner. [I thank Kate Hill for this education, in addition to all my porky-knowledge.]
This little sweet packs a punch. It’s got everything I’ve ever wanted in a pastry.There’s that crackly crunchy caramel crust, rich with flavors of brown butter and honey. and then there is a custardy center, firm, but still so egg rich and vanilla and rum-scented it’s almost a flan or a crème caramel. Whereas the canelé could be very nearly too much of a good thing, it is tempered by size. There is restraint in the classic two-inch, two-bite treat.
It’s impossible to make canelé spontaneously. Scott D, my cooking co-conspirator on the west coast, was happy to join in on the endeavor. We studied, shopped ,and planned for several weeks. Scott went with silicone molds. I hunted down copper ones. He bought beeswax online, I searched (fruitlessly) for a local beekeeper. (It’s wintertime. They’re not easy to find.)
In short, Scott’s canelés were much more successful. I made three rounds (in my four molds) and three of them came out well. Very well. There is so much more to learn. Scott and I are both continuing the experimentation this week. I’ll write in detail about the process when I’m more comfortable with the whole thing.
Undeterred by baking misdeeds in the canelé department, for brunch with the cousins (later cancelled due to weather), I moved on to a caramel chocolate tart I have long admired. Let’s start with the truth: Every single recipe Dorie Greenspan writes is perfect. And this is no exception. You want to own Dorie’s new book, Baking Chez Moi.
This salty, caramel tart with a whisper of dark chocolate is dead simple, beautiful to behold, with a delicious complexity and depth far beyond what the simple ingredients might suggest. Make it and share it with friends. It’s the perfect dinner party dessert, easily made a day ahead.
Not satisfied with baking only canelés and a tart, and because we were invited to a Great British Bake Off finale viewing party, I had one more baked good to go. (What? You’re not watching GBBO? Find it on-demand ASAP. This is a delightful romp of a reality show, as British as they come. It’s charming.)
Pulling out all the stops, I made my own version of the Nutella Star that buzzed around the web last fall. Instead of Nutella, I used my raspberry chocolate jam. Maybe you have something suitable in your pantry? This is a showstopper of a bake. It’s delightful – really more coffeecake than cake – perfect for dunking. I’ll be making it again and again.
When bad weather is brewing, if you are stuck inside because of weather, what do you make? Tell me in the comments and on March 21, I’ll randomly select one of the comments for a special pre-season give-away of a signed copy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry.
That’s the first day of spring – canning can’t be far behind.