I have to admit that I haven’t really been into waffles until quite recently. As a child growing up in Australia, my memories of waffles were of those pre-made, pre-packaged ones sold in the bakery section of the supermarket. Not very enticing.
As I grew older and acquired more stamps in my passport, I recall visiting stands in Paris where they would make waffles fresh to order, your eyes looking on hungrily and your mouths salivating as you stand and take in the irresistible scent of the waffles cooking. In winter, you are likely to find similar stands in other European cities, including in Zurich, although I don’t think waffles are a big hit in Zurich compared to their grilled sausage stands.
On a trip to New York one year with my family, my brother and I had breakfast one morning at Le Pain Quotidien near Central Park. I was trying to be sensible and ordered a healthy breakfast of soft-boiled eggs with a bread basket (my usual choice for breakfast). My younger brother, who I think has a rather sweet tooth, ordered the sugared waffles with strawberries. As our dishes arrived, I experienced the too-frequent feeling of plate-envy – his waffles made my bread basket look like something boring, big sister would order. So naturally, we had to have breakfast there again the next day just so I could try the waffles. They were Belgian-style waffles, thick with a good crust and sweet from a generous dusting of icing sugar. I would rate them among the best waffles I have ever eaten.
On a recent trip to visit hubby’s family in France, my mother-in-law decided to make waffles for dessert after lunch one day. She made them to order in the kitchen while the rest of us sat impatiently at the dining table until she would appear with a freshly made waffle, one at a time. Although I felt bad that she was stuck in the kitchen making waffles while the rest of us were just sitting around like hungry birds, it was perhaps the first time that the thought crossed my mind that I could make waffles at home. And that waffles didn’t have to be a breakfast item, that they were quite fitting as a simple dessert.
In my hubby’s family, they like to eat their waffles with a generous dusting of icing sugar, courtesy of a fabulously retro orange icing sugar dispenser made by Tupperware. And I think waffles really are perfect with just icing sugar because the waffles remain hot and crisp, instead of going soggy if you were to add maple syrup or some other sauce.
But it wasn’t until our trip to Las Vegas this year, in particular several visits to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro, that waffle fever hit me. After the Roast Chicken with Bacon & Chive Waffles, I was intent on buying a waffle maker the moment I got home just so I could try to recreate the savoury waffles at home.
It was probably the thought that waffles could be both sweet or savoury that persuaded me to think that a waffle maker could be a good investment after all. Up until that moment, I had shied away from purchasing any electrical appliances; our kitchen in Zurich is so tiny that our basement serves as an extension of our kitchen, storing most of the bulky and not-so-frequently-used items. Oh I hear hubby saying something … Ok … our kitchen is tiny because I have acquired so much kitchenware over the last 5 years that every nook and cranny is filled and even most of the wall space has been taken over by shelves to store various kitchenalia acquired over the years. We can discuss that another time …
So it was (sort of) by chance that I found myself in Fust, an electrical store in Zurich, where I saw a cute heart-shaped waffle maker on sale for CHF 29.95. I instantly grabbed it and headed straight for the cashier, grinning at having found such a bargain (at least in Switzerland). But, of course, all impulse purchases come with feelings of regret the moment you get home. Had I properly researched waffle makers on the market? No. Did I consider non-stick vs cast-iron waffle makers? No. Had I considered a Belgian waffle maker vs other waffle makers? No. After some umming and aaahing about whether to return the heart-shaped waffle maker, I decided to keep it, not least to see how often I would make waffles in order to justify a more fancy version.
Note: If you are serving waffles to guys (such as my husband), heart-shaped waffles might seem a bit dinky and they will probably look at you like, “Why couldn’t you buy a normal waffle maker?”
The first recipe I tried for waffles came from Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking, which incidentally is the same recipe from her book, Bake.
It is a wonderfully simple recipe and produces such great waffles that I haven’t felt the need to try any other recipe yet. You will need to learn the settings on your waffle maker in order to make waffles to your preference, whether lightly golden or to cook them for longer to produce something more crispy. I like them served warm with a dusting of icing sugar and perhaps some strawberries on the side, but you can make all of the waffles at once and eat them cold later, such as at breakfast the next day.