They’re not as fetishized as macarons, as common as croissants, or as dunkable as madeleines. But they do hail from France (the Bordeaux region, specifically). And they are worth introducing to your taste buds.
Canelés are basically baked custards that looked like they popped out of a tiny 70s jello mold.
They haven’t been on my radar for a long time. I rarely (never?) see them at DC-area French bakeries. The last time I found these was in the Trader Joe’s frozen case. Those ate like rubber. (Aside: I’m guessing that chewy texture is authentic to canelés and comes from the special baking mold they use. I just don’t like it. See my rant on mochi.)
Then last week, Smack was featured on a recent Tasting Table email. They described theirs as having a special crunch. I was willing to take a risk, ordering an assortment of 25: plain, lemon, chocolate-dipped. (They’ll deliver them to your door for an extra $6.)
When I emailed Smack about leaving the box at my front door, they were concerned about the canelés losing their crunch if exposed to the whims of the weather. This company is definitely a labor of love. Not just because of their concern with the quality, but also the presentation. The caneles come immaculately packaged in a gift box with a giant bow.
BTW, they were spot on about the importance of the crunch. That’s what made these little babies so good. They were just sweet enough, fragrant with vanilla and rum. The dark chocolate ones were the best. Tip: after refrigeration they lose their crunch around day 3, so order only what you can eat while fresh.