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Batter Up For Sweet Or Savory Yummy Waffles

The Belgian waffle was introduced in the United States at the 1964/1965 World's Fair in Queens, New York. Credit: Copyright 2015 Thinkstock

The Belgian waffle was introduced in the United States at the 1964/1965 World's Fair in Queens, New York. Credit: Copyright 2015 Thinkstock

Stars of the big American breakfast, waffles hold a dear place in the culinary canon of griddle breads and cakes. Chief among these is the Belgian waffle — introduced in the United States at the 1964/1965 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, by Maurice Vermersch, a Brussels native.

That original Belgian waffle was eaten simply — by hand and typically topped only with powdered sugar. Sometimes an embellishment of whipped cream and strawberries were added, but never maple syrup or anything else.

In the 50 years since, the Belgian waffle has taken on an American persona, becoming a vehicle for everything from salted caramel to eggs to foie gras to bacon and so much more.

And why not? What are waffles but a light quick bread with the benefit of a crispy exterior and an airy interior? You might as well be describing an excellent baguette or boule.

And waffles need not be limited to sweet. Savory waffle batters lend themselves well to herbs, cheeses and cured meats both in the batter and as a topping. Like the dessert variety, savory waffles can stand alone as the foundation for a larger dish or serve quite well as a side starch in place of potatoes, pasta or bread.

Of course, the most notable use of waffles as savory side dish — fried chicken and waffles — is an American classic. I recommend trying them at Lincoln’s Waffle Shop, in Washington, D.C.

Waffles 101

The perfect waffle should have a crunchy but not hard exterior and an airy interior. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Kitchen Aid

The perfect waffle should have a crunchy but not hard exterior and an airy interior. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Kitchen Aid

As versatile as waffles can be, you still need to follow some hard and fast rules to make them perfectly. For one thing, the outside has to be crunchy but not hard, and when broken it should reveal an airy, slightly sweet interior. As it cools, the waffle should not become soggy or petrify into a something as hard as a hockey puck.

How to achieve this model of breakfast perfection? Obviously, a lot has to do with the batter. It should be neither too heavy nor too loose or you won’t get the proper rise. A good amount of baking powder is par for the course, but the real key is folding stiffly whipped egg whites into the finished batter.

Once you’ve gotten your batter straight, the waffle maker itself is equally as important. Indeed, professional waffle makers for restaurants and food trucks can cost thousands of dollars, but there are some excellent versions for home cooks that do the job quite nicely as well.

I found some similarities in all the waffle makers I tried, such as a nonstick surface that made spraying or oiling the waffle iron unnecessary, but some had more bells and whistles than others. Regardless of the machine you use, there are few basics to keep in mind.

First, you want a waffle iron that can get hot fairly quickly and stay hot throughout the waffle-making process but still cool down in a reasonable amount of time once it’s turned off. Next, you’ll want to check out the well or overflow technology employed by the machine — is there a tidy way to catch any drips or runover of batter? Last but equally important is clean up — are there too many nooks, crannies and seams to keep the machine clean? Remember, you can’t submerge the machine in water, so cleanup has to be done with a damp sponge or dishcloth and water alone.

Cuisinart

A Cuisinart waffle maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Cuisinart

A Cuisinart waffle maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Cuisinart

Cost: $50. While inexpensive and attainable, the Cuisinart produced waffles that were thin and flabby.

This is the most economical home waffle maker I tried. The machine has simple on-and-off settings with an indicator light to let you know when it is ready to use and a sliding browning control. However, be forewarned: What you get with this machine is not a hearty Belgian-style waffle but something more akin to a flaccid Eggo. I didn’t find the browning control made much of a difference, and the end product turned rubbery almost as soon as it was out of the iron. One thing it is good for, however, is making waffle cones.

Kitchen Aid Double Waffle Maker

A Kitchen Aid Double Waffle Maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Kitchen Aid

A Kitchen Aid Double Waffle Maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Kitchen Aid

Cost: $300. The only high-end round waffle maker in the repertoire, its flip technology is easy to use and is a more convenient method to make double the waffles in the same amount of time.

Anyone who has ever stayed at a hotel with a DIY full breakfast will recognize this flip waffle maker. However, this version from Kitchen Aid is sleek and beautiful enough for any high-end kitchen — although its large profile and weight might make storing an issue. Definitely for the waffle aficionado, this machine produces two large (7 1/2-inch) round Belgian waffles with deep wells to catch syrup or any other toppings. Featuring a surface thermometer to let you know the exact stage of heating or cooking, the machine also has an adjustment dial to add time. One of the best features of this waffle maker is the “Overbake” timer, which sounds off and begins to count down when your waffle goes past the perfect stage. Unlike the All-Clad, the Kitchen Aid Double Waffle Maker didn’t have too many seams or crannies to keep clean.

Breville Pro 4 Slice Waffle Maker

A Breville Pro 4 Slice Waffle Maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Breville

A Breville Pro 4 Slice Waffle Maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of Breville

Cost: $250. This was my hands-down favorite, making a perfect waffle. It has a wide variety of digital settings. The downside is that it takes up a lot of storage space.

