Waffles Take Center Stage

Sunday June 28, 2015

photo courtesy of Sunbeam-the perfectly square waffle iron of my youth

I think we are in a waffle renaissance. Not pancakes. Waffles. The food of the kids on the weekend. Waffle are just everywhere and they are begging to be reinvented anew.

Anyone watching the HBO special miniseries Mildred Pierce got a view of waffle making on Mildred’s first night opening her restaurant, which specialized in only one type of dish: fried chicken and waffles. She was frying chicken on the stove and making waffles at the same time. When she zips out to the dining room, leaving the stove unattended, I was panting: “what about those waffles! they are going to burn.” And indeed they did.

Not two weeks later, Martha Stewart had a show making waffles with the exact same waffle maker as Mildred; a seriously heavy and ulitarian model used in restaurants. Martha noted that when she bought her new house, two of these waffle machines were still in the kitchen. She said she makes waffles every week in them (in her spare time of course). She made a fancy waffle with corn in it, but any good plain waffle will be a nice bed for fried chicken pieces, just like down South. I notice chicken and waffles are experiencing a resurgence of popularity with that old time appeal of comfort food.

Here are two of my favorite go-to homemade waffle recipes. One raised with yeast, the other mix-it-on-the-spot baking powder waffle. Get out the waffle iron!

Waring stainless steel model/Amazon.com

In the 1980s, John Hudspeth opened a breakfast restaurant called Bridge Creek on the corner of the same block as Chez Panisse in Berkeley.  The restaurant looked like a quaint two-story house and I would eat there every time I visited Berkeley.  I was outright astonished that this restaurant served the best from-scratch morning food I have ever encountered anywhere.

The menu consultant was Marion Cunningham, local author of the revised editions of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  I would start with a Citrus Fizz, fresh grapefruit or orange juice with some sparkling water added, move on to crisp waffles with lots of maple syrup, sausage patties and melon slices, and as much hot chocolate or coffee I could muster at the end.  I was determined to eat my way through the entire menu.  The waffles were not like anything I had ever tasted and I yearned for the recipe.  They ended up being a Fannie Farmer standard from 1896 and have become somewhat of a legend in the Bay Area waffle hall of fame.

Yeasted waffles are not as common as their quick cousins that use baking powder for leavening, but the time needed for mixing is the same, and an overnight rest creates a spectacular flavored/textured waffle that is ready to bake first thing in the morning.  My version uses a bit of brown rice flour.

Delicious Raised Waffles

Makes 8 waffles, depending on iron size

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons SAF fast-acting yeast
  • 2 cups milk, slightly warmed
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions

yeasted waffles made in a round waffle iron with standard size grids

1.  The night before serving, begin the waffle batter.  Place the warm water in a large bowl or deep plastic container (the batter will double as it sits overnight).  Sprinkle with the yeast and let stand 5 minutes to dissolve and become bubbly.

2.  Add the milk, melted butter, salt, sugar, and flours, and beat with a whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.

3.  Heat the waffle iron to medium-high or according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Brush the waffle iron grids with oil.  Beat the eggs, baking soda, and baking powder into the batter with a whisk until evenly incorporated.  Ladle 1/3 cup batter into the center of the iron, close the lid, and cook until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes.  If there is any leftover batter, it can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 days.

the heart shaped waffle iron is the next most popular after the Belgium waffle style

I used to use a Vitantonio waffle maker imported from Italy and make all my waffles with the larger grids.  It is a wonderful piece of equipment and I don’t suffer for it not having a non-stick surface. I just sprayed with vegetable cooking spray before heating it up and it became seasoned with use. Now I just got a brand new Cuisinart waffle maker from Amazon.com with the nonstick grids that is so easy to handle and a bit lighter in weight than the old stainless steal models, and it even is able to be stored sideways in the cupboard when not in use. Buttermilk is that special liquid ingredient that makes waffles tender and flavorful. I add a small proportion whole wheat flour and cornmeal to add some texture and nutrition to an all white flour waffle. Serve these waffles with lots of sliced fresh strawberries, a bowl of warm applesauce, and a bowl of equal parts of sour cream and plain yogurt mixed together piled on top. They are also a good bed for oven-fried chicken and waffles for Sunday night dinner.

My Best Buttermilk Waffles

Makes 6 to 8 large waffles, depending on iron size

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups cultured buttermilk

Instructions

a stack of buttermillk waffles

1.  Heat the waffle iron to medium-high or according to manufacturer’s instructions.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2.  With an electric mixer in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

3.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg yolks, melted butter, and buttermilk, stirring just until moistened and smooth.  Fold in the beaten egg whites with a spatula.

4.  Brush the waffle iron grids with oil or melted butter.  For each waffle, pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the grid.  Close the lid and bake until the waffle is crisp and well browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the iron with a fork to protect your fingers.  Serve immediately, or cool completely on racks, store in plastic bags, and freeze for up to 2 months.

Recipe

Oven-Fried Chicken for Chicken and Waffles

Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


Your Comments

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  1. Jennifer 17/07/2014 at 1:08 pm

    The vitantonio waffle maker looks like a great machine from what I have read. Do you know where I can find it in the US?

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