I’ve owned a waffle iron for years and use it at least twice a month, yet until recently I had never made nor been served a waffle that I thought was as good as it ought to be. I guess I always loved the idea of waffles more than I actually enjoyed eating them. To me, waffles were supposed to be light, airy, and, most of all, crisp. But by the time they got to my plate, they were always damp and limp. Trying to serve them to company was worse. Either everyone was served a decent waffle, one at a time, or everyone ate bad waffles all together. Why couldn’t waffles—even when coated with syrup—stay light and crisp to the last bite?
After lots of recipe sampling, I realized the light, crisp waffle recipe I was looking for didn’t exist in any cookbook I owned. If I wanted a really crisp waffle, I was going to have to develop it myself. Three days and a vat full of test batter later, I finally pulled my first perfect waffle from the iron.
Cornstarch for crispness, whipped egg whites for lightness and stability
So what’s so unique about this waffle recipe? At first glance, the ingredient list isn’t all that unusual, but a closer look reveals a few twists. Cornstarch may look a little out of place in a waffle recipe, but its role is key. Coupled with flour, it’s this ingredient that guarantees waffles that are crisp on the outside and tender yet toothsome on the inside.
Some say it doesn’t matter whether you separate the egg and whip the white before folding it into the waffle batter. I find, however, that waffles made with a whipped egg white are not only lighter and more airy, they’re also taller and more tender. Plus, they brown better. Many waffle recipes contain sugar, but most include it with the dry ingredients. I find that beating it with the egg white accomplishes two things. First, it stabilizes the white, improving the batter’s longevity. Second, the sugar softens the egg white, making it much easier to fold into the batter.
A thinner batter generally results in a crisper waffle. For this reason, I find that liquid fat (e.g., vegetable oil) rather than solid fat (shortening or butter) delivers the crispest waffle. And up to a point, the more fat, the better. For a five-waffle recipe, six tablespoons of vegetable oil is ideal.
Unlike most waffle recipes that call for either milk or buttermilk, this recipe calls for both. Buttermilk waffles are more flavorful, but the batter is thick and the waffles less crisp. Waffles made with milk, on the other hand, are more crisp but less flavorful than buttermilk waffles. A combination of the two milks offers the best of both—milk for crisp texture, buttermilk for full flavor.
Choosing a waffle iron
Pam Anderson’s waffles are truly delicious—no matter what waffle iron you use. I know because I ate a lot of them while taking a few irons for a test spin. Here are a few features to look for in a waffle iron.
Classic vs. Belgian: While I did make Pam’s waffles quite successfully in a Belgian waffle maker, she developed the recipe with a classic waffler, and we tested it on one. I think a classic waffler produces a thinner, crisper waffle with more little crannies than the deeper Belgian iron, so my testing was limited to this old-fashioned type.
Speed: How long does it take the iron to heat up for the first waffle? More important, how long does it take to cook one waffle? The fastest irons can cook a waffle in under two minutes; the slowest take four to five (which may not sound like a long time, but if you’re cooking for six or more people, you’ll be standing around for a while).
Doneness indicators: Make sure the waffler has an easy-to-read light to tell you when the iron is hot and when your waffle is ready. Some people may find whistles and beeps annoying, but my favorite wafflers were those that let me know audibly when to check on the waffle.
Consistency: Some wafflers produce an evenly cooked, nicely golden brown waffle almost every time; others are plagued by hot spots. If you’d like to be able to control the darkness (or lightness) of your waffle, opt for an iron that has a color-control dial.
Size, shape, and material: I prefer a smaller waffler since the waffles are easier to handle. But a large waffler is great for a crowd once you get the hang of spreading the batter evenly. Shape is a matter of preference, but I was converted to the merits of a heart-shaped waffle, as the batter fills it easily and there are (as my waffle-fanatic cousin Lucy points out) more pockets in a heart-shaped waffle to hold more syrup. Be sure the iron has an easy-to-clean nonstick surface (most do).
Based on these criteria, I found four waffle irons I liked, all for different reasons. I’m sure there are classic wafflers out there that I didn’t get a chance to test; if I left out your favorite, let me know what it is (and why).
The Chef’sChoice WafflePro 830 Taste/Texture Select ($69) was my favorite. Yes, this waffler is heart-shaped, but if you’re not a dainty type, don’t worry. You’ll be incredibly pleased with the results you get with Pam’s recipe in this machine — a very crisp and delicious waffle very quickly. It has a “ready beeper” and color control, as well as a button to choose between a waffle with a “crisp exterior/moist interior,” or a slightly longer bake that produces “uniform texture,” or crispness throughout ( visit www.edgecraft.com; for local retailers).
Villaware’s Round Classic Waffler ($49) also performed well. It’s fast and compact, it has a color-control dial, and it whistles at you so there’s no excuse for overdone waffles. It produces a crisp, evenly browned waffle (available from Cookswares.com and KitchenEmporium.com).
Villaware’s American Waffler with Panini Grill ($75) is the granddaddy of waffle irons. It’s a huge four-square thing that doubles as a griddle. The size is a bit unwieldy, it takes a while to heat up and to cook, and it doesn’t let you know when your waffle is ready. But with a little practice (tip: use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly), you can make a nice, crisp waffle that easily serves four people in one round (available from KitchenEmporium.com).
The Toastmaster Cool-Touch Waffle Baker (around $12.99), is an amazing value. It produced consistently golden brown, nicely crisp waffles. (There’s no color control or beeper; just a readiness light that seemed to indicate the perfect doneness every time). It stands on its side for storage and it’s easy to clean (visit www.toastmaster.com for local retailers).
Vanilla extract, the last unusual ingredient, is my father’s suggestion. The extract improves the flavor of the waffle so dramatically that I often eat my waffles plain—no butter or syrup.
Once the waffles are cooked, crisp them further in the oven. The last step I take to guarantee this waffle’s crispness is a required rest directly on the rack of a 200°F oven for five minutes. This allows you to make all the waffles before serving, making it possible for everyone to eat at the same time. The low heat of the oven also beautifully reinforces the waffle’s crispness. Don’t stack the waffles or within seconds they’ll turn moist and limp. But if you forget and accidentally stack them, don’t worry. Separate them and arrange them in a single layer again. Almost as quickly as they got soggy, they’ll crisp right back up.
- Despite nonstick surfaces, you’ll still need to grease most waffle irons the first few times you use them. Use vegetable shortening and a pastry brush or cooking spray.
- Use wooden or rubber utensils—not metal—to preserve the integrity of nonstick surfaces.
- Start with about 1/2 cup of batter for the smallest irons and 2/3 cup for bigger ones; increase as necessary to fill out waffles.
- Don’t open the waffle iron prematurely; if your iron doesn’t have a beeper or light, check the manufacturer’s instructions for minimum cooking times. Also, watch the steam; it will decrease as the waffle cooks.
- The first waffle is usually a throwaway; adjust the amount of batter and the color control settings until you get the results you like.