Sunday, September 25, 2005

Yeasted (Croissant-Scented) Waffles

I'm supposed to show them dripping with butter and syrup, but they're so delicious that I'm just showing them like this.

These are simply the best waffles you will ever have eaten in your life, each one as buttery-crisp, delicately tender-hearted, and yeastily fragrant as a croissant--a flattish waffle-shaped croissant. Your house will fill with such a yeasty, tempting aroma that everyone will be summoned from their rooms, hypnotically following the wisps of steam like a pack of sleeping cartoon dogs trailing a fragrant bone. I cannot think of a single person who has eaten them and not proclaimed them the best waffles ever. Although it could be that I ask such leading questions as, "Aren't these the best waffles ever?" I'm not sure. But they are not at all sweet on their own, just so you know and are not surprised by this savory fact.

The original recipe comes, I think, from Fannie Farmer, but I'm not even totally positive about that, because ours is written on the back of an envelope, and I just looked at the front, at the postmark: June 4th, 1999. At which point I would have been four months pregnant with Ben. Coincidence? I know that I was desperate to recreate one of the great culinary experiences of my childhood, which was waking up at my friend Laelia's house and stumbling to the big table in pajamas to wait for the yeasted waffles. Her handsome, gregarious father, whom I loved and maybe was a little in love with, manned the waffle iron right at the table, and he sang and poured batter and teased us and told stories and pulled steaming, golden waffles, while we giggled and chewed and poured syrup and waited for more. And without even trying, I understand that we have recreated almost that entire experience: Michael making waffles at the table while we devour and muster patience and bask in yeasty anticipation and debate the best ways to eat them.

Almost everyone has the first one dead plain (they are that good), and then we part company: Michael favors maple syrup and peach jam; the kids like "everything" waffles, with all the jams  and jellies on the table, plus syrup and, if we have any, Nutella and, if we have any, whipped cream and fruit. But I like them best with just cream cheese, because my other favorite waffle memory is of Curtis Schwartz (a long-defunct Northampton restaurant) where they used to serve onion poppy-seed waffles with cream cheese. Oh gosh, and writing that, I'm remembering a breakfast place in Santa Cruz, where we used to get bacon waffles with the bacon cooked right into them. Insanity. Consider this recipe a fantastic starting place for whatever your imagination or nostalgia or new resolutions suggest.

Yeasted (Croissant-Scented) Waffles
Makes 8
Active time: 5 minutes batter, 30 minutes cooking; total time: overnight plus the other 35 minutes

Okay, this is indeed from Fannie Farmer (I just checked), and the original recipe is called "Raised Waffles" and calls for a full stick of melted butter. Believe me, they are good that way, but I promise they are good this way too. I plan to try making them with some whole-wheat flour, and will report back about how it goes--please do the same. If you have extras, freeze the waffles in a Ziploc and pop them in the toaster for a perfect weekday-morning breakfast. And please note: these do need to be started the night before. Please also note: they really do smell like croissants.

1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast
2 cups milk, warmed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups flour (white flour, sigh)
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

The night before you plan to make the waffles, dissolve the yeast in the water, then whisk in the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour until the batter is very smooth. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place overnight.

In the morning, beat the eggs with the baking soda, then whisk into the batter; the batter will be very thin. Bake according to the directions for your waffle iron, using a hot setting and perhaps a hair less batter than you are accustomed to until you get a sense of the outrageous loft and expansion of these waffles.

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