Monday, August 11, 2014

My sweetest memory from Sint Maarten

French pastry on s/v Dee
I was so happy when my trial baking was successful that I couldn’t wait to share my happiness. I tried canelés de Bordeaux in Sint Maarten. I didn’t know about this delicious sweet treat when we visited France. When we sailed to Sint Maarten from United States Virgin Islands we anchored in Simpson Bay. The bakery where we tried canelé is called “Piece of Cake”! It’s located in the area of Simpson Bay Marina on the main street. The owners are a young couple, a man from Lebanon who was born in Canada and ran away from the cold to have his holidays in Sint Maarten where he met a French woman who is now his wife. When we explored the island we didn’t see any patisserie serving this cake, not even in the French side. Maybe there are but we couldn’t find it and we weren’t looking either. The last day before we left the Dutch Islands I bought all the canelés they had in “Piece of Cake”, the owner told me that it could last for 4 days if we keep it in the fridge. It didn’t last for even two days after we sailed off the islands! We ate it all!

Canelé from "Piece of Cake"
What is the canelés de Bordeaux? 
A canelé is a tiny French pastry made from egg, sugar, milk, butter, flour, rum and vanilla. That’s all the ingredients for a magnificent taste. It’s soft inside but a bit crunchy from the caramelized crust outside.  It was invented in 18th Century by the nuns of the convent of the Annonciades of Bordeaux, today called Convent of Mercy. It appears in many different names in French history “Canaule”, “Canaulé” or “Canaulet” but the modern one is called Canelé. No one knows why…

How it tastes? 
By the looks, dark, burn or not very inviting to try but a canelé tastes smooth, lightly sweet, a crusty layer all melting in your palate. It’s just like baked custard but with a hint of milk and butter and a note of rum. 

Why I like it?
You can have it for breakfast, tea time, dessert after dinner or just a sweet treat as many times as you want. The taste is smooth and not too sweet. I like sweets but I can’t eat too many spoons of chocolate cake loaded with sugar. This pastry is amazing and it matches with all kinds of drinks, tea, coffee, wine, champagne, or even beer! 

Any secret? 
I learnt when I tried to find the recipe that the secret of the great taste are the tools! In order to make the caramelized crust feeling outside and soft pudding-like in the centre, we need to buy copper moulds just like the traditional way of French patisserie. But, I wouldn’t mind if it doesn’t cost 25 USD each small piece of copper mould! Of course, poor sailors like us can’t afford 25 USD small piece of cooking tool but it can’t stop us from enjoy eating good food made on board of S/V Dee. I purchase the mini pops tray for 12 USD from Kmart. Having kitchen ware in the boat, please remember to buy multi-functions tools, I plan to use it for small cupcake or other mini cake for later on. Some says that they use silicone, I think it should be ok as well but both Teflon and silicone moulds will not give you the original shape of canelé like the copper does.

What about the recipe? 
I found a recipe from the internet which I followed I think this is the only recipe that I follow exactly everything and it turned out good. For sure I will keep this recipe and keep baking it!
What I bake
Don’t be scared by the cooking time! It really takes more than an hour for our gas oven on S/V Dee. The baking time depends on the oven, but I believe that the soft touch inside of the cake came from the slow cooking. Then, if you want to have a delicious homemade French pastry, just be patient. I put it to bake and do something else to kill the time, the only thing that bothers me is the galley becoming melting hot! Try to check the cake from time to time; when the surface is dark brown it’s time to remove from the oven.

Then after you done baking, it’s time to sit back in the sofa and have “a Monaco”! Enjoy!


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