Last month, Darlene ordered two dozen cannelés from Williams-Sonoma. We’d never had them before, as they seemed to be a luxurious, decadent treat only available online or in European pastry shoppes.
FedEx delivered the styrofoam-and-dry-ice package. I took a look at them and couldn’t figure out what they were (besides possibly the mutant offspring of a baby Bundt cake). Darlene told me that cannelés are French in origin, are made with crepe batter and baked in muffin-type molds. The have a layer of beeswax (!) on top and a scorched, creme brulée-ish bottom. The inside is sweet and spongy. They stay in the freezer until ready for consumption, when they’re thawed at room temperature for about an hour.
Darlene and I are in complete agreement regarding the Williams-Sonoma cannelés: They taste great, but (and it’s a big but) the scorched bottom is inedible. Yeah, I get it. They’re supposed to be scorched… but the damage goes a half-inch deep. And since these 24 cannelés ran $49 plus next-day shipping, that’s an expensive chunk of dough to be sliced off and discarded.
About a week after the Williams-Sonoma cannelés arrived, we spotted cannelés locally… in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s! Of course, we bought a box. We thawed a couple and tried them, expecting to be disappointed in their quality vs. Williams-Sonoma. We were surprised to find the Trader Joe’s cannelés were not only just as good as the Williams-Sonoma ones, but the bottoms were only lightly singed. Trader Joe’s price? $4.99/half-dozen. Yeah — that’s about a third of the price.
Now the trick is to make them from scratch. Until we crack the code, we’ll be giving Trader Joe’s our cannelés business.