Susan
The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey


Proper Waffles
Letter to the Aurora Universe Writers' Group

        While I'm on the subject, I might as well tell you how to make a really good waffle. It's likely that few, if any, of you have ever enjoyed one. Most people confuse non-skid pancakes with waffles, but there's a fundamental difference that goes beyond topology. And I'm not talking about 'Belgian' waffles, frozen waffles, or Waffle House waffles.
        Pancakes are doughy inside. They have a cake-like texture and soak up syrup like a sponge. A well made waffle is entirely crispy with a delicate, much lighter texture. Their creation is a great deal more difficult to master.
        If you think you're man enough to make your own waffles, you'll have to have a waffle iron. It should be as cheaply and flimsily made as you can find, probably at a yard sale. The problem with a robust, modern waffle maker is that they tend to be heavy, often with interchangeable texturizing plates suitable for double duty as a cheese sandwich toaster. The heavy lid is a waffle killer, crushing the life out of your delicate confections. The best ones are small, round chrome plated jobs made in the fifties. They can and will need to be repaired over and over, mostly replacing the wire heating element and thermostat. The 'pilot light' is a glass button covering a hole in the front of the cover that allows you to see when the element stops glowing, indicating the thermostat has determined that the proper temperature has been achieved. This is an early example of Artificial Intelligence.
        The cooking surfaces have to be well prepared by liberally slathering them with unsalted butter or bacon drippings and burning the hell out of them several times. Be sure to take the batteries out of your smoke alarm. The smooth, almost black coating that results from aggressive seasoning will never stick to your creations. Sort of a low tech Teflon, only better.
        Start your chefing by turning on the waffle iron so it can preheat. Its gotta be hot. Smoking is good, or you can spit on the platter: if the drops dance, it's ready. Set out your butter plate so it will soften. For spreading, use lightly salted real butter. If you're going to make waffles, forget about cutting calories. Might as well die happy.
        I prefer maple syrup for topping, but honey is good, too. Either of these should be hot. Don't use the microwave unless you like sticky explosions. Boil a pan of water and put the bottle in it. Snobs will buy 100% Vermont maple, but that stuff is usually too thick for me and tastes too much of molasses and sulfur. Just make damn sure that whatever you get doesn't have corn syrup in it. Cane sugar is the only way to go. Please avoid 'lite' crap. You can try other toppings, like berries or pecans. Parsley doesn't work.
        You'll need a good, commercial dry pancake batter mix. I usually use Bisquick, but Pillsbury Extra Lite is excellent. Just make sure it's not one of those to which you only add water. Powdered milk is an abomination. Try to avoid cornstarch products, also (read the label). Use whole milk, preferably past its prime somewhere between something you'd spit out and cheese.
        Triple the amount oil called for on the box directions for pancakes. One of the keys to crispiness is the action of the oil which actually fries the surface of the waffle. This also helps prevent sticking, your biggest enemy as a waffleur. Use a really good oil or maybe melted, unsalted butter. Always add plenty of vanilla extract. The best kind is homemade, using vanilla beans and Jack Daniels. (By the way, a mixed drink stirred with a vanilla bean is wonderfully smooth.) Don't add the eggs yet!
        The eggs must be separated. This is a skill requiring a little practice. Crack the egg neatly in half, allowing the white to run into a deep, ceramic refrigerated bowl. Transfer the yolk back and forth between the shell halves a few times until all of the white winds up in the bowl, then drop the yolk into the bowl with the batter mix in it. Stir together the dry mix with milk, oil, vanilla extract and egg yolks very gently. Use the bare minimum of strokes necessary to blend the ingredients. Wooden spoons are best. Don't worry about the lumps.
        The egg whites need to be beaten until they turn into a stiff, white mass that looks like Styrofoam. Don't use a whisk unless you are looking for an aerobics workout. A portable electric set to warp factor eight will do nicely. Pour the batter on top, then gently fold the batter and stiff egg whites together, using as few slow strokes as possible. Lumps are OK.
        You now have about twenty minutes to cook your waffles before the egg whites break down. Spoon the stuff onto the waffle iron, gently lower the lid, and watch for the 'light' to go out again or for steam to stop coming out around the edges. With luck, the finished waffle will pop off the upper lid with no problem. They must be eaten immediately. A cold waffle makes a lousy Frisbee. This will take planning so that you wind up with the last batch.
        Now you know why a good restaurant waffle is hard to find. Only one place in Houston makes them this way, and only for a few hours on Sunday morning. Parking there is impossible, you will stand in a Disneylandish line for a long time, and you'll probably have to eat outside. It's worth it.


Proper Waffles
Table of Contents

Patrick Hill, 2000