It makes no sense that waffling on an issue means you can’t make up your mind. I waffle about most quotidian decisions—but never about waffles. If they’re there for the taking, I’m there for the eating.
I could probably eat waffles most days, but they seem to be appropriate only on weekends when lugging out a waffle iron, heating it until it chirps, and assembling a batter doesn’t come with the guilt of avoiding more important things. Plus, weekday breakfasts tend to be more solitary than weekend brunches, and eating waffles should be done with company.
Part of what’s great about waffles is their texture. The waffle pattern provides plenty of crisp surface area to hold syrup, jam, or yogurt. I love how easy it is to pull them into squares or wedges by following the seams seared into them by the iron. Convenience! Even bad waffles aren’t all that bad. (The same isn’t so for bad pancakes.) If waffles turn out a little dense or a little soft, they are still waffles and therefore good to eat.
While I like the eggy soufflé quality of big Belgian waffles—the kind made by separating the whites from the yolks, beating the whites into a stiff foam, and folding them gently into the batter—lately, my preference in the morning is for something homelier with more substance. I want whole grains that will stick with me so I’m not hungry in an hour.
Fortunately, it is not too difficult to swap out all-purpose flour in exchange for whole-wheat, oat, sorghum, millet or brown rice flour. If you have a digital scale, it is easy to dump in flour ingredients, mixing and matching as you go, until you reach 175 grams, the rough equivalent of 3/4 cup of flour.
Since this spring, I have made countless variations of this whole-grain waffle. Generally, I’ve found that I like a little cornmeal for crunch and a little toasted wheat germ for some nutty flavor.
Sometimes some applesauce in place of butter works, too (especially when I’m low on butter from baking too many cookies). Yet some butter is essential. Harold McGee writes in his book Keys to Good Cooking that waffles need fat for a crisp crust that releases easily from the waffle iron. So far, none of the waffles I have made have been a complete disaster, though some are better than others.
The most recent change I’ve made to this formula is with extraneous flavors. In spring and summer, I often used lemon zest to brighten up the whole-grain batter, but I’ve recently switched to warm baking spices. Years ago, my mom ripped out a recipe for mildly spiced two-grain pancakes from Gourmet magazine, and she’s made versions of the batter ever since. I love those pancakes—so why not spice up my waffles in preparation for fall? (Even though, in SF, fall means sandal/sunglass/Italian Riviera weather…)
In closing, ahem, waffling should not mean indecisive at all. It should mean making the firm decision to wallow in the shear pleasantness of an easy-going morning. As far as the toppings go, however, indecision is permissible. Fresh fruit? Maple syrup? Yogurt and granola? You make the call.
- 80 g / ½ cup whole-wheat flour
- 65 g / ¼ cup toasted wheat germ
- 35 g / ¼ cup cornmeal
- 30 g / ¼ cup brown rice flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 310 grams / 1¼ cup buttermilk, at room temperature, more as needed
- 57 grams / ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 15 grams / 2 tablespoons light muscovado sugar or brown sugar
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of ginger
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Warm maple syrup and fresh fruit, for serving (optional)
- Fire up a waffle iron. If it is sticky with old fat or oil, whipe with a paper towel or a clean, dry kitchen towel. If planning to keep waffles warm until all the waffles are made, heat an oven to the warm setting.
- In a bowl, whisk together the wheat flour, wheat germ, cornmeal, rice flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, and egg. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until evenly combined. Let sit 5 minutes.
- If after 5 minutes the batter is too thick to spoon into the waffle iron, stir on a tablespoon at a time of buttermilk until the batter is still thick but spoonable.
- Ladle the batter evenly into the iron, using the back of the ladle to distribute the batter into the corners of the iron. If using a small iron, pour the batter into the center to start. If using a large Belgian-style waffle iron, pour patter into the center of each square. Lower the batter and cook until the iron’s light indicates the waffle is done. If batter overflows on the side, you’ve overfilled the iron; use less for the next waffle.
- Using a fork or your fingers (if they’re as desensitized as mine), remove the waffle from the iron and serve immediately or keep in a warm oven in a single layer (stacking waffles will cause them to steam and get soft). If the waffle won’t release from the iron, close the iron and let it cook for another minute.