Young and Hungry

Philly Baker Sets the Record Straight on Canelés

market philly canele_opt

Ortale's canelé, which took him months to perfect

Gil Ortale, the man behind Market Day Canelé in Philadelphia, almost went hooligan when he saw last week's Y&H post on the classic Bordeaux pastry. He was none too pleased about the fussy, highfalutin tone of the video I posted and wanted to set the record straight.

Ortale wrote me privately and posted a response on his Philly Market Cafe blog. I don't have the proper knowledge to referee this fight, but Ortale, according to this Philadelphia City Paper piece, certainly has the bona fides to call out Scott Hocker, the Tasting Table editor in San Francisco who narrates the video. Check out this passage from the City Paper story:

If you read the Philly Market Cafe blog, you know author Gil Ortale worked on his recipe for the traditional Bordeaux pastry canelé for months before offering them for sale as Market Day Canelé (say cahn-eh-lay). “I cried gallons of tears over them,” said Ortale in a telephone interview. The notoriously fickle pastries, which unite a crunchy, almost burnt shell with a yielding custard-like interior flavored with vanilla and rum, require recipe adjustment for humidity, different flours and maybe even the phase of the moon.

In his blog post, Ortale offers a six-point rebuttal to the video and its approach to canelé, Writes Ortale:

  1. A sanctimonious mien will taint your canelé batter.
  2. Candles and canelés are different objects. Use just a film of wax, not enough to set a wick.
  3. Scott is mistaken when, with regard to silicone, he whines "no textural contrast whatsoever."
  4. In my view, baking 12 canele a day is really not experience enough to hold forth on the subtleties of the canelé.
  5. Finessing the batter is a bit more involved than just steeping a few beans in milk. She uses enough rum so that you might imagine that you taste it.
  6. Scott has checked out the canelés in Bordeaux. So what? Has he sampled our fare here in Philly?

I e-mailed Ortale and asked if he'd share his canelé recipe, since we seem to be stuck with frozen Trader Joe's knock-offs here in the District. (I will also check out the Tryst suggestion, too.)

Ortale wrote back to say that as far as recipes go, "I have found that the recipe is not so important as the technique. The process you see in Scott's vid is a good one. There are plenty of recipes online. I first made canelè using the recipe at Zucchini and chocolate. I tweaked it a little bit but it works perfectly as is.  There is a vid here where you can see a famous Bordeaux baker in each step of the process."

Y&H sends his thanks to Ortale for his righteous indignation and his righteous information. When in Philly, you can find his canelés at these locations.

Photo courtesy of Gil Ortale

  • Kim Chi Ha

    that looks reallllly good.

  • dan riley

    You can't get them at Tryst anymore. They (and Open City) ran them as a special for a month or two, but people didn't seem to "get it". I think myself and a few others wept quietly the day they disappeared. I talked to Sol, the pastry chef, and he was perplexed as to why they didn't catch on. He mentioned that some people mistook the carmelized exterior for "burnt"...fools.

  • melissa

    That's good to know re. Sol. He was so freaking excited when he first made them. I wonder if he'd make them again for you, Tim?

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  • Marge

    I just read this, nearly a year later, & would like to discourage anyone from the Trader Joe's frozen canele knock-offs which you mention. Metropolitan Bakery has been selling canele for years. They were great until Gil came along & bested them, & they are still delicious (but slightly different) if you have to satisfy a craving between market days.

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  • Stephane

    No need to go to Philly.
    Visit for your fresh Canelés delivery in the DC area