Sunday, September 30, 2012

Best Buttermilk Waffles (Cook's Illustrated)

This morning, I thought about going to Denny's for breakfast.  Seems that always happens on Sunday mornings.  I get up, want coffee, and then start dreaming about breakfast food.

Then I thought about my pocketbook.  Would cost me $5 in gas to get there and back.  I don't have any other pressing business in Carbondale, so I couldn't justify it as a side trip.  Then I thought, why not make breakfast myself?  It's cheaper, I don't have to leave the house, and I if I have leftovers, I'll freeze them.

I have a ton of sausage (thanks Beckie!) since brother Don, who visited two weeks ago, didn't think he could get the sausage back before it thawed and spoiled.  Silly man. Since I'm not going to Chicago before next Christmas, I figured I'd eat this batch and give him a fresh roll to be made in November.

I settled on a menu of waffles and sausage. I pulled out my 1960s era waffle iron (you know, the one with the fabric cord that heats up on the outside like a pot of boiling oil), and plugged her in.  I put the coffee on, and got started.

Backstory on the recipe...I signed up for a free two-week trial subscription to Cook's Illustrated recipe service (again) and I thought I might as well give it a whirl.  I'm embarrassed to say that I actually paid for a one-year subscription to this service and forgot I had done so and so the whole year was wasted.  But, I have also signed up for their magazine for three years and I really look forward to the new issues arriving.  Those magazines make the circuit through my family and then back to me.  They have yet to steer me wrong.  One of my absolute favorite CI recipes is for cole slaw.  I'm going to have to find that issue and put the recipe on a recipe card.  That's one I never want to lose.

I digress.  This morning I tried their "Best Buttermilk Waffles".  I have to agree.  They are the best I've ever made.  And I actually have tried quite a few waffle recipes.  The worst was the one made with oat flour.  But try these and you won't be disappointed.

My waffle maker cooks four 4" square waffles at a time.  This recipe made two full "trays" of four for a total of 8 servings.  I nearly panicked when I realized I forgot to spray the waffle iron with cooking spray.  It didn't matter.  As long as you wait for the waffles to crisp, they don't stick to the waffle iron.  They key is to know how long it takes for a waffle to cook in your iron and then to not peek.   If you peek, you'll split your waffle along a transverse plane and it will never be right again.

Cook's Illustrated claims that a thick batter makes great waffles.  Take their word for it. Their explanation for the recipe includes the following caveats.  1) Cornmeal in the rate of 1 tablespoon per cup flour helps the waffles crisp.  2) Whipping the egg whites makes the interior of the waffle light and airy.

Trust me, you don't need to melt butter on the top of these waffles.  It would be overkill.


2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T cornmeal (optional, but I used it)
1 t table salt
2 eggs, separated
14 oz. buttermilk
4 T unsalted butter, melted (1/2 stick)


1.  Get the coffee pot going.  Put the bacon or sausage on if you are so inclined.
2.  Turn on the waffle iron.
3.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4.  Whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, and melted butter.
5.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee.
5.   Pull out your hand-held mixer and whip the egg whites stiff until they hold 2" peaks.
6.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients in a steady stream.
7.  Gently fold in the egg whites.
8.  Check on the sausage or bacon.  Refill your coffee.  I highly recommend adding a little Kahlua.  Just sayin'.
9.  I put about a 1/2-3/4 cup of batter in the center of each of the four sections of the waffle iron or, more technically, four big plops from my rubber spoon.  I add a half "plop" dead center of the iron.  No need to spread it out.  The top of the waffle iron will do that for you.  Put the top down on the iron and walk away for five minutes.  Don't peek.
10.  Remove the waffle from the iron.  It should be golden brown and crispy.  You can hold it in a 200 degree oven if you can help yourself.  I couldn't.
11.  Serve with maple syrup, fruit and confectioner's sugar, or a generous schmear of apple butter. Little tip from your friend D:  Start with one.  You can always get another if you are still hungry.

The key to keeping your waffles from getting all limp and losing their crispness is to NOT STACK THEM.  I hold them directly on a rack in the oven until they cool completely.  Then they can be stacked and frozen.

When it was all over, I had two large waffles with two pieces of sausage, orange juice and coffee.  I will tell you straight up that two waffles was more than my belly could handle.  One is plenty for any adult.  Right now, I'm so full I could pop.  But I do believe that I did this breakfast better than Denny's ever could and it was everything I expected and then some.  Bonus: I have plenty to freeze.

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