Monday, April 13, 2009

Cannelés Honoré

This whole story starts a long way back with the cannelés, which means fluted in French. The pictures below are also where it all started. A couple of long years ago I stumbled across these photos while food blog surfing. From the very moment I laid my eyes on it and read more about it, I was enthralled. I wanted one. Bad. Well it turns out that these antiquated little french pastries are quite hard to track down.

Cannelés Bordelais originate from the Gironde/Bordeaux region of France, it is said that nuns used to collect flour from big ships there and made these humble little pastries for the less fortunate. Using a crepe-like batter speckled with vanilla beans and citrus zest and very specific copper molds you end up with these special pastries. The outside is supposed to be crisped and caramelized while the interior remains wet and kind of spongey. Caramel, cake, and creamy custard-like things are some of my all-time favourite tastes and textures. It seemed I had found my perfect dessert concoction. Humidity causes their outsides to lose crunchiness quickly so it's wise to eat them right away. I've not made them yet because I'm holding out to collect about a dozen of the copper molds, I just can't bring myself to use the silicon liners you see around. I've read that as simple as the ingredients are, canelés can be tricky to perfect.

I've been in search of one of these for what feels like forever. I've called french bakeries in Seattle, done lots of Internet research looking for them, and even contemplated trying to order some from a little bakery in Walla Walla that appears to make them. My friend Ashley from the former Artisan Sweets which has now moved to a lovely new location, Not Without Salt, told me that she'd tried them before and also saw some in the freezer section of Trader Joe's but didn't know how they would be. Well, of course I ran out the next day to buy a package and try them out. It would be an understatement to say that I was incredibly disappointed. They were terrible. The outside resembled rubber exactly. I knew that canelés couldn't really be this way. Not with how much praise they get. Thankfully, a couple of weeks later, Ashley also sent me a link she'd seen about a bakery in Seattle who made them. Honoré Bakery was the next must-do on my list.

One weekend several weeks ago, I got very close to trying them out at Honoré, but much to my disappointment I arrived at the their storefront six minutes post closing. Once my heart sank a few notches, I accepted it, and understood that in order to get canelés, I would have to be to the bakery before 3 p.m., easy enough. And that's just what I did two weeks later.

Honoré is a cute french bakery tucked away on NW 70th St. in Ballard. If you blinked driving by you would miss it. Here are some photos I stole while visiting.

I thought these photos stamped on the front of their espresso machine were kind of charming.

The photo below is a stubborn one, it just won't rotate so you can view it properly. Savory pastries with onion, Gruyere, and thyme... I couldn't leave them out.

Poached pear frangipane...

This picture didn't turn out well, but it doesn't feel right leaving out at least some imagery of their adorable, pastel macarons. We tried a few: lavender, chocolate, strawberry, and passion fruit. This will make some people turn in their graves, but I think when it comes to macarons, I might like looking at them a great deal more than I like eating them... ?

And here is one the two canelés Ethan and I shared. The sad news is that when we bought them we were on our way to have lunch at a friends house and as to not spoil our appetites, we waited to have it until that evening. I was a little worried about this thinking they might not be as good hours later and I was right. The humidity had done it's thing and what was a crispy outer shell when I first bought them had softened a bit, they were still tasty and offered a true glimpse at what one would be like right out of the oven. That is the next mission.

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