One interesting thing we learned during the wine tours we did in the Saint Emilion region yesterday was that egg whites have historically been used in large portions to take out excess tannins from the wine barrels between individual wine storing. Once upon a time, this process had to be manually done by workers at wineries and vineyards, and they’d individually crack each and every egg, separate the yolk from the white, and then apply the mixed whites to the barrels. When one of the wine tour guides said this, I immediately thought, I wonder if they use all those leftover egg yolks for custard, perhaps crème brulee? No, I was wrong. In this region, they use it for the regional treat for which Bordeaux is famous – the canele! Although I’d had a few canele in New York from French bakeries, I’d never thought much about the way they were made and what ingredients were used to make it; I just assumed whole eggs were used. After yesterday, now I know that they are basically like a custard, heavy on the yolks, with a slightly crispy exterior in a cute scalloped and almost mini-tube like mold.
On our way back from Saint Emilion to the city of Bordeaux yesterday evening, our guide took us to La Toque Cuivree, a bakery famous for its award-winning canele. They are so famous that they only produce this one dessert – just in three different sizes – bite sized, “lunch,” and “gros.” They had recently added caramels that have little bits of canele incorporated into them to their tiny line-up of goodies sold (I’m sure they used the stale canele for these to eliminated waste).
We brought them back to our hotel and tried one each… And then immediately both went for our seconds. I hate to be cliché about this, but they were simply perfect and exactly as Henri, our guide, described they should be: slightly crunchy and crackly on the outside, with a moist, nearly gooey creamy custard on the inside. The single flavor that they came in from La Toque Cuivree was rum, and the rum flavor was very strong and forward. “You must eat them today,” he warned us, as after a day, they start becoming chewy, which is like a canele crime. Well, I’ve definitely called caneles I’ve had in New York “chewy” on the inside, which obviously means the ones I had were either old or just not made correctly.
The saddest thing about having epicurean experiences like this in far away places is that you know when you go back home, you just won’t get the exact same taste or experience again, and if you do, it will probably cost you. Those “chewy” caneles I’ve had from other bakeries in New York have cost at least two to four times what I paid today in Bordeaux, and that makes me so sad to know I would need to pay more for an inferior product just to eat something closer to him that either slightly resembles the best or just flat out insults its integrity.