Like the other 29 people in my BodyPump class at the Sag Harbor Gym this morning, I am committed to exercising away the effects of holiday overindulgence. Well, maybe not quite as committed as they are. I have no idea what everyone else was thinking as we heaved barbells over our heads in unison, but I was probably the only one who was debating what to bake when class was over. At our village’s natural foods store a little later, I saw some of my classmates crowding around the juice bar. But I wasn’t there to pick up a spirulina smoothie or a week’s worth of Master Cleanse supplies. Instead, I headed to the grains-and-seeds aisle and filled my reusable shopping bag with organic whole-wheat flour, rolled oats, flax, sunflower and sesame seeds. Then I headed home to make some waffles.
For me, the new year isn’t a time for renunciation as much as it is an opportunity to recalibrate recipes and adjust tastes for a brand-new baking season.
After almost two straight months of baking butter cookies and pecan pie, I start to crave rugged bran muffins, pumpernickel pretzels with sprouted rye berries, and johnnycakes made with stone-ground cornmeal and sweetened with molasses. I don’t consciously aim for “healthy.” It just happens that the baked goods I want to eat now are loaded with satisfying ingredients that happen to be super-nutritious. When I first started baking with these items, I didn’t even know that sunflower seeds are an excellent source of hearth-healthy vitamin E, flax seeds provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and sesame seeds are rich in minerals such as copper, which is believed to relieve arthritis symptoms, as well as calcium and zinc, which promote bone health. I just liked the way seeds added crunch and flavor to my breads, muffins and cookies. Although I had heard rumors about oatmeal’s cholesterol-lowering capabilities, I kept a box of oats in the pantry not for medicinal purposes but to give my cookies, muffins, pancakes and waffles the crispy-chewy texture I sometimes prefer.
Not relying on 100 percent whole-wheat flour
On Christmas morning I might have used a stick of butter and three eggs in my waffle batter for flavor and richness. In January, I still want flavorful and rich waffles. But these days they get their flavorful quality from nutty whole-wheat flour and earthy oats. No matter how healthy a waffle is, I’m not going to enjoy it if it is heavy and dense. Instead of using 100 percent whole-wheat flour in this and other “healthy” recipes, I mix whole-wheat flour with a larger portion of white flour. The whole-wheat flour provides fiber and nutrients while the white flour contributes the gluten that will give my baked goods the structure they need to sustain a nice rise. This is where the seeds come in: They add flavor and nutrients too, but like chocolate chips suspended in cookie dough, they won’t affect the chemistry of the batter.
As with my regular waffles, I stick with buttermilk to moisten my healthy waffle batter because of its tangy taste and the bubbly texture it lends to the finished dish. The same rules that I follow when making white-flour waffles apply here: I’m careful not to overmix the batter (which will deflate its air bubbles and over-develop the gluten, making them flat and tough), I grease the grids of my iron with nonstick cooking spray before baking each batch (there’s nothing worse than tearing into the interior of your waffles as you open the iron), I try not to overfill the machine (a leaking waffle iron used to be my specialty), and I bake them on my machine’s highest setting (for a crispy exterior and a properly cooked — not raw — interior).
You could top these waffles with pats of butter and drown them in maple syrup (I won’t lie — they taste great this way). But a lightly sweetened fruit topping will add bright flavor as well as more vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try sliced bananas drizzled with just a little of that maple syrup, berries macerated in a teaspoon or two of turbinado sugar, or my personal favorite, honeyed oranges and pomegranate seeds
Waffles for the New Year
For the waffles:
For the honeyed oranges with pomegranate seeds:
- Heat the waffle iron.
- Stir together the flours, oats, sesame seeds, flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk together the buttermilk, egg, honey, and oil in a large glass measuring cup.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Do not overmix!
- Spray the grids of the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Pour some batter (how much depends on the size of your waffle iron) onto the grids and spread it to the edges with a spatula. Cook the waffles until they are golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes, depending on your machine. Serve immediately, repeating with the remaining batter and spraying the grids with more cooking spray before beginning each new batch.
Zester Daily contributor Lauren Chattman is a cookbook author, freelance writer and former professional pastry chef. Her recipes have appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Cook’s Illustrated and The New York Times. She is the author of 14 books, most recently “Cake Keeper Cakes” (Taunton, 2009) and “Cookie Swap!” (Workman, 2010).
Photo: Waffles. Credit: Lauren Chattman