I was walking through the East Goshen Farmers Market, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, when I came across a small stand selling pastries that looked a bit too serious to be displayed in such a casual setting. After ascertaining that they were canelé (ca-neuh-lay), a French pastry from Bordeaux, I recalled reading a short article in PhillyMag that gushed over the treats. At the time, I had made a note to get my hands on some, but I guess the mental post-it fell to the floor. Still, here I was, staring them in the face. Were they the same ones lauded by PhillyMag, or some imposter? I wanted my first canelé experience to be the real deal, but had no time to research. I took the plunge.
As it turns out, canelé are not exactly widely available in the US. In our area, as far as I can tell, there are a number places that sell them, but only one who makes them: Market Day Canelé. At the very least, the bakery run by canelé zealot Gil Ortale (who appears to be developing quite the online reputation with his religious views on the subject) is the only Philly-based bakery making these with any level of seriousness. Ortale spent months honing his recipe and (perhaps more importantly) technique before bringing these goodies to market, and once admitted that he “cried gallons of tears over them” before finally being satisfied enough to share with the public.
Ortale’s obsession is our gain; his canelé, which look kinda like mini bundt cakes, are absolutely fabulous. So simple, yet so complex and unique. The outer crust, which is often described as “deeply caramelized”, is perhaps even lightly burned, and slightly crisp, with a pleasant bitterness that cuts through the sweetness of the custard-like interior. It’s quite amazing that the interior looks an awful lot like a regular old cake, yet is ever so much more moist. Subtle notes of Tahitian vanilla and citrus lead the way, with the occasional splash of rum to wash it down. All in all, the pastry is a perfectly balanced dance of divergent but complimentary flavors and textures.
Market Day’s canelé are available in packages of two for $5; for the same price, a 6-pack of mini-canelés can also be acquired. Though I haven’t tried the minis, it seems that the balance between bitter crust and sweet interior, both in flavor and in texture, would not be the same, but perhaps I’ll be surprised. The bakery also sells caramels and both sweet and savory tarts, with varying availability. They can be found at East Goshen Farmers Market every other Thursday (check the website each week), and Bryn Mawr Farmers Market on Saturdays, as well as a number of other places in the Philly area.