Waffles created with good butter, cream and eggs are perhaps the most seductive of the made-from-scratch hot breads. As the lightly sweetened and flavored batter bakes, it sends out an unmistakable invitation that need not be repeated.
Waffle batters are characteristically rich in eggs and butter, and cream or buttermilk is frequently used as the liquid. The fat in the egg yolks and butter makes them crisp. The dry ingredients (flour, leavening, salt, sugar and sometimes spices) are all sifted together, and the liquid ingredients (egg yolk, cream and/or milk, melted butter, extract) are added with a few swift strokes of the mixing spoon.
The flour mixture may be assembled a day ahead, covered tightly and left at room temperature. Even the liquid mixture (minus the melted butter) may be whisked together a day in advance, but it must be covered airtight and refrigerated, then returned to room temperature before the melted butter is stirred in.
Just-baked and still hot, waffles should be served with a buttery topping of moderate sweetness, a full-bodied syrup, and a side of stewed fruit or creamy sauce. Whipped compound butters, such as those that combine butter, flavorings and sugar, are delicious served with waffles; the butter softly melts into the waffle, releasing flavor. Syrups or thin syrupy sauces made up of brown sugar and citrus juices, and sauces that combine sour cream, fruit and some kind of liquid sweetener, are all good diversions from the plainer maple syrup.
As important as a good batter is the source and condition of the heat; most waffle irons need at least 15 minutes of preheating to build up the heat necessary to bake waffles to a tender crispness. They are ready to go when droplets of cold water bounce and dance along the surface of the grid. Directions supplied by some manufacturers suggest a shorter preheating time, which seems to inevitably ruin the first waffle.
For baking the waffles, cover two-thirds of the iron's surface, leaving a wide perimeter of the iron free of batter. This makes for a waffle of just about the right thickness, which bakes fully into the pan. It's easiest to use a small ladle or a metal 1/2-cup measure rather than a pitcher, which often does not distribute egg white-enriched batters evenly as it is poured. Once the batter is poured on, close the lid and bake the waffle for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it has turned a golden nut-brown color. Generally, an underbaked waffle will not peel off the iron easily, and in that case, close the cover and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.
Traditionally, waffles are baked in standard square unit grids holding four sections, or in a round sectioned iron; however, irons made up of heart or diamond-shaped sections, available at specialty kitchenware stores, are a luxurious option to the old-fashioned iron of simple geometric shape.
A properly seasoned waffle iron is a treasured piece of cooking equipment, and mine has been performing beautifully for many years. It's wise to condition a new waffle iron, even if it is coated with an instant-release Teflon or Silverstone finish, to keep waffles from sticking, to aid in heat distribution, and to keep the shape of the waffle as the batter is baked. Rub down both inside grids of the iron with a thin layer of solid shortening, heat the iron for 15 minutes, then turn it off. When cooled to room temperature, wipe off the shortening with a lint-free cloth.
Since waffle batters have enough fat to keep them supple, the iron does not need to be greased before each use. Afterward, just wipe off the surface with a hot, wrung-out sponge. Do not immerse the iron in water, scour the grid surface, or scrub with detergent. After a year or so of baking waffles, you may need to repeat the seasoning process if the waffles begin to stick.
Any of the following deluxe waffles may just establish a new breakfast tradition: BUTTERMILK WAFFLES (Makes 4 to 5 large waffles, serving 4)
The buttermilk keeps these waffles light and tender, and the melted butter contributes to the crisp quality they achieve on baking. The Buttery Maple Pecan Sauce, served as a pour-on accompaniment, is readily absorbed by the waffles, sweetening and moistening them at the same time. 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (stir briefly to aerate before measuring) 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature 3 jumbo eggs, at room temperature 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled FOR SERVING:
1 recipe Buttery Maple Pecan Sauce (recipe follows), or 1 recipe Buttery Orange-Brown Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)
Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the liquid mixture in a thin, steady stream, whisking the liquid into the flour as the liquid is added. Continue to whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes, while preheating the waffle iron.
For each waffle, cover the center two-thirds of the hot iron with the batter, close the cover and bake the waffle until nut brown. Continue to make more waffles, using up the batter.
