In this era of social distancing even from our children, our family celebrations right now are virtual.
The kitchen table will be set with laptops or tablets for seeing our loved ones living in different states. Of course, we will still talk over each other and tease the husband/father/grandfather. The menu will be the same at all our homes.
Waffles, we agree. Crispy, hot and slathered with fruity goodness. A kitchen filled with sweet aromas.
Oh, and some mimosas — we are drinking more these days. We love a mimosa with fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling rosé wine, but orange juice works, too. Plenty of strong, black coffee for me.
Our daughter and her husband have a waffle iron to make homemade. Perhaps their baby will have her first taste. Our son will likely resort to frozen waffles and the toaster, but make a homemade fruit topping. Note to self: Buy him a waffle iron for his birthday.
We have one electric waffle iron. (Does anyone have more?) I hover over it as the waffle bakes into crispy, brown, cranny-filled sweet treats. We divvy up the squares as the next waffle cooks. For a larger gathering, the wait can feel excruciating. Perhaps there are advantages to cooking for two.
Waffle irons vary in size and shape. The classic waffle iron produces a crispy waffle about 1/2 inch thick with 1/8-inch-deep crannies. A Belgian waffle maker has larger, deeper crannies that hold more syrup. Check your manufacturer’s directions for heating the iron, amount of batter to add and cooking times. My classic Black & Decker electric waffle iron bakes a generous cup of batter into four squares in about 10 minutes.
Cooking during a pandemic should be a judgment-free zone. Using a boxed waffle mix is fine — just read labels to avoid artificial ingredients.
If you have the ingredients, know that homemade batter is easy to pull together, and nearly always tastes better. The recipe that follows uses a minimum of leavening for a less metallic-tasting waffle; yogurt adds tang and lightness. I combine the dry ingredients ahead of time, then add the wet ingredients to them while the waffle iron heats.
Cornmeal adds a sweet corn flavor and nice crunch to waffle batter. A fine- or medium-grind cornmeal works best. (Coarse ground is too crunchy here.) Stone-ground blue cornmeal offers a delicious, earthy sweetness and subtle blue hue to the waffles. Whole-wheat flour or coarse semolina are other options for yummy flavor and nutty texture.
You can use skim, 1%, 2% or whole milk in the waffle batter. Same for the Greek yogurt — 0% or whole-milk yogurt work well here. No plain Greek yogurt? Substitute sour cream or buttermilk (or reconstituted dried buttermilk).
I recommend using vegetable oil suited for high-heat cooking, such as safflower oil, sunflower oil or expeller-pressed canola oil, in the waffle batter and for coating the waffle iron. These oils can take the heat of the waffle iron without smoking, resulting in better-tasting waffles.
Serve the waffles as soon as they are baked; don’t stack them on top of each other for any length of time (unless you’re pouring on the syrup to eat), or they’ll get soggy. If not eating right away, pop them directly onto the rack of a 200-degree oven to stay crisp while you bake more. To make waffles in advance, cool them completely on a wire rack before stacking into a container for refrigeration or freezing. Reheat them to great crispness in a toaster.
Pure maple syrup and salted butter taste delicious on these crunchy waffles, as does a mixture of crushed fresh berries with a fruit syrup. Our family is partial to blueberry syrup from our favorite local farms. But for this recipe, I simmered oranges in sugar to soften them before adding diced fresh pineapple and marmalade for a refreshing topping.
Serve the waffles with an interesting flavor of chicken sausage, browned in a skillet until hot, then thinly sliced.
Banana malted milk makes a fine start to any day. I blend in a bit of peanut butter when it’s our sustenance before a morning walk in the woods. If it’s an afternoon treat, I never object to the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
CRISPY CORNMEAL WAFFLES WITH PINEAPPLE-ORANGE COMPOTE
This recipe doubles nicely. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour makes a fine substitute for all-purpose flour. Cooled, leftover waffles freeze well. Reheat in the toaster to recrisp.
Start to finish: 45-50 minutes
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup blue, yellow or white cornmeal (or semolina flour or whole-wheat flour)
3-4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Safflower or expeller-pressed canola oil or nonstick cooking spray for high heat
3 large eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sunflower, safflower oil or high-heat expeller-pressed canola oil
1/3 cup melted butter
Plain or vanilla Greek yogurt or mascarpone cheese or cottage cheese
Pineapple-orange compote (see recipe below), reheated if necessary
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. (This can be done several days in advance and stored, covered.)
Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions. When iron is heated, use a pastry brush to coat waffle iron with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. (Oil or spray waffle iron as needed between waffles.)
Whisk together the eggs in a bowl. Whisk in the yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, oil and melted butter. Gently whisk egg mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Do not overmix. Batter should flow from a spoon, not plop; add small dollops of milk if needed to thin batter.
For each waffle, spoon a generous cup of the batter into the heated waffle iron, close the iron and bake until waffle is crisped and perfectly golden. Transfer the baked waffle to the oven directly on the oven rack while you bake the remaining waffles.
To serve, pile a couple of hot waffle squares on heated plates. Top with a dollop of yogurt. Spoon the warm compote over it all.
Nutrition information per serving: 631 calories, 41 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 189 mg cholesterol, 52 g carbohydrates, 14 g sugar, 16 g protein, 861 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
In addition to serving this compote warm over waffles and pancakes, try it super-cold ladled over vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt.
Start to finish: 55 minutes
Makes: About 4 cups
2 navel oranges, scrubbed clean
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 of a fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch dice, about 2 cups (or substitute frozen)
1/2 cup orange marmalade or honey to taste
Use a sharp paring knife to score the rind of the oranges from stem to navel at 1-inch intervals and about 1/8 inch deep. Put oranges into a deep saucepan; add water to cover. Heat to a boil, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook, stirring often, until rind feels soft, about 15 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, slice off the ends of each orange. Then cut in half. Cut each half into 5 or 6 thin wedges. Cut wedges into 1/2-inch pieces.
Put the diced oranges, sugar and 1/2 cup water into a saucepan. Heat to a simmer, and stir to dissolve sugar. Cook, covered, stirring often, over medium heat until oranges are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the pineapple, orange marmalade and salt.
Refrigerate covered up to several days. Reheat to serve warm over waffles or pancakes.
Nutrition information per 1/4 cup serving: 75 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 18 g sugar, 0 g protein, 15 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.
BANANA MALTED MILK
Creamy peanut butter gives this drink a lovely, rich body even when you’re using skim milk. Malted milk powder by King Arthur Flour or Carnation are both delicious here. In a pinch, you could use malted milk balls; a powerful blender will crush them easily into the drink and add a little chocolate bonus.
Prep: 5 minutes
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups milk (dairy milk, oat milk, macadamia nut milk, rice milk, etc.)
1/4 cup malted milk powder
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter or 3 tablespoons peanut butter powder (optional)
4-6 ice cubes
Put all ingredients into a blender. Process until smooth. Serve cold.
Nutrition information per serving (for 3 servings, with peanut butter): 262 calories, 14 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 26 g carbohydrates, 18 g sugar, 11 g protein, 195 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.