Monday, 15 January 2018


I made waffles this lunchtime.  Or rather, I spent nearly half the morning making waffles, and we ate some for lunch.  I am very fond of waffles, also pancakes, and flatbreads (and indeed Yorkshire pudding).  There is something about batter, and the fact that you can make a bread that puffs up into a hollow pouch from a flat disc of dough.  Ever since I saw someone on a Claudia Roden TV programme years ago pour a thin spiral stream of batter on to a large hot metal disc, where it magically turned into a flatbread, I have been curious about the liminal area of cookery where pancakes meet bread.

The Systems Administrator gave me an electric waffle iron a few birthdays back.  It was not even ironic, I had asked for a waffle iron, but the first waffles made with pancake batter aerated with baking powder as per the recipes in the instruction booklet were sad and flabby affairs.  Later the SA gave me a copy of Ruth Van Waerebeek's The Taste of Belgium, which I think I dropped brick sized hints about, and I discovered a whole section of yeast based waffle recipes and no mention of baking powder.  Yeast raised batters are much better, producing fatter, fluffier, fuller tasting, more substantial waffles.  The ones made with baking powder are more like pancakes that have got slightly above themselves.

The only trouble is that they are not quick to make.  You need melted butter, warmed milk, beaten egg whites, plus sugar and flour.  The resulting washing up came to one saucepan, four small basins, one covered in melted butter, a large basin, a big mixing bowl, the steel bowl from the whisk and the whisk balloon, a hand whisk because the flour went a bit lumpy in the batter, a sieve, a knife for the butter, a metal spoon, a wooden spoon, and a teaspoon.  I haven't washed up the plates of the iron yet because they were cooling down.  It is a bit of a faff getting the electric whisk in and out of the cupboard where it normally lives behind the multiple recycling bins.

The recipe in the book must make a quite enormous number of waffles.  I halved it, in case dividing it by three should be too stingy if I messed up the first attempt, and it still made many more than two people could eat for lunch, even if they'd done anything all morning, which we hadn't.  The books says they keep well in the fridge and reheat OK, or can be frozen, and that the author's mother always said it wasn't worth heating up the iron just to make six or eight waffles.

The Systems Administrator appeared in the kitchen before I'd finished cooking the last one, and asked how you knew how much batter to put in the iron.  The instruction booklet doesn't really give any guidance on that.  If you don't put enough then the waffle won't rise to fill the space inside the iron and the top won't touch the lid and won't brown nicely.  If you put too much in the surplus will ooze out over the kitchen worktop and later you will spend a long time trying to clean the body of the machine.  That is how you know how much to put in.  In practice you want the raised bumps in the base of the iron to be covered by batter, but only just.  The machine takes several minutes to reach working temperature, when a green light will come on, although the thin layer of sunflower oil you applied before switching it on will have started smoking a couple of minutes previously.  The booklet doesn't tell you that bit either.

It is a great toy, and fresh waffles are a treat on a cold day for anybody who is not yet on a low carb or gluten free diet.  They are not a good choice for anybody in a hurry.

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