Serve the waffles warm, accompanied by the Buttery Maple Pecan Sauce or the Buttery Orange-Brown Sugar Syrup. BUTTERY MAPLE PECAN SAUCE (Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
An uncomplicated sauce that tastes of good maple syrup and fresh butter. Walnuts, or very lightly toasted macadamia nuts, may replace the pecans. This sauce is equally at home atop waffles as it is poured over griddlecakes. 2 cups pure maple syrup 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Combine the maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Set over low heat and cook until the butter has dissolved completely, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is thoroughly hot, remove from the heat and stir in the pecans. Serve the sauce over just-baked waffles. BUTTERY ORANGE-BROWN SUGAR SYRUP (Makes about 1 cup)
When the brown sugar is heated with the orange juice and butter, it blends into a delicious syrupy "sauce," which glorifies pancakes or french toast (especially nice when made with raisin bread or raisin brioche), and, of course, waffles. 3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice Finely grated zest (orange part only) of 1 orange 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place the brown sugar, orange juice, zest and butter in a medium-size saucepan. Set over low heat and cook until the brown sugar dissolves completely. Bring to a simmer; simmer for 4 minutes.
Serve the syrup hot, poured over warm waffles. DELICATE VANILLA WAFFLES (Makes 4 to 5 waffles, serving 4)
The rich flavor of vanilla finds its way into these waffles in two forms -- in liquid extract, and in the scrapings of the tiny seeds from the vanilla bean pod. Both work together to create just the right subtle and enriching vanilla essence. While the waffles are baking, the vanilla scent emits an irresistible aroma, and draws every hungry eater to the waffle iron to watch them being baked. 1 3/4 cups unsifted cake flour (stir briefly to aerate before measuring) 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons sugar 3 jumbo eggs, separated, at room temperature 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1 cup light cream, at room temperature 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract Inner seed scrapings from a 4-inch piece of vanilla bean FOR SERVING:
1 recipe Vanilla Honey Butter (recipe follows) or 1 recipe Blueberry-Sour Cream Sauce (recipe follows)
Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and 3 tablespoons sugar into a mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, cream, milk, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the liquid mixture in a thin, steady stream, beating it into the sifted ingredients to form a batter. Continue to whisk until a smooth batter is formed.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks are formed; add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until the whites are very stiff and shiny. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites.
For each waffle, cover two-thirds of the hot iron with the batter (ladling the batter in the center, leaving the outer third edges free of batter). Close the cover and bake the waffle until nut brown. Continue to make more waffles, using up all of the batter.
Serve the waffles warm, with either the Vanilla Honey Butter or the Blueberry-Sour Cream Sauce. VANILLA HONEY BUTTER (Makes about 1 cup)
This is a blend of a few staple ingredients, which, when assembled, makes a sweet, fluffy butter. Little drifts of this butter melt into sweet puddles in and around the cavities of the baked waffles. The butter may be made a day ahead of serving, but should be whipped again just before serving. Vanilla Honey Butter is a fine topping for pancakes, too. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar 1/3 cup honey 2 tablespoons whipping cream blended with 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, at room temperature
Beat the softened butter on high speed in the bowl of a mixer for 3 minutes. On moderate speed, blend in the confectioners' sugar; beat for 2 minutes. Beat in the honey and continue beating until the mixture is light and the honey has blended in completely.
On low speed, beat in the cream-vanilla mixture; continue beating for 2 minutes.
Pile the butter into a crock or small terrine, or into a shallow bowl. Serve the butter with the warm, just-baked waffles. BLUEBERRY-SOUR CREAM SAUCE (Makes about 2 1/2 cups)
This sweet and creamy sauce is a pleasing change from all the creamed butter and sugar compounds that are usually presented as accompaniments to warm waffles. When plump blueberries are in season, remember this sauce; otherwise, use firm red or black raspberries in place of the blueberries (when using either of these, mound the sour cream-sugar-extract mixture in a bowl and scatter the berries on top instead of folding them in). 1 cup thick, fresh sour cream 1/2 cup liquid brown sugar (maple syrup may be substituted) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup blueberries, picked over, rinsed quickly, and drained on paper toweling
Blend together the sour cream and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Carefully fold the blueberries through the sour cream, taking care not to mash them.
Scrape the sauce into a serving bowl, and offer it along with the warm waffles. SPICE WAFFLES (Makes 4 to 5 large waffles, serving 4)
Generously enhanced by ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger, these waffles have a far more intricate flavor than those based on butter, eggs and flour alone.
