A Life in Waffles

Waffle Breakfast

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” -Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)

When my parents took me out to breakfast at our local greasy spoon, I always got the same thing- a Golden Brown Belgian waffle with pecans, and a hot chocolate. It was a mark of maturity when I started adding on bananas. (My dad always ordered, and still orders, a Denver omelette without the cheese, dry wheat toast, extra crispy hash browns, and a small tomato juice. My mom is more adventurous.) I loved the honestly terrible continental breakfasts at bad hotels because they always had a waffle iron and batter. I would drown them in syrup and slather on the butter. In my college cafeteria I would only be deterred from the waffle iron by a line four or more deep. When I lived with friends we had “Shwaffle Sundays”, where we watched Sherlock and ate waffles, and this might ostracize me from certain swaths of the internet, but I was way more interested in the later than the former. And my daily breakfast from age 6 to 16 was an eggo (or four), smeared with peanut butter. Sufficient to say I totally get Leslie Knope- waffles are way up there in the list of what’s important.

I love waffles. But I don’t always love how I feel after eating those fluffy, sweet, monsters of waffles. So I’ve spent an obscene amount of time trying to find “my” perfect waffle recipe. We had a good run with Sara’s multigrain waffles, but we don’t always stock almond or oat flour. Aaron raved over Amy’s spelt waffles, and I enjoyed them, but didn’t enjoy beating egg whites into stiff peaks first thing in the morning. I devoured Sarah Copeland’s whole grain waffles from her beautiful book Feast, but never have buttermilk on hand, because it always goes bad before I finish it. It’s not hard to find great waffles, but to find ones that fit some pretty specific parameters that I had- relatively healthy, quick, made with ingredients I always stock, and delicious- was harder than I anticipated.

Until, that is, one morning when I swapped out the yeast in Marion Cunningham’s overnight waffles with sourdough starter. The resulting waffles were crisp, light, tangy, not too sweet, and dead easy. They’re pulled together in 5 minutes the night before, then have eggs and baking soda mixed in right before it goes into the waffle iron. The taste is complex with a savory edge. Topped with syrup, it feels like a Sunday treat, and topped with butter and jam, it reminds me in the best possible way of sourdough toast. The only downside to these waffles is you have to prepare ahead.

If you want an in depth explanation of how to prepare a sourdough starter, I’d start here. If you’re happy winging it, mix together a cup of flour and a cup of water in a bowl, and cover with cheesecloth overnight. The next day, add another cup of flour and another cup of water, and stir well. Repeat this daily until your starter is bubbly and starts to smell of yogurt, between three and five days. After this, you can start feeding every other day or every three days. And if you don’t want to bother with your own starter but still want waffles, ask around and see if a friend has some starter they’d be willing to give you.

The starter will live for as long as it has food and exposure to air. Here’s some other things I’m planning on making with my starter.

  • This sourdough-chocolate cake has been on my to-make list for literal years
  • My friend Brian would love these, as his only complaint was that the waffles weren’t pancakes
  • This basic sourdough recipe looks both thorough and achievable, and turned out a gorgeous loaf
  • I wish we still had berries this summer so I could make these scones.
  • And finally, if I didn’t already have my sourdough waffle recipe, I’d be eating these right now.

Happy waffles!

Sourdough Waffles

Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s yeasted waffle recipe, as found in Genius Recipes by Kristin Miglore

These waffles are super easy, but you have to decide when to make them in advance. Feed the starter two days before you plan on having waffles, and then make the batter the night before. Active time, including those two tasks, is about 5 minutes.

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, mix together the sourdough starter, salt, and sugar. The batter will be tight and lumpy.

In a small pan, combine the milk and butter over low heat. Stir frequently, until the milk is warm and the butter is melted. Add to the sourdough mixture and whisk well. Leave out overnight at room temperature.

The next morning beat in the eggs and baking soda and heat the waffle iron. Pour in the amount of batter your waffle iron requires (mine takes half a cup at a time), and let them bake until they stop steaming and are browned and crispy.

Extra batter will keep well a few days in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you could make all the waffles and freeze the leftovers. Leftover waffles reheat well in a toaster oven.

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