Friday, March 6, 2009

Saturday, and Beyond

I bought my first waffle maker in the early 90s. Why did I buy a waffle maker? I'm not all that sure, actually. I think it was because I'd read a recipe for raised waffles (as in, made-with-yeast-waffles, not resurrected waffles) and wanted to try it. In those days, I was the sort of person who bought a kitchen gadget just to make a specific recipe (as in, a youngish person who has not yet overstuffed their kitchen with gadgets).

As I recall, I carefully researched options and decided upon a classic round waffler with nonstick finish. I think I sunk about 50 bucks into that waffler, which was a lot of money back then. Five batches of waffles later, I finally realized that "nonstick finish" does not mean "waffles will not stick." Even though I kept spraying the grids with cooking spray, it still took some time for that sucker to build up what I like to call seasoning or, to be even more euphemistic, patina. I'm still not sure what kept me from carrying out my threat to toss the waffler out the window, but I'm glad that I hung in there. Waffle batter #6 was my lucky batch; we've been waffling ever since. (Note: if you do not currently own a waffle maker and are considering buying one, don't be put off by this story. I'm sure that waffler coating technology has advanced in the last 15 years).

My waffle-making made great technical advances when I discovered the book, "Waffles: From Morning To Midnight" by Dorie Greenspan. Here I learned that, by heating one's oven to ~180 F, already-cooked waffles could be kept warm and waiting. Thus it was possible to make a whole batch and then serve everyone at once, including the waffle slave. This opened up a whole new realm of waffle consumption...for a couple of years, we'd get together every Saturday morning with friends to watch cartoons, drink too much coffee, and take turns making breakfast. (We called it the CAB club for caffeine, animation, and breakfast). When our turn was up we'd often make waffles.

After its CAB heyday, the waffle maker sat idle for a few years. I rediscovered it when my son was ready to start eating solid foods and I wanted to include more whole grains in his Recommended Daily Serving Of Starch. So, I started tinkering around with a couple of recipes from Ms. Greenspan's book. To be honest, though, there wasn't that much tinkering to be done; a couple of her recipes almost fit the bill as-is.

I usually have either buttermilk or plain yogurt in my fridge, so I developed a recipe for each one. (Buttermilk comes in low- and non-fat options; either will work. I usually buy whole milk and whole-milk yogurt but I think you could sub in the low-fat versions). I like a waffle that stands up to its syrup, so both recipes produce a fairly sturdy waffle although the yogurt one is a bit softer. Buttermilk will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator; if you don't want to make waffles again the next weekend, try this recipe for Brown Soda Bread from Bon Appetit to use up the extra.

Each recipe makes 5-7 waffles, depending on how much batter you need for your waffle maker. (Mine takes a little more than 1/2 cup per waffle). Leftover waffles can be frozen in zip-top bags and reheated for quick breakfasts during the week - pop them into the toaster for a few minutes, or microwave them, or wrap them in foil and put them in your diaper bag for an on-the-go toddler snack. (My son eats them, still frozen, straight from the freezer). Waffles make great snacks for toddlers because they don't crumble and make a big mess.

A note about oats: I always have "old-fashioned" rolled oats in the pantry because that's what I use to make granola. (Yes, I do have four different kinds of salt, but I only buy one kind of oats...well actually two because there's the steel-cut oats for oatmeal, but I digress). I soak the oats in milk (or whatever liquid the recipe calls for) just so that there aren't any dry oat bits in the final product. The soaking step is not essential. And, if you have "quick" rolled oats, the soaking isn't necessary. Just don't use "instant" oats. (Actually, I've never tried these recipes with instant oats, so I don't know what would happen - if you do try it, let me know).

And another note about sweeteners: I like to use maple syrup, but you can use honey, sugar, brown sugar...whatever you like. You can even skip the sweetener altogether, as I found out last weekend when I forgot to add the syrup: the waffles still taste pretty OK, especially if you put syrup on top. The vanilla and cinnamon add a hint of sweetness on their own.

Multigrain Buttermilk Waffles
Adapted from “Waffles from Morning to Midnight” by Dorie Greenspan

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant oats)
½ cup all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1½ cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
Optional: 2 medium-size ripe bananas, thickly sliced crosswise or 1 cup blueberries, washed and drained

1. Place the buttermilk in a medium bowl. Add the oats and stir well; set aside for the oats to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (Letting the oats soften in the buttermilk makes them chewier in the waffles).

2. Preheat the oven to 190 F. Place the oven rack in the upper and lower third of the oven and set a couple of cooling racks on them.

3. Melt the butter in a glass dish in the microwave (about 30 seconds) on in a small pot on the stove.

4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg with a whisk.

5. Crack the eggs and add them to the bowl with the oats and buttermilk. Add the maple syrup and vanilla to the same bowl. Use a fork to beat the eggs together, then stir everything in the bowl together.

6. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to mix and fold everything together until it is almost completely mixed. Drizzle the butter over the batter, add the optional fruit, and fold it in.

7. Let the batter rest for a few minutes while you preheat the waffle iron. The batter will puff up and increase in volume; it will become quite thick.

8. Lightly grease the grids on the waffle iron or spray with cooking spray. Scoop out a generous ½ cup of batter onto the waffle iron and use the measuring cup or a spatula to spread the batter over the grid. The batter is very thick; you will probably need ~1/3 more than the manufacturer’s recommended amount of batter for each waffle.

9. As each waffle is cooked, transfer it to the oven rack to keep warm until serving time. This recipe makes a sturdy waffle, but the oven-resting step can help to crisp up a soft waffle.

Multigrain Honey-Yogurt Waffles
Also adapted from “Waffles from Morning to Midnight” by Dorie Greenspan

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Proceed as in the above recipe, letting the oats soak in the milk while you prepare the other ingredients.

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