Disappearing Trains and Tasty Cakes
Caiti and trains don’t go. It’s starting to feel like every time she has to make a journey by train, something goes wrong. Admittedly, it has been a daughter-induced problem occasionally ie cutting it too fine to get to the station in time, but generally it’s been out of her control. Trains have been cancelled for no reason, or delayed meaning that connections are missed, and this summer there was the terrible crash in Paris the day before she was meant to travel there, which you may recall ended up with me driving her up there and, thanks to Betty the satnav, taking on central Paris in the height of the tourist season on a Saturday!
And yesterday, poor old Caiti turned up at Bordeaux station for her train, only to find it wasn’t. It had apparently disappeared into thin air, and with no explanation. The next train scheduled for Limoges suddenly decided it wasn’t going to go all the way there, but eventually SNCF slipped up and provided a working train that got her to that city, a mere eight hours after starting her journey.
After a few frustrated and fed-up texts and phone calls in the early stages of this debacle, we decided to go down and collect her from Limoges since there was only one possible connection that would still get her to Guéret, the intended destination, but given that other trains were disappearing or not going where they were meant to, it was looking increasingly unlikely that she’d get there under SNCF’s steam. So Rors was collected early from school, deposited with his older brother with strict instructions as to what to feed to which animal when, and Chris and I took off. Limoges is under two hours by car, but it’s one of those tiring, not pleasant drives which is better off shared.
Anyway, cut a long story short, we safely retrieved Caiti. And she had goodies for us. Canelés de Bordeaux to be precise.
These are a specialty of Bordeaux. They date back three or four centuries it’s thought, to a convent in pre-Revolutionary France. The nuns prepared cakes called canalize made with donated egg yolks from local winemakers, who used only the whites to clarify their wines. However, if there were any records of this going on, they were lost during the upheaval of the Revolution.
Another story about them is that residents of Bordeaux, who lived along the docks, gleaned spilled flour from the loading areas and used it to make sweets for poor children. They baked these canelés in their copper moulds in the embers of a fire.
Canelés were in the process of disappearing from the menu last century, overshadowed by their more popular caramelised cousin – crème brûlée, but for whatever reason suddenly became very popular again. Everyone started churning them out. So much so that in 1985, 88 Bordeaux patissiers got together to form a confrérie to protect the original version of the canalé (A similar thing has happened with Creuse’s famous gâteau creusois.) Only these particular bakers produce the proper canalé (whose name they’ve changed from the historic cannel). They make canalés de Bordeaux, the official version of this cake, whilst everyone else makes cannelé bordelaise. All 88 official bakers are sworn to secrecy and the recipe is locked away in one of their vaults. However, it’s known that the ingredients are flour, eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla and rum, although the quantities are what you have to guess.
A batter is poured into the fluted moulds and baked for quite a while in a hot oven. Then the canalés are turned out and left to cool. The outside goes crunchy while the inside is a combination of pudding and spongy.
There are rather tasty and quite rich. And if you’re tempted, take your pick of the 2,044 recipes for them you’ll find here!