Another large-scale machine (although slightly easier to manage than the Kitchen Aid), the Breville has lots of features that make it worth its price tag.  Twelve precise heat settings — for traditional waffles, Belgian, stuffed, buttermilk and more — make timing a cinch while a well surrounding the cooking surface makes it virtually impossible to overflow the waffle maker — even if it didn’t come with a measuring cup that holds the right amount. The Breville is powerful enough to make a well-crisped waffle without getting overheated, and the cool-down time is far less than that of the All-Clad Belgian Waffle Maker. Like the Kitchen Aid maker, the Breville takes up a lot of counter space, so it’s best for those who make waffles often.

All-Clad 2 Square Classic Belgian Waffle Maker

An All-Clad 2 Square Classic Belgian Waffle Maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of All-Clad

An All-Clad 2 Square Classic Belgian Waffle Maker. Credit: Copyright 2015 courtesy of All-Clad

Cost: $175 to $200. While making a great crispy-on-the-outside waffle, this machine ran extremely hot to the touch and the batter often oozed into the catch bowl in the back.

Like the Kitchen Aid and Breville machines, the All-Clad produced a professional-quality waffle, but this machine consistently produced the crispest-on-the-outside waffle. This, no doubt, is in part thanks to the high heat the machine gives off, but it should be noted it also takes an extremely long time to cool down, so be prepared to set up this waffle maker well out of reach of children or away from an area where you might brush against it during its cool down time — half an hour or more in my tests.  The All-Clad machine also had a consistent “ooze” issue — that is the batter always made its way out the back of the maker regardless of the volume of batter. Other than using so little batter as to produce a skimpy waffle, it was frustrating to try to find the perfect amount so as to avoid leakage, and in the end I didn’t. Be prepared to always use the catch tray and to have a little extra cleanup.

Classic Belgian Waffles

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 12 to 14 waffles, depending on the machine

Substituting buttermilk for the milk in this recipe adds a little extra height and air to the waffles.  If you choose the buttermilk option, consider reducing the sugar to ½ tablespoon for a simple, savory waffle to accompany fried chicken, country fried steak or fried fish.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, separated

2 ounces butter, melted

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups milk or buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

For serving:

Powdered sugar

Maple syrup

Whipped cream

Sliced strawberries

Directions

1. Preheat your waffle maker per manufacturer directions.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, butter, vegetable oil, milk or buttermilk and vanilla. Beat well.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking the whole time so there are no lumps.

5. Whip the egg whites to a stiff peak and gently fold them into the batter.

6. Cook the batter in the waffle iron, following the manufacturer directions for volume.

7. Dust finished waffles with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup or whipped cream and strawberries if desired.

Gluten-free Waffles

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 12 to 14 waffles, depending on the machine

This gluten-free waffle recipe is close enough to the wheat flour varieties that you won’t miss a thing. Adding additional whipped egg whites to the batter gives this otherwise dense batter some lift. To create a savory version of this waffle, reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons and add 1 tablespoon of your favorite herbs, cheese or other savory flavoring.

Ingredients

2 cups gluten-free flour

1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 ounces butter melted

1 1/2 cups milk, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 egg whites

For serving:

Powdered sugar

Maple syrup

Whipped cream

Sliced strawberries

Directions

1. Preheat your waffle maker per manufacturer directions.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat together the two eggs, butter, milk, vanilla and vegetable oil. Beat well.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking the whole time so there are no lumps.

5. Whip the egg whites to a stiff peak and gently fold them into the batter.

6. Cook in waffle iron, following the manufacturer directions for volume.

7. Dust finished waffles with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup or whipped cream and strawberries if desired.

Herbed Prosciutto Waffles

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 12 to 14 waffles, depending on the machine

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup corn meal

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

2 ounces butter melted and cooled

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs, separated

2 ounces prosciutto, minced finely

For serving:

Butter

Maple syrup

Directions

1. Preheat your waffle maker per manufacturer directions.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, corn meal, baking powder, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, vegetable oil, buttermilk and egg yolks until thoroughly combined and set aside.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking the whole time so there are no lumps.

5. Stir in the minced prosciutto.

6. Whip the egg whites to a stiff peak and gently fold them into the batter.

7. Cook in waffle iron, following manufacturer directions for volume.

Spicy Cheddar Corn Waffles

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 12 to 14 waffles, depending on the machine

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cup corn meal

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper, or to taste

2 ounces butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs, separated

2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

1. Preheat your waffle maker per manufacturer directions.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt and chipotle pepper. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, vegetable oil, buttermilk and egg yolks. Beat well until thoroughly combined and set aside.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisking the whole time so there are no lumps.

5. Stir in the cheddar cheese and mix well.

6. Whip the egg whites to a stiff peak and gently fold them into the batter.

7. Cook in waffle iron, following manufacturer directions for volume.

Main photo: The Belgian waffle was introduced in the United States at the 1964/1965 World’s Fair in Queens, New York. Credit: Copyright 2015 Thinkstock



Zester Daily contributor Ramin Ganeshram is a journalist and professional chef trained at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, where she has also worked as a chef instructor. She has won seven Society of Professional Journalist awards and been nominated for the International Association of Culinary Professionals' Bert Greene Award. Ganeshram's books include "Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From Trinidad & Tobago," "America I Am: Pass It Down Cookbook" (with Jeff Henderson) and "Stir It Up." Her book "Future Chefs" won an IACP Cookbook of the year award and she is the ghostwriter of the best selling Sweetie Pies Cookbook. Her book Cooking With Coconut will be out from Workman/Storey in December 2016.

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