While I was in Paris, I was determined to get my hands of some cannelés. I'd never seen any in the Bay Area and I was intrigued by these little cake-like treats that were cooked in very expensive copper molds (yes, I know you can buy silicon molds, but they don't caramelize the outer shell of the pastry).
Thankfully, in Paris, cannelés are not in short supply. You can get them at almost any patisserie, including the famous shops, like Pierre Hermé and Ladurée. While I samples cannelés all over Paris, some of the best I had were at tiny hole-in-the-wall pastry shops, where the baked goods were fresh and the patissier beamed proudly over their work.
Still, though, I wanted more. I asked the ladies at Librairie Gourmande where I should go to sample some of the city's best cannelés, and she sent me to Baillardran a chain shop that supposedly sells real Bordeaux cannelés throughout France. As luck would have it, there was a Baillardran just east of Paris, in a little suburb that I could easily access by the Metro. So I made an afternoon of it.
I walked into Baillardran and surveyed the goods. There were cannelés everywhere -- piled into mountains, arranged in circles, and patiently waiting in baking trays. They come in three sizes -- small, medium and large -- and you can also buy them at varying levels of "doneness," similar to a steak. I liked the variety, which I wasn't expecting to find in a shop that sells only a single kind of pastry, but the options were exciting. I bought a few cannelés in the "medium" style, browned but not burnt, and then indulged in a handful of aluminum-lined copper cannelé molds, which they were selling for surprisingly cheap.
I sat down and took a bite. The texture was what I expected: firm and gently smoky on the outside, tender and luscious on the inside, like little caramelized nuggets of soft bread pudding. These cannelés were more rummy-tasting than the others I'd had, adding a liquory tang to each bite. I ate one, then another, and then the final one that I'd expected to save until the next day. Alas, they were just too good to hold onto for more than a few minutes!