I woke up in the middle of the night thinking of Belgian waffles. That's probably understandable since it's the lenten season for Christians, a time when we're supposed to forgo many delectable things in the spirit of sacrifice.
Nevertheless, as a testament to my commitment to our readers and risking eternal damnation, upon waking this morning I whipped up an experimental batch of scrumptious, and self-proclaimed "authentic" Belgian waffles.
Of course, I started the process by perusing the internet for a suitable recipe. I'm not Belgian, and the only Belgians I grew up knowing were parish priests. The closest to a waffle I ever got from them was the wafer during communion.
In my opinion, store-bought, pre-made waffle mixes produce waffles with a strange gritty texture. Frozen waffles, on the other hand, taste like days-old cake. Blech! The recipe I always used (usually for chicken and waffles) is generally good, but it also requires yeast proofing. The batter's consistency is also a little off and I normally have to do some last minute fixes to correct it. Plus although I always have yeast in my pantry, I just did not have the patience for it today. And, I was never quite sure whether yeast was necessary at all!
After reviewing half a dozen recipes, I decided on this from tasteofhome.com. It was originally published as True Belgian Waffles in Country Woman March/April 1997, p29. While everything else was just about the same, this requires separating the egg yolks from the white, and whipping it separately. I've always been a firm believer that if you needed food to be light and filled with air, and the ingredient calls for beaten eggs, whipping the egg whites separately can't hurt. So this sounded right to me.
Here are the ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sliced fresh berries or syrup
I did, however, make some changes in the method, altering the directions a little bit, and following more traditional methods of baking.
Here's what I did:
1. Prepare the wet and dry ingredients separately. First, sift the flour and baking soda in a bowl. This made sense to me since baking soda tend to clump together in its can. Moreover, I wanted it to be distributed well in the mix. I also added a pinch of salt for no reason other than my gut told me I should.
2. Separate the eggs. Place the yolks in a large mixing bowl, and with a hand mixer (a $10 one you get at any convenience store will be fine, if you don't gave one handy) add sugar little by little until yolks turn light yellow.
3. Alternating, slowly incorporate the flour mix and the milk into the egg yolks, starting and ending with the dry ingredient. Add vanilla extract. Beat only until mixture is smooth.
4. Rinse your beaters and dry thoroughly. In a clean bowl (YES, CLEAN! Any dirt or moisture may prevent the egg whites from peaking!!!) beat the egg whites until stiff peaks hold. Be careful not to over beat.
Now why did I use a hand mixer and not either of my professional stand mixers? The volume of the egg white isn't that much. I find that a hand mixer can get around whites from only two eggs much more efficiently than a stand mixer would, especially if you use a smaller bowl.
5. With a spatula, scoop the whipped egg whites and gently fold into the batter. Be careful not to deflate the air and lose volume. But please, mix well. One thing I've learned from listening to Mary Berry in The Great British Bake Off is that you may get pockets of egg whites trapped if it is not well mixed. Okay, not much of a risk that would happen here, but it's still good practice.
6. In a preheated, greased waffle pan or waffle maker, ladle (or pour) enough of the batter to cover the pan. Because of this batter's particular volume, it is much easier to gauge how much you pour into the pan. Batters that are runny tend to overflow and come out dense. Too thick a batter and it doesn't flow through the spaces where it should.
How brown and crisp you want it to be is up to you. Either way, what's good about this recipe too is that, as intended, the waffle is airy inside and not caky, which makes the edges crips and buttery. And for me, that makes all the difference.
This makes around six 9-inch full waffles. The original recipe says "makes 20." I think they meant 20 quarters. But honestly, who eats only a quarter?
You can serve this with syrup, fresh berries and homemade whipped cream, or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. I topped mine with a hot berry syrup by placing a cup of fresh berries in a sauce pan with a couple of tablespoons of sugar.
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