While most people are still asleep at 4.30am, Adrien Bochel is already in the kitchen baking canelés or mini specialty cakes from the French region of Bordeaux. He's preparing for a busy weekend at the local Kirribilli, Tramsheds, and Manly markets in Sydney.
But the early wake ups are all worth it for the former lawyer, who traded his corporate life just over two years ago to follow his passion to become a chef.
Since he began his new career, he has worked and trained alongside the likes of Guillaume Brahimi, two Michelin star Parisian chef Kei Kobayashi, and Kevin Solomon at Cottage Point Inn.
During his pursuit to do something new, he co-founded with his wife, Cecile, Sacrebleu!, a market stall, wholesale and catering business that specialises in canelés.
"After working in fine dining restaurants, you're always looking for something that's close to perfection and canelés is one where you have to be perfect; you can't ever do it half-arsed, which is why we decided to specialise in canelés," he tells SBS.
"After working in fine dining restaurants, you're always looking for something that's close to perfection."
The true origins of canelés, Bochel says, traces back to the 16th century. "Legends has it that nuns would use leftover ingredients, such as egg yolks from local wine producers — who used only the egg whites to filter their wine — to make the canelés before selling them to raise money to feed poor children," he says.
For the Frenchies, canelés bring back fond childhood memories of home, and holidaying and visiting family in Bordeaux.
"It's nothing like anything else out there. It has such a specific texture and taste. It's neither a muffin or cupcake," Bochel says.
"When people first try it, they are surprised by the crunchiness of the caramelised crust and the contrasting texture on the insider, which is very tender and custard-like with subtle flavours of vanilla and rum."
He adds the taste of a canelé can also evolve over time. "If you taste it fresh from the oven it will taste differently to if you've left it out for longer. The rum and vanilla flavour gets stronger over time. Whereas if you eat it fresh from the oven, you'll notice the caramelised crust more."
Made using only a few ingredients – flour, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, rum, and vanilla – canelés appear deceivingly simple. But Bochel understands first-hand that the cooking process is "quite labour intensive", leaving plenty of room for error.
"You have to think about how long you want to rest the batter, how long to cook it, and at what temperature do you cook it," he says.
"It's quite challenging…but even when I think I’ve got the process right, sometimes you're surprised because it doesn't turn out."
When things do go right in the kitchen, Bochel says it's because of the French canelé copper moulds. "Copper is a very good heat conductor, which helps get the perfect caramelisation we want on the crust."
In its original form, canelés are flavoured with rum and vanilla. But for the husband-and-wife duo they see it as a "blank canvas" to experiment with flavours, such as orange and Grand Marnier, Nutella, raspberry coulis, or salted caramel.
"With canelés, the possibilities are endless. They may be the new macarons," Bochel says.
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Photographs supplied by Sacrebleu!
French meringues are the most forgiving to make of the meringue family, and have a long shelf life once sealed. Leave them whole, or crumble them over ice cream or whipped cream to serve.