NYC Bite: Canelé by Céline
The canelé has very humble beginnings. Back in the 1600s, nuns in a small convent in the Bordeaux region of France (south western France) baked the first canelé. This simple pastry was made mostly from egg yolks, which neighboring wine producers had donated to the convent. The wine industry dominated Bordeaux, and since all the winemakers needed egg whites to clarify their product, there were a heck of a lot of leftover egg yolks going to the convent. So, the clever nuns baked canelés in masses and offered them to poor children. The kids loved them (and I bet the adults did too), and thus, the canelé was born.
Over time, the canelé has evolved--most notably, chefs started to bake the little treats with rum and vanilla beans (much fancier than the nuns' original creation). With this enhancement, a large canelé market emerged in major French cities, such as Paris and Marseilles. Soon enough, the canelé made its way around the world, charming consumers from Asia to America, and everywhere in between.
Now, the canelé is experiencing a new wave of popularity, inspired by boutiques such as Canelé by Céline. The chef, Céline Legros, has put her own twist on the classic pastry. She sells her canelés in mini sizes and has perfected recipes for over twenty flavors, both sweet and savory. As of now, this is the only exclusively canelé bakery in NYC. But that doesn't mean they're the only people selling canelés. For instance, Dominique Ansel Bakery sells its own version of the canelé. During my time working there, I saw the pastry's popularity slowly increase--and for good reason.
Canelés--at least the good ones--have a caramelized, almost-burnt exterior that gives way to a light, custardy interior. Traditionally, the interior is flavored with vanilla and rum, but Céline is breaking down that barrier with flavors ranging from pistachio to lemon, or even more eclectic, parmesan to chorizo. My personal favorite is the dark chocolate canelé, which is very rich in both texture and flavor. The moist dark chocolate interior works perfectly inside of the crisp, sweet casing. And remember, these canelés are bite-size, so their richness wont bother you at all. As for the savory canelés, I wasn't as impressed. Because the idea is so innovative, they're surely worth a try, but the flavor combinations work better in the sweet canelés. (Pictured below: Caramel, Dark Chocolate, and Pistachio).
Overall, Canelé by Céline is an interesting and outstanding bakery that is pushing the limits on its specialty pastry. The sweet canelés are some of the best desserts around. In the words of Eric Ripert, chef and owner of Le Bernardin, "Céline’s canelés are exceptional for their size and for the perfection achieved between the crunchy exterior and creaminess of the inside.” As the selected supplier of Ruinart, Nespresso Café, and Christofle, you better believe that Canelé by Céline is worth a try.