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.
This waffle batter starts with a traditional method—pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and then whisk until just combined.
But there's a surprising twist. Reserve the sugar to whip with the egg white separately to create ultralight waffles.
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.