We'd intended to test cannele recipes using a silicone pan I'd bought at a Paris restaurant-supply store. But we got more adventurous after finding a couple of other types.
We tried each batter in each pan. A dozen or so rounds of canneles later, we had a clear winner: Silicone had knocked out metal.
Silicone, whether in the form of cannele molds, nonstick baking mats or muffin cups, takes away the guesswork of greasing. With canneles, this proved to be especially important. As canneles rise during baking, they need to climb up the sides of the mold without slipping to form their distinctive shape. But they also mustn't stick to the molds and refuse to come out intact.
We found metal molds needed quite a bit of oiling, which didn't allow them to get as dark and crunchy as canneles should be. Some recipes call for buttering silicone molds, but we found this extra step didn't work. It caused the canneles to slump or rise unevenly.
Silicone is also a better deal than metal. For the price of one Moul'Flex pan (which has eight molds), you'd get only four metal molds. And we preferred the standard size over the mini-cannele pan. Though it turned out cute little thimbles of pastry, the smaller size didn't retain the optimum texture of canneles.
The standard-size silicone molds give you the best of both worlds: traditional-looking and -tasting canneles, and the convenience of modern technology.
What's the difference: These individual cannele molds are made of aluminum. Old-fashioned equipment for the Luddite baker in you.
What we thought: We had to think too much. First, about greasing: Too little and the canneles stick; too much and they sink. Second, about math: Mold per mold, they cost about twice as much as silicone.
How much: $4.95 each, at Surfas in Culver City.
A better fit
What's the difference: The Moul'Flex cannele pan takes the Scout's motto seriously. Made of silicone, it's always prepared -- don't worry about greasing the pan's eight molds.
What we thought: This low-maintenance pan earns high marks for turning out great canneles inside and out.
How much: $17.75, at Surfas in Culver City; $19, online at www.theezycatalog.com/wci/silicone_mold_1.htm.
What's the difference: You can make canneles in the spirit of petits fours. This Elastomoule pan has 28 miniature molds, each able to hold a couple of tablespoons of batter.
What we thought: Tiny pastries are cute, but shrinking the cannele sacrifices its ratio of "crust" (not enough) to creamy interior. And though the pan is made of silicone, the canneles are prone to sticking if you don't grease the molds (and isn't that the point of silicone?).
How much: About $45, by special order at restaurant-supply stores; or $25 for an 18-mold silicone pan, at www.williams-sonoma.com (click on Catalog Quick Shop and type in item number 12-4504569).