Waffles 101

 

Along with stand mixers and fondue sets, waffle irons are more than likely collecting dust in a corner of many of our pantries. Waffles get a bad rap as ‘food that’s not good for you,’ and ‘a pain to make’; nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, a store bought, frozen waffle is an abomination, along with generic table syrup, and both are to be avoided like the plague. A homemade waffle, on the other hand, topped with delicious things is a delight in every way.

 

Batter or dough has been cooked between two hot plates for hundreds of years. The earliest recipe written in English that I’m aware of appeared in the 1600s, and paid proper homage to the Dutch ‘wafel’, that from the Frankish ‘wafla’, which harken back as far as the 1100s and meant honeycomb or cake. Waffles started out life as derivations of the communion wafer, thin, crisp cakes not unlike the modern pizzelle, still quite popular in Italy. These earliest versions were almost always round and made of grain flour and water, just as communion wafers were and are. As such, they weren’t particularly big on taste, so flavorings like honey or florally infused water were introduced, such as rose and orange blossom. It wasn’t until the 1300s that a recipe included eggs, wine, flour, and salt, but did not contain leavening of any note. Another hundred years would pass before irons notably different in pattern from the communion wafer, or oublie, would appear. These new versions, the French fer à oublie and the Belgian wafelijzer, were square or rectangular, and set with an even grid pattern; the space between these early irons was still rather thin, leading to a finished product likely akin to the modern Brussels waffle. Another couple of centuries would pass before recipes routinely included yeast, sweeteners, and spices added directly to the batter. Leavening was the innovation that allowed waffles to become the thicker, more appealing treat we enjoy to this day.

Waffle makers have advanced leaps and bounds from the versions we had as kids. There are makers that’ll do anywhere from 2 to 8 at a pop; some are deeper and rotate, to specialize in the thicker Belgian version. There are timers and dark-to-light controls as well. I opted for a simple maker with a light to indicate ready status, and no other bells and whistles. If you keep an eye on your maker while it’s working, it’s a safe bet that somewhere around 6 to 8 minutes in, when the steam output has diminished and you’re smelling nice, toasty cereal notes, your waffle will be done. After you’re used to yours for a while, it’ll be second nature that requires little conscious thought. Non stick is nice, and can now be found in non-toxic, environmentally friendly versions; it’s great to have, but does not mean you don’t still need a little something sprayed or wiped on before you cook.

Waffle recipes are pretty straightforward; once you’ve got your ratios down, they lend themselves well to experimentation. A few points, illustrated with the recipes below.

Thicker, lighter styles, like Belgian, want the eggs separated and the whites beaten and folded in to achieve that end.

The same process will help heavier, gluten poor flours generate a lighter, less leaden final product.

Vital wheat gluten is a fantastic tool to help those heavier flours end up as fluffy waffles.

Leavening can usually be achieved adequately with just baking powder, but judicious use of both powder and soda works just fine as well, especially with heavier batters. Yeast raised waffles take longer, but reward with a complex, tangy note that faster leaveners just can’t duplicate.

Here are a few variants to spark your creative juices. Any of these recipes can be made savory if you wish. Thinly sliced green onions, chive, or other herbs can be added to the batter, or incorporated into toppings made with sour cream, cremé fraîche, crema, or Greek yoghurt. Chutney, salsa, mostarda, or sauteéd vegetables are equally delicious, as is a waffle topped with an over easy egg, crumbled bacon, and melted cheese. If you add veggies or fruit directly to a batter, consider sweating them in a sauté pan first, to reduce the amount of moisture and keep your waffles from getting soggy or falling apart.

 

For topping sweet waffles, it’s awfully hard to beat real maple syrup and butter.

You can substitute whole wheat pastry, or whole grain white flour, one to one for any recipe calling for all purpose. Subbing 2% milk for whole works, and almond or soy milks make fine alternatives as well. Coconut oil makes a great sub for butter, as will olive, avocado, or grapeseed oils for savory waffle recipes. Honey, agave nectar, or less refined sugars are also fine alternatives. Fresh fruit is always a delightful topping for any variant.

 

With modern waffle makers, it’s best to pour a ladle or two of batter into the middle of the iron, enough spread to within a couple inches so of the edge; gently closing the lid will finish the job.

Each recipe will make 6-8 waffles. They will store well short term, and are delicious toasted the next day.

Yeast Raised Waffles
2 Cups all purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 Cups whole Milk
2 large Eggs
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 package active dry Yeast, (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
 
In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk and butter; stir until melted and bubbles start to form on the edge of the pan. Add sugar and salt and stir steadily until melted and hot but not simmering. Remove from heat and let stand until lukewarm.
In a warmed mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm water and yeast. Let stand until it foams, about 5 minutes.
Add warm milk mixture to yeast and stir.
Whisk in flours, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand until doubled in volume, at least two to three hours at room temp, or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat waffle iron.
Whisk eggs and baking soda into the batter.
Cook according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.

 

Belgian Waffles

2 Cups all purpose Flour

2 large Eggs

2 Cups Whole Milk

1/2 Cup unsalted Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

3-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Cup fresh Strawberries

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Rinse and slice strawberries.

Separate eggs into two small dishes.

Melt butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder.

In a second mixing bowl, lightly beat egg yolks until frothy. Add milk, melted butter, and vanilla, and whisk thoroughly to incorporate.

Add wet to dry mix and whisk gently until just combined.

Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold gently into the batter.

Cook in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.

Serve topped with strawberries.

 

 

Buttermilk Waffles

2 cups all purpose Flour

2 Cups Buttermilk

2 large Eggs

1/3 Cup unsalted Butter

2 Tablespoons Sugar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch Sea Salt

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Melt butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to incorporate. In a separate bowl, whisk and combine thoroughly buttermilk and butter; add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk again.

Add wet mix to dry and whisk gently until just combined; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Cook until golden brown, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

Buckwheat Waffles

2 Cups Buckwheat Flour

2 Large Eggs

1 1/2 Cups whole Milk

1/2 Cup Greek Yoghurt

1/2 Cup unsalted Butter

2 Tablespoons Bob’s Vital Wheat Gluten

2 Tablespoons Honey

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Sea Salt

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Melt butter.

In a large bowl, add buckwheat flour, vital wheat gluten, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and combine.

Separate eggs into two small dishes.

Add yolks to a second mixing bowl, and whisk until frothy. Add the sugar, butter, milk, and yogurt and combine thoroughly.

Whisk egg whites until they raise to soft peaks.

Add wet mix to dry and whisk gently until just combined.

Add one half of the egg white and fold them gently into the batter; do the same with the second half.

Cook until golden brown, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

Whole Grain Waffles

2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

2 large Eggs

1 1/2 Cups whole Milk

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1/4 Cup Butter

2 tablespoons Honey or Agave Nectar

2 teaspoons BakingPowder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Pinch Sea Salt

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Melt butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk and combine thoroughly buttermilk and butter; add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk again.

Add wet mix to dry and whisk gently until just combined; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Cook until golden brown, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

 

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