NEWLY REVISED! How to Make the Best Darned Waffles This Side of Denny's and IHoP!
Jul 4, 2005 (Updated Oct 17, 2007)
The Bottom Line With the right equipment and a few tricks of the trade, you'll be begging the family to let you make waffles a few times a week!
Do you cringe when the spouse and kids say "We want waffles!"? Do visions of fighting back a flood of batter gushing from the sides of your waffle iron fill you with dread? Do you ever contemplate frozen toaster waffles as the fixin's of a Sunday breakfast?
It doesn't really have to be this way, you know. Just use a few tried 'n' true tricks of the waffle-maker's trade and you'll be BEGGING the rest of the family to let YOU make waffles every week.
1. Gravity: Secret of Waffle Pros Revealed!
Consider buying one of the pro-inspired flipover wafflemakers offered by Presto, Waring PRO, Krups, Villaware and KitchenAid. They range in price from around $50 to $350, but even the least expensive are built like tanks and produce waffles that rival those you'd pay $15 for on a hotel room service menu.
After you pour in the batter, you close and rotate the grids 180 degrees, allowing gravity to pull the batter into the channels and studs of both grids. When the waffle is done, you flip the grids back, open them up and remove a waffle that's perfectly formed, top and bottom.
2. Welcome to Your New Home!
Season the grids on your new waffle iron by spraying with a non-stick cooking spray or wiping with vegetable oil on a paper towel. Plug in the iron and leave it plugged in for about a half-hour, then unplug it and allow it to cool. Place a double layer of paper towels on the cooled lower grid and close the lid. Leave the towels inside and discard them when you use the iron for the first time.
3. Fire that puppy up!
Before you do anything else, give the grids a quick shot of non-stick cooking spray. Plug in the iron and let it heat while you prepare the batter but not less than about 15 minutes. Most waffle irons will have a few cold spots even when the preheat signal comes on. A long preheat allows the grid temperature to equalize.
4. Use the Right Mixing Bowls
A well-equipped waffle chef needs 2 mixing bowls: an unlined copper bowl for beating egg whites, and an 8-cup glass bowl with a spout and handle for mixing and pouring the batter. Pouring gives you much better control than ladling or spooning, and prevents "stirring down" the batter which pops the air bubbles that produce lighter waffles.
5. The Yolk's On You!
If you're making the batter from scratch or from a mix that calls for eggs, separate the eggs and beat the whites to the stiff peak stage in the copper mixing bowl. Use a stainless steel whisk or an electric mixer with pure stainless steel beaters (NOT the knife-edged chromed beaters commonly found on cheaper mixers). Set the beaten egg whites aside.
In your 8-cup mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and liquids for 3 minutes with your mixer's highest speed. Add the dry ingredients and shortening or cooking oil, and blend for about a half-minute on the mixer's low speed until fairly smooth (a few lumps are OK). Gently whisk the beaten egg whites into the batter with the mixer switched off until the mixture takes on a slightly lumpy texture. DON'T stir it smooth.
6. Give it a Rest
Let the batter rest for at least 5 minutes to give the leavening a chance to do its job. The batter will transform from thin and lifeless to thick and effervescent.
7. Pour Yourself a Crispy One
Don't ladle or spoon the batter into the iron. Dipping a ladle into the batter will knock down the leavening, resulting in a chewy waffle that won't rise to fill the upper grid. Drizzle the batter in a constantly moving stream, taking time to JUST cover the bottom grid completely. If you pour the batter only in the dead center of the grid until it's fully covered, as much as half of it will squirt out the sides of the iron when the lid is closed. Patience and practice will reward you with a batch of full-sized waffles (except, of course, the last one made from the remaining batter) and a clean counter and waffle iron.
To make a snowflake or starburst Belgian waffle like the type commonly served in European coffee houses, prepare a slightly thicker batter and pour it at the center of the grid until it's about half covered. Quickly close the lid and bake as usual.
If disaster strikes and batter dribbles out the sides of the iron, REMAIN CALM. Just let it bake onto the side of the iron and don't worry about it until after the last waffle is baked and the iron is unplugged and allowed to cool completely. Trying to clean overflowed batter from the sides of a hot iron is an exercise in futility.
8. Gimme Five!
Cook the waffle for 5 minutes. The waffle will bake and then toast a bit, forming a crisp exterior with the slightly sweet taste of caramelized grain. If you remove the waffle too soon, you end up with something the looks like a waffle but tastes more like a pancake.
If the waffle is darker or lighter than you like, adjust the baking time by a half-minute if your iron is the type that has no "darkness" control. If it does, adjust the control a half-notch but keep baking for 5 minutes. Turning the knob all the way up produces a waffle with a bready crust.
9. It's All in the Presentation
Do you envy those beautiful waffles they bring to your table at IHoP and Denny's? Well, you can come pretty darn close to matching a professional chef's waffles, even if you DON'T have a professional-grade flipover waffle iron, and it's so simple, it's easy to overlook.
When you make pancakes, you've probably noticed that the first side always looks better than the second. You also tend to serve pancakes with the first side facing up. Professional chefs call this the presentation side. Do the same thing with your waffles. Just turn 'em bottom side up as they come out of the iron. Your friends and family will be impressed and it'll be our dirty little secret. :)
10. Get 'Em While They're Hot!
Bake and serve waffles to order. Piling them on a tray will make them turn soggy. Despite all the tricks in the cookbooks, there's no way to keep them hot without drying out.
11. Time to Clean Up
This one's easy. Tell the family you'll be happy to take care of the waffle iron if they'll do the rest of the dishes (which, since your waffles came out so great, they'll gladly agree).
And now the fun part. Never, never, EVER wash the grids on a waffle iron. The process of making waffles allows a small layer of shortening or oil from the batter to coat the grids and maintain the seasoning you performed when the iron was new. It's normal for the grids to feel slightly greasy when cool. If the iron is left unused for a long time, say 3 months or more, a slightly rancid odor might develop but once the iron is heated, the odor will have burned away. If you're at all concerned, toss that first waffle out the kitchen window and let the birds enjoy it.
If something has stuck to the grids, finish baking all of your waffles. Then, unplug the iron, allow the grids to cool completely and use a small dry nylon scrub brush to remove the substance. If you MUST wash the grids, repeat the initial seasoning process above.
Overflowed batter is better cleaned away when the iron is cool, as well. Break off as much as you can and clean away the rest with a damp soapy cloth or Windex (applied to the paper towel or cloth, not sprayed directly on the iron).
Sincerest thanks to the members of the Cooking forum at That Home Site! (www.thathomesite.com) for a couple of the tips on this list.