Waffles: A Lesson in Classics

Somehow, I missed the “gourmet waffle” train. I’m not sure how. I wasn’t in a YouTube vortex (which happens more often than I care to admit) or stuck in traffic (the only legitimate excuse for tardiness in Los Angeles)….so what happened?

It was during a phone call roughly two years ago when Mom mentioned that she’d been to a new restaurant with Dad, and that they were planning on going back again the following week. “Wow, that good, huh?” I joked.

“Oh, it’s so great. There’s all these different kinds of waffles.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah! I don’t remember which one your Dad got, but they have sweet ones and savory ones, and there’s always this huge line.”

My parents (due to my endeavors) have not only patiently watched every season of Top Chef, Master Chef, Master Chef Junior, The Taste, etc., but also read every food-related post I’ve released into the World Wide Web of Information. However, they’ve remained refreshingly immune to what I’ll lovingly call, “Cool Food.”

“Cool Food” and I are Frenemies. We’re not quite as bad as Blair and Serena, (FYI: Blair comes first, always. Serena needed an outside influence in the form of a digital stalker resource created by a longstanding unrequited love interest to get her life together. Do I need to provide more evidence? Didn’t think so.), but we are definitely not Cory and Shawn.

To reiterate: “Cool Food” and I are this:

Gossip Girl Waffles

Not this:

Cory and Shawn Waffles

The waffle restaurant that my parents visited is not the first restaurant to incorporate artisanal mix-ins throughout their menu, and it won’t be the last. A Google “waffle mix-ins” search will yield 145,000 results, which doesn’t even include research from Buzzfeed, Eater, FoodBeast, Food52, etc. on the subject. Efforts to convert waffles into the fluffier, sweeter relative of bruschetta, tartines, and arepas have obviously been successful.

I’m not saying they don’t sound delicious, either. Who doesn’t want eggs benedict on an herbed waffle with an apple compote? I mean. Mustard hollandaise and runny eggs on top of fluffy carbs with some greenery? Sure. Why not?

A Strawberry Fields Forever waffle that includes bleu cheese, candied almonds, balsamic, and bacon? We’re talking about umami, chaat (thanks, Padma Lakshmi, your memoir was amazing), and that elusive unicorn, “The Perfect Bite.” Something tangy, something tart, something spicy, and something sweet. (Again, thanks Padma Lakshmi. You changed my life.) Add something crunchy, to boot, and a taste bud rave happens.

Rave Waffles

I’m not saying I don’t want you to experience that. Quite the opposite. I’m only asking for you to take a moment to pause and think about the function of what’s in your food, because it will only benefit you.

In the words of Beyonce, “Hold up, they don’t love you like I love you.”

Beyonce Waffles

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever received came from Top Chef All Stars Winner (and current or guest judge/competitor on every food competition show you’ve ever heard of) Richard Blais. His book, “Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate,” discusses the following concept, as it relates to pasta: Before either making or eating/appreciating “Food 2.0,” one needs to have a foundational knowledge of “Food 1.0.”

In other words, how can you reinvent something you don’t fully understand? Learn the most straight-forward techniques or concepts first. Be like Kanye and crawl before you ball. Innovate later. Learn your preferences. What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you need to make it better and heighten your experience?

There is a beauty in simplicity, as well as in executing classics in their original forms, that shouldn’t be lost. I’m not the first one to say this (duh), but it should still be kept in mind when it comes to food.

Below, you’ll find how I enjoy classic waffles. For the record, it’s the recipe from the yellowing Pillsbury Cookbook (circa 1970-something) on my parents’ counter. I’ll save my mix-ins for another post, because I want to facetiously drive home the point about simplicity.

Classic Waffles, Per 1970-something Pillsbury
I make my waffles in a Black + Decker G48TD waffle maker/griddle. It doubles as a panini press, which is a fun bonus. My parents have a badass vintage model that’s lasted…..until now. It’s the definition of, “Old Reliable.” Please note the following:

  1. This is NOT a Belgian waffle maker. I like my waffles thin, crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Belgian-style waffles do very little for me. I’ve used this recipe in a Belgian iron, and it’s worked out beautifully.
  2. Black + Decker has changed the manufacturing of its products within the last few years. Google the one I currently use, but don’t take my advice as the “end all, be all,” because I’m thinking about upgrading, too. Don’t worry, Amazon reviewers, I see you.

What You’ll Need (to make approximately 5 sets of 4-square waffles):
-2 Large Eggs
-2 Cups Whole Milk
-2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
-2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
-1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

-½ Teaspoon Salt
Note: No, you didn’t miss that. There is no sugar in these waffles. Maple syrup is sweet enough. As are milk and butter. You’re going to use the salt, and you’re going to like it.

-½ cup melted unsalted butter
Note: Life is too short for margarine. Is margarine even a thing? And never buy salted butter. As I’ve said many times – they don’t know your life. They don’t know what you’ve been through. Don’t let them pre-salt your butter.

-Room-Temperature Butter (use the other half of the stick) to taste, for serving
-Maple Syrup, for serving

Note: My Father will have a field day if I don’t tell you to warm up the maple syrup, and maybe add some cinnamon to it, before serving. So find a small pan or microwavable bowl/mug to do that in.

Additional Mise en Place:
Separate the egg whites and yolks into separate bowls. Yolks in a large mixing bowl; whites in a small bowl.

Actual Cooking:
Pre-Heat the waffle iron. This is a matter of trial and error with how crispy you want things to get. High-quality waffle irons will have a range of temperature settings.

Whisk the egg yolks and milk together in a large mixing bowl until the yolks are broken and the mixture is fairly homogenous. Add all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt), and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Slowly pour in the melted butter, and stir to combine everything.

Whisk the egg whites in the small bowl until soft peaks form.
Note: This is the key to keeping your waffles fluffy. Whipping air into the egg whites to fluff them up will do the same thing to your batter. Don’t have the patience to make use of the air around you? Make another recipe and don’t have fluffy waffles. The choice is yours.
Note Part 2: What are soft peaks? “Peaks” are what happen when you pull the whisk out of the egg whites. Once you’ve whipped air into the egg whites, they will change in color and shape. Not opaque white? You’re not done. Do they make a “Top of a Hershey’s Kiss” looking shape for a second when the whisk is pulled out? Even if it collapses right back into itself? Now you’re done.

Use a spatula or spoon to fold the soft egg white peaks into the batter.
Note: What does folding something into the batter mean? Pour the whipped up egg whites on top of the batter, then use the spatula or spoon to scoop the batter from the top of the bowl over the egg whites. Your arm will move in an oval pattern. Repeat this action until the batter increases significantly in size. Don’t be alarmed, because you’re on your way to Fluffy Waffle Unicorn Land. It’s a great place.

Pour the batter into the waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. Usually, this means until (A) the light goes off, or (B) steam stops coming out of the top of the waffle iron.

Serve dredged in butter and maple syrup.

Waffles 1