About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped crystallized ginger may be blended through the waffle batter (before the egg whites are incorporated), which adds a second charge of flavor, in addition to the spices. 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (stir briefly to aerate before measuring) 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon ginger 7 tablespoons sugar 1 cup light cream, at room temperature 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature 3 jumbo eggs, separated, at room temperature 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled FOR SERVING:
1 recipe Cinnamon Butter (recipe follows), or 1 recipe Vanilla Honey Butter
Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and 3 tablespoons sugar into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, egg yolks, vanilla and butter. Pour the liquid mixture in a thin, steady stream, whisking the liquid into the flour as it is added. Beat the batter for 1 minute longer, or until it is smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks are formed; gradually beat in the 4 tablespoons sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the whites are quite stiff and stand in glossy peaks. Beat one-fourth of the whites into the batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites.
For each waffle, cover the center two-thirds of the preheated hot iron with the batter (leaving the outer third perimeter uncovered), close the cover and bake the waffle until a golden brown color. Continue to make more waffles, using up the batter.
Serve the waffles warm, accompanied by the Cinnamon Butter or the Vanilla Honey Butter. CINNAMON BUTTER (Makes about 1 cup)
Better than just cinnamon and sugar blended together for sprinkling, this butter is suave and sweetly spiced -- and altogether delicious when melting over the squares of Spice Waffles. Serve the butter in small, individual pots, or press into a rough mound on a perfectly flat plate. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat the butter in the small bowl of an electric mixer on high speed for 2 minutes. On low speed, blend in the confectioners' sugar, and continue beating until it has been absorbed; increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes. On low speed, blend in the cinnamon and vanilla, and beat until the cinnamon has colored the butter mixture evenly. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute longer.
Transfer the butter to a bowl, plate or crock. Offer the butter as a topping for warm waffles. COCONUT WAFFLES (Makes 4 to 5 waffles, serving 4)
The coconut is a bit of baked-in sweetening and flavoring which gives them a slightly chewy texture. Pure coconut flavoring, available at local natural food groceries, further builds the coconut taste. Lightly toasted chopped almonds, stirred into the batter with the coconut, would be a delicious and crunchy addition (use 1/3 cup of almonds). 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (stir briefly to aerate before measuring) 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup whipping cream, at room temperature 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature 3 jumbo eggs, separated, at room temperature 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 2 teaspoons pure coconut flavoring 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut FOR SERVING:
1 recipe Pineapple Compote (recipe follows)
Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons sugar and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the whipping cream, milk, egg yolks, butter, coconut flavoring and vanilla. Make a large well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the liquid in a thin stream, whisking it into the flour mixture to form a batter. Whisk for 1 minute longer, or until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the coconut.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks are formed; beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar by tablespoons, whipping the whites until they are stiff and glossy. Vigorously stir one-fourth of the beaten whites into the coconut batter, then fold in the remaining whites to form a light, puffy batter.
For each waffle, cover the center two-thirds of the hot iron with the batter (leaving the outer third edges uncovered), close the cover and bake the waffle until golden brown. Continue to make more waffles, using up the batter.
Serve the waffles warm, along with the Pineapple Compote.
Ingredient Note: If coconut extract is not available, replace it with the same amount of vanilla extract (using 1 tablespoon vanilla in total). PINEAPPLE COMPOTE (4 servings)
This is a light, fresh-tasting compote, made without the usual thickeners, which seem to interfere with the vibrant tropical taste of the fruit. Part of the pineapple is pure'ed and cooked in a sugar, water and orange juice syrup, then added to chunks of pineapple. The syrup may be made well ahead (at least 2 days), then it is just a matter of adding the fruit for a brief last-minute cooking. FOR THE SYRUP: 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup water 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice Finely grated zest (orange part only) of 1 orange FOR THE PINEAPPLE:
1 ripe pineapple, skin and "eyes" pared away, cored and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the syrup: Place the sugar, water, orange juice and zest in a small, heavy, noncorrosive saucepan. Cover and set over low heat. Cook the mixture slowly until every granule of sugar has dissolved. Uncover, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil; boil 3 minutes. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
To finish the syrup: Coarsely pure'e 1 cup of the pineapple chunks in a food processor; alternately, finely chop 1 cup pineapple by hand, making sure not to lose the juice. Place the syrup in a saucepan, add the pineapple pure'e and bring to a boil; boil 5 minutes, or until lightly thickened. Toss the remaining pineapple in the lemon juice. Let the cooked pineapple mixture cool for 10 minutes, then fold it through the pineapple chunks. This compote should be served warm, directly from the final tossing with the hot syrup-pineapple mixture; the entire compote may be put together and served tepid or at room temperature, if necessary, but do not refrigerate, or reheat once the pineapple chunks are added.