Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Waffles with Cherry and Pear Compote

We are all big breakfast food fans at my house. Some of my fondest food memories of my childhood involve the early morning meals of Saturdays and Christmas. As each weekend began, my dad would fry mounds of bacon to the point of perfect crispiness, not quite burnt but nearly so. He would then drop eggs into the hot bacon fat, spooning the sizzling grease over the top of each yolk until the whites were just set and the yolk thick and oozing for optimal toast dipping. Christmas morning was (and still is) the one day of the year where my family deems it perfectly acceptable to begin the day with an absolute sugar rush. Our traditional coffee pairing is a little number that involves Pillsbury biscuits, cream cheese, pecans, orange zest and lots and lots of butter.

Ever since I went to college, however, and even now, living at home but spending most of my weekend mornings serving brunch to others rather than experiencing it for myself, the Saturday morning ritual of a late second breakfast, filled with enough protein and fat to last until nearly dinner, has pretty much ended. Sure we still often find ourselves making omelets and other breakfasty things for dinner, but it’s not quite the same when you’re not in pajamas, a cup of coffee in hand and warm, late morning light streaming through the windows. So when the rare opportunity comes for a weekend day off, I always seem to make time for an extra special brunch-type meal.

The most recent pick were these waffles from Food Network Magazine. They originally caught my eye because of the cherry and pear compote (I’m a sucker for anything with dried cherries) but as I looked through the recipe, there were many more details that seemed to peak my interest. Like the addition of whole rolled oats, the little touch of orange zest, and the use of cottage cheese rather than milk for extra moisture and a kick of protein. The end product adheres to all of the qualities of waffles that make them so appealing, but kicks them all up about 10 notches. The cottage cheese caramelizes slightly on the outside, making for an extra crispy crust while keeping the inside extremely tender. I hope this doesn’t sound unappealing (because it’s actually quite nice) but it’s almost like custard on the inside, dense, spongy, and creamy. The oats add dexterity and the waffles as a whole are only just sweet so that the nutty and citrusy flavors can shine through. And the whole combo is certainly not complete without the pear and cherry compote, simmered in fresh orange juice until syrupy, and the cottage cheese topping, whipped in the food processor until smooth and rich.

Altogether, the dish is everything you want in a breakfast. It’s stick to your ribs filling and the sweetness is balanced out by the zing of tangy fruits. It may even replace the Pillsbury classic at the Christmas morning breakfast table this year, amped up in decadence with perhaps a splash of brandy or bourbon in the compote and a sprinkling of toasted pecans overtop. And if you happen to have leftover waffles, they freeze wonderfully and can go straight from the freezer to the toaster and to your plate ready for a thick smear of peanut butter on top, because everything is better with peanut butter, right?

Orange Waffles with Cherry and Pear Compote and Creamy Topping
Makes about six waffles
from Food Network Magazine


For the Compote
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 large Bartlett or d’Anjou pears, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
½ cup dried cherries
Juice from 2 oranges
1 Tbs sugar
splash of brandy or bourbon (optional)

For the Waffles
2 cups of all-purpose flour (you could sub half with whole wheat)
½ cup rolled oats
2 Tbs sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1¼ cups milk
1 cup 2% cottage cheese
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
zest from half an orange
2 Tbs melted unsalted butter

For the Creamy Topping
1 cup 2% cottage cheese
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Toasted pecans, for serving

Start by making the compote. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the pears and cook for about 4 minutes until slightly browned in some spots. Add the cherries, orange juice, sugar, and about ¼ cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced and syrupy. This took me about 15 minutes but it depends on how much liquid came from your oranges. If it starts to ever look too thick before the pears are soft enough, just add more water. Once thickened, remove from heat and add the splash of brandy or bourbon, if using. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside to cool.

For the waffles, preheat the oven to 250 degrees and begin heating the waffle iron. Place a cooking rack over a baking sheet and set inside the oven. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest. Whisk the liquids into the dry ingredients until just combined (it will look lumpy). Stir in the melted butter. Set aside.

While the batter rests for a few moments, make the creamy topping. Combine the cottage cheese, sugar, milk, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and puree until very smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the waffles, spray the hot waffle iron with cooking spay and pour a heaping ½ cup of batter into the iron. Close and cooking according to iron’s instructions or until the waffles are golden and crisp. Transfer finished waffles to the rack in the warm oven until all the waffles are made. Serve the waffle with the compote and the creamy topping and top with a sprinkle of toasted pecans.

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