Chocolate Buttermilk Waffles

So I bought a waffle maker about a month ago. I had absolutely no need for one; I already had one in perfectly good working condition. I hate to admit it but I fell victim to Williams Sonoma’s advertising stunts that they break out around Christmas and somehow their catalog convinced me that I needed a “smart waffle maker.” Whatever that means.

The restaurant where I worked a few years ago had a similar, if not the same one, and I was always captivated by the perfectly square, deep-dish look of those waffles. I frequently told myself that one day I would have a waffle maker like that. So when Black Friday came around this year and deals were abound, I traded out my poor old simple waffle maker for a smart one… so I guess that meant I should probably make some waffles.

I saw these chocolate waffles in Bon Appetit magazine 2 years ago in a spread about the Mast Brothers, creators of Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers Chocolate. The recipe comes from their gorgeous cookbook, one that still only exists on my wishlist, and I’ve been meaning to make them since.

I will say that they are waffles you should only make when you are craving decadence. The taste resembles chocolate cake entirely but translated into a fluffy, chewy, and crispy waffle texture. The buttermilk is what makes these really