Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vanilla Belgian Waffles - happiness in a bite


I can describe how I felt on Tuesday in 12 adjectives:

Excited. Bored. Bored. Bored. Anxious. Annoyed. Angry. Angrier. Surprised. Excited. Amazed. Happy.

(I dare anyone to say I'm not eloquent.)

You see, I spent 12 hours waiting alone at home for a certain package to arrive containing items I had been coveting for days, weeks, months, years. And I am not even exaggerating. 

Besides a pasta machine - which I desperately needed after chucking my last one - I had ordered a cast iron skillet (which is about as heavy as I am, ahem), some kitchen utensils, a kitchen scale (essential for baking) and - drumroll - this waffle iron. People, for the past 4 years I've been wanting a good waffle iron. One to make Belgian waffles - so that I would no longer have to buy pre-packaged ones or, um, go to Belgium to get my fix (not that I would complain about the latter).

And while I waited for the package, I searched and thought about the perfect recipe, the perfect topping, how I would bite into them and... I fell asleep. Waiting. Nobody came. My excitement turned to boredom, turned to anxiousness, turned to annoyance, which eventually turned to anger, when the clock went past 7 and I had to admit to myself that I had wasted a day, Amazon had lied, the package was not in the van about to be delivered. With my heart set on waffles, I put on my shoes, ready to go outside to get some at the Wafflemeister. But then, as I was getting my keys, the bell rang, surprising nobody more than myself. I signed for the packages and ripped open the boxes - it was like Christmas in May.



Then I ran into the kitchen, whipped up the batter - while making a complete mess (always a sign I'm too excited about what I am making to care) -  spooned it onto the waffle iron and waited patiently for the green light to appear. Finally it flashed and I opened the lid to perfectly browned, soft on the inside, crispy on the out vanilla belgian waffles. They smelled amazing. They looked amazing. And their taste? Well let's just say the first bite made me forget all the hours of boredom and moments of anger. A day that I had deemed lost and pointless was saved. And that to me was even more than amazing.  

It was happiness in a bite.



Vanilla Belgian Waffles
adapted from Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

After my first bite, all I could think about - well besides damn these are delicious - was that I had to share them with you immediately. And that surprised me, because I had been planning on testing several recipes before posting the one I liked best. But at that moment I thought these have to be the best there are. After all, they are made with my favorite pancake batter plus a generous teaspoon of pure vanilla extract plus clarified butter. Well, re-reading that, I wonder why I was surprised at all.

A day later, while washing the dishes after eating some delicious white bean soup, my old self kicked in Jen, you're not just going to call it a day with these waffles. You are going to test at least three more recipes to see how they compete, right? Uh, right. Absolutely.

But for now, let's call them the best.


Makes 8 to 10 Belgian Waffles

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Pancake Batter
1 tablespoon of clarified butter (recipe below)
1 tablespoon of canola oil, plus more for the waffle iron
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

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Waffle Topping Ideas - Confectioners' sugar with sliced strawberries, warm maple butter, hot fudge sauce, caramelized apples and pears with cinnamon sugar. (I'm just saying...)

Make the pancake batter. Lightly fold in the clarified butter, oil and vanilla. Preheat your waffle iron to 176°C// 350°F - I put it to heat level 4 on mine - according to manufacturer's instructions.

Once the waffle iron is ready, lightly brush it with oil. Cook for 3 1/2 minutes, or until the waffle is golden brown with a nice crust and crunchy texture. Serve right out of the iron onto places for ultimate crispness, and top with the topping of your choice. Mine was confectioners' sugar and wonderfully sweet strawberries.


Clarified butter
adapted from The Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

Clarified butter is simply unsalted butter with its milk solids and water removed, so that the butterfat remains.

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113g // 8 tablespoons of butter

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In a saucepan, gently melt the butter over low heat until three layers form. Skim off the top white foamy layer with a spoon (I find it is easiest to do this by tilting the pan slightly and have all the foam slide to one side). When all the white foam has been skimmed and the milky layer on the bottom of the pan has stopped bubbling, remove the saucepan from the heat. Let the butter sit for a few minutes to allow the milk solids to settle further to the bottom. Then strain the mixture through a fine sieve or a  cheesecloth-lined strainer. The rich golden yellow liquid you've retained is the clarified butter. Keeps several months in the refrigerator, covered.


Caramelized apples and pears with cinnamon sugar
adapted from The Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

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3 large Granny Smith apples (or any other tart variety)
3 large pears (Barlett, Anjou, or Bosc)
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt
Two pinches of cinnamon
28g // 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
50 g // 1/4 cup of sugar
Cinnamon sugar (2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon)

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Preheat oven to 190°C // 375°F. Peel and core the apples and pears. Cut each half into quarters. You should have 48 pieces. Mix the fruit in a bowl with the lemon juice, salt and a pinch of the cinnamon. Mix in the melted butter.

Spread the fruit on a cookie sheet in one even layer and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the fruit is caramelized but not burned.

Remove the fruit from the oven and sprinkle the surface with the sugar and an additional pinch of cinnamon. Roast until the sugar has caramelized on top of fruit and a sauce has begun to form, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Spoon over waffles and top with cinnamon sugar.

Enjoy!


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