Canelés In Des Moines? Mais Oui!

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Above: Canelés require fermenting the batter as well as greasing the molds with a mixture of butter and beeswax to get just-the-right crust.

By Wini Moranville

Ten years ago, I spent a stretch of time in Bordeaux, France, where I was introduced to canelés, a specialty of the city. Hallmarks of these rum-infused teacakes include a custardy center and a lightly crisp, darkly caramelized crust—plus the unmistakable ridged cylindrical shape, traditionally gained through the copper molds in which they’re baked. One bite of these rich, dense treats and I thought, “Proust can keep his famed madeleines—I want canelés!”

Fortunately, Katy Nelson, owner of Scenic Route Bakery, had an equally forceful epiphany last spring when she popped into a bakery in Charlottesville, Virginia, that served canelés. While the French-trained pastry chef was certainly well acquainted with the treats, her inspiring re-encounter with them led her to say, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m not living without these any more.”

She soon invested in the pricey copper molds and, working alongside Scenic Route baker Josh Hanks, perfected a recipe. While the key ingredients are simply flour, butter, sugar, eggs, salt and rum, a lot of attention to detail goes into these treats—they require fermenting the batter as well as greasing the molds with a mixture of butter and beeswax to get just the right crust.

These are handily as good as any I’ve had in Bordeaux; in fact, when I tasted them, I realized I had forgotten just how good they really are. They’re perfect with a cup of coffee or tea for midmorning or afternoon. However, look for them only on Fridays and Saturdays, when they make their way into Scenic Route’s pastry rotation. Each day’s batch is limited to 16 (that’s the number of molds they have). You might want to get there early.

Scenic Route is at 350 E Locust St., 515-288-0004;

Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining for dsm magazine and dsmWeekly. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food–DSM.

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