Will it waffle?

Susan France

I have never been a waffler. Even when I’ve eaten at Waffle House restaurants I haven’t ordered waffles. (The hash browns are great.) My thing has always been variations on a pancake theme from wild blueberry flapjacks to latkes.

With its crown of whipped cream, a waffle always seemed like dessert masquerading as breakfast — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

My attitude started to change when I got a small waffle iron for Christmas. As some gifts do, it sat around because using it seemed like too much trouble. A recent visit from my son finally got me to clean the waffle plates and turn it on.

We started with regular, store-bought waffle mix. It is different than pancake mix since waffles contain more sugar and fat and are close kin to cake doughnuts. The recommended three to six minutes produced very soft, lightly colored rectangles remarkably similar to the boxed frozen waffles. Quite boring. At eight and even 10 minutes the waffles came out crisper, caramelized and more able to sponge up Grade B maple syrup and butter.

The non-stick waffle plates can be treated with nonstick spray, but other fats work and add flavor, including butter, toasted sesame seed oil, olive oil and lard.

Making waffles is ridiculously easy. We played a game I’ll call “Will It Waffle?” inspired by David Letterman and founding father Thomas Jefferson, who is credited with bringing the first long-handled waffle iron to the U.S. in about 1789.

We tried one waffle with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. It was tasty, but we should have put them on the bottom under the batter. The primitive heating element is only under the bottom half of the waffle maker so the bottom surface gets hotter. Adding chopped cooked bacon was a no-brainer.

Our coupe de grâce was siracha and cheddar cheese waffles served under fresh spinach-basted eggs.

Since then my experiments have expanded. I tried Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix with egg, milk and vegetable oil. I thinned it out with extra milk to the consistency of waffle batter. Let the batter sit out in the bowl for 45 minutes before using. Butter the waffle plates, fill with a cup or less of batter and then leave it in there an extra five minutes. They emerge crisply toasted and sweet. For one of these waffles I added a tablespoon of cherry preserves before closing the lid. Very nice.

Waffled avocado was wonderful, although it required cleaning the waffle maker. Falafel mix batter thinned a bit with water was another hit. Again, leave it in the sesame oil brushed waffle maker for a few extra minutes and serve with tahini sauce.

Other variations were, charitably put, bad ideas. Eggs burned and were hellishly hard to clean off the waffle iron. Raw onions and potatoes took too long to cook, but I made a waffle latke using shredded boiled red potatoes mixed with egg and spices.

Shredded cooked meats can be waffled but raw ground meat is a fire danger if the fat leaks down on the heating element. This explains how the George Forman Grill, which has a tilted surface and a grease trap, was invented.

While leftover homemade waffles sound like an oxymoron, they can be made ahead and tossed in the toaster oven to heat and re-crisp. They can even be frozen for later use in a serious upgrade to boxed waffles.

In the future, I’m thinking about waffling macaroni and cheese and possibly Greek halloumi cheese which can be griddled without melting. Dessert waffles made with cocoa powder and 70 percent dark chocolate are on the list. I also think that bread stuffing would work for day-after-Thanksgiving turkey and waffles.

One day soon I’ll start messing around with the Holy Grail of           waffledom: raised waffles using a bread-like yeasted batter.

Want to make your own batter you can tweak to your heart’s content? Combine 2 cups flour,  2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 3/4 cups milk, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 2 large eggs.

Radio Nibbles: On the Road

In my other life I drive full-time for the rideshare app Lyft. I give my riders free dining advice whether they want it or not. I recently took my Radio Nibbles radio show on the road with producer Sam Fuqua. He recorded me as I drove and talked about Boulder’s culinary neighborhoods and hot spots. Listen to the three-podcast series at news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles.

Local Food News

The Moe’s Broadway Bagels empire has expanded to six shops in Boulder and Denver with a new location in the Table Mesa Shopping Center. … Boulder’s Organic Sandwich Company — famous for its bacon jam — will open a second shop this summer at 459 S. McCaslin Blvd., formerly the location of Louisville’s Blue Box Doughnuts. … In a recent Nibbles column I noted the rise of double businesses, such as bike shops that have bars. Another example: Marble Distilling Co. in Carbondale has opened a five-room hotel called the Distillery Inn above the area where whiskey is made and aged. It may be the first distillery hotel in the U.S., at least in the modern era.

Culinary Calendar

The inaugural Lafayette Farmers Market season is open 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays on S. Public Road with 30 farmers, ranchers, food makers, prepared food vendors and a brewery. … Boulder’s Food Lab is offering a workshop/meal June 15 in making one of the planet’s greatest dishes: fresh gnocchi made from white and sweet potatoes with appropriate sauces. Information: foodlabboulder.com … The very first farm dinner at Longmont’s Black Cat Farm on July 12 will benefit the Flatirons Food Film Festival. Chef/farmer Eric Skokan will be joined by noted vegetarian cookbook author Deborah Madison. Tickets: tinyurl.com/FFFFBenefit17

Don’t pack the gravy

As the summer vacation season starts, the TSA has issued a friendly reminder about the many food items prohibited from carry-on bags on flights, including creamy dips, gravy, jam, salsa, soup and yogurt. 

Words to Chew On

“It was his idea to stop at the truckstop, he thought coffee would calm him down, and they sat and drank a couple cups apiece, and then the pie looked good so they had some, banana cream and lemon meringue, and more coffee.” — from Truckstop (Penguin) by Garrison Keillor

John Lehndorff sometimes writes about vegetables and fruits for Produce Business magazine. Comments, quibbles: nibbles@boulderweekly.com.