Move over, Cronut. The latest sweets fad about to engulf New York is the canelé.
The Upper East Side's Canelé by Celine bakes 20 sweet and savory flavors of canelé.
Last December, Céline Legros opened the first and only canelé boutique in New York, Canelé by Céline, on the Upper East Side just off 1st Avenue. A delicate, fluted mini-pastry that can be held between the thumb and index finger, the cake boasts a dark, caramelized crust wrapped around a custardy interior.
“I first fell in love with canelés as a kid on vacation near Biarritz,” says Legros, who ditched a serious career as a labor law attorney for the kitchen. “My father is a great cook and I would hang around him, fascinated.”
Growing up, Legros mastered her father's recipe and started making canelés for friends and family reunions. “I loved the taste of course, but I was particularly taken by its elegance, its dainty collarette, and the combination of fluffy and moist of the inside dough.”
Baked during the day in the back of the shop, the cakes cook for an hour. But they are by no means easy to make. “We tested the traditional rum-based recipe for months and came out with a much lighter version.” Her recipe uses a third less sugar and two-percent fat milk to offer canelés at 25 to 35 calories each. “Instead of rum, I chose a healthier vanilla base,” says Legros.
Between 25 and 35 calories each, Legros' canelés are a guilt-free accompaniment to your morning coffee.
Today, she carries more than 20 different flavors, both sweet and savory: caramel, pistachio, and rose water may be favorites, but the show stoppers are the truffle version made with real truffle paste and the chorizo and Comté cheese combination.
“I specialize in bite-size canelés because I wanted to create a no-guilt treat to snack on with my coffee,” she says, but the savory ones pair quite well with wine, and even Champagne.
Just as some of the best French crus, the canelé originates from Bordeaux and is rumored to have been invented by nuns in the 15th century. Today, they’re in the midst of such a comeback throughout Europe that Wallpaper magazine recently branded it the next "cult cake."
And it was superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten who, when he first tasted Legros' canelés, pushed her to launch her business. In 2009, encouraged by his reaction, and pregnant with her third child, she started baking them at home and then selling them online to the likes of Nespresso around the country.
The outside dark and carmelized, Legros' canelés have a custard-like interior.
“After a few years, it became crucial to create a boutique where customers could taste the cakes,” says Legros. So she sought the services of SDG Design, a small interior design firm, which specialized in the hospitality industry. “Originally, canelés were made in copper molds,” says principal Sibyl de Germay, “so we created a warm-toned interior using mini-molds as decorative pieces throughout.”
From the street, Canelé by Celine is a bit of a sensory overdose, between the clouds of sweet steam and the sleek orange exterior, but based on the response so far, it’s all in good taste. 400 East 82nd St., 646-678-4124