Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 7:33AM
Cameron Blazer in food, recipe, waffles

Photo © 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage Industrialist

Friends, I have sacrificed in the name of waffles. And by sacrificed, I mean, I have made waffles every weekend for a month in a quest to suss out the greatest home-made waffle I could make. Which is also to say I have gained 5 pounds in a month. 5 tasty, tasty pounds.

At the beginning of my quest for the perfect home-made waffle, I thought I'd simply google a few recipes, pick the one that sounded best, and wafflevana would be mine.

I wanted a waffle that would live up to the waffle I remember buying from a shop in Bruges, Belgium, nearly 20 years ago. A waffle that lives in my memory as a light, sweet, crunchy delight the likes of which I had never tasted before.

In reviewing recipes for Belgian waffles, they fall into two camps: "true" Belgian waffles (Gauffres de Liège), which are made from a yeasty dough, rather than a batter, and studded with Belgian pearl sugar; and buttermilk-based batter waffles chemically leavened with baking soda and baking powder. In spite of my affection for the Proustian waffle memory of things past, Saturday morning is not a time that I am interested in messing with yeast dough, and even my profligate food spending tendencies are offended by the cost of imported Belgian sugar. So the Gauffres de Liège were out. But I knew I wouldn't be satisfied with the flat flavor of a traditional buttermilk batter.

The first recipe I found that piqued my interest was from Serious Eats. The author longed similarly for the yeasty flavor of true Belgian waffles. Her solution? Add beer to the batter. GENIUS! So I tried the recipe. And the flavor was great. But the texture...eh. A bit leaden. Insufficiently crispy. Back to the drawing board.

Next I found a recipe at Fine Cooking that had very good bones. A buttermilk batter, leavened with small amounts of baking soda and buttermilk...and beaten egg whites. GENIUS strikes again! Still, there were a few things about the recipe that I knew weren't going to suit me. It was insufficiently sweet: I like a sweet waffle, so that I can add a minimum of soggifying syrup. And it called for all purpose flour (AP). With AP in a batter like this, I always run the risk of overmixing, so I decided to replace the AP with pastry flour.

With my new recipe in hand, there were only two modifications left to make: the first was simple—add back the beer! Where the Fine Cooking recipe calls for milk, I have substituted beer. And while I haven't given in to the Belgian pearl sugar, I did make a discovery in the sugar aisle that I think notches the waffle recipe that follows from great to waffle perfection: maple sugar—large pearls of maple syrup reduced to its solid sugar state—studs the batter and melts in the waffle maker in sugary pockets of deliciousness.

The thirty minutes of effort this recipe requires on a lazy Saturday or Sunday is totally worth it. When you factor in the awesomeness quotient of being able to reheat the leftovers in the toaster on a harried Wednesday morning, it's almost crazy NOT to make these waffles. If you make these with the intention of reheating them in the toaster, I recommend a Belgian-style waffler rather than the traditional thin-style waffler, as I found the thicker Belgian ones held up better in my el-cheap-o toaster.

Light, Crispy Waffleheaven
(adapted from Fine Cooking & Serious Eats)
3/4 c pastry flour (or 1/2 c cake flour + 1/4 c all purpose flour)
1/4 c cornstarch (or rice flour)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
3/4 c buttermilk
1/4 c beer (or, if you are more virtuous than I, milk)
6 T butter, melted
1 large egg, separated
3 T granulated sugar
3 T maple sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 200°F and heat the waffle maker. This recipe works equally well in Belgian-style and traditional thin waffle makers (subject to the above caveat regarding reheating).

Mix flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and maple sugar in a medium bowl. Combine the buttermilk, milk, and butter in another bowl; mix in the egg yolk and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg white almost to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the peaks are just firm. Avoid the temptation to overbeat, as over-beaten whites get mealy and will be difficult to incorporate into the batter.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed (some lumps are fine—just no lumps bigger than a dime). Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter in dollops and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated.

Pour the batter onto the hot waffle maker and cook until the waffle is crisp and brown.* Set finished waffles directly on the oven rack to keep them warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining batter, holding the waffles in the oven (don't stack them, as this can lead to the dreaded soggified waffles). When all the waffles are cooked, serve with butter and maple syrup. Or, if you like to eat each meal as though it's your last, serve with sweetened whipped cream and maple syrup.

*Avoid the urge to overfill the waffle maker—your cleaning crew will thank you, and the texture of your waffles will benefit from the breathing room; also, avoid the temptation to latch your waffle-maker—though it may aid minimally in browning, latching the waffle maker makes for poorly risen, dense waffles because it traps the leavening power of steam inside the machine.

Article originally appeared on Various and Sundry Things (http://cottage-industrialist.com/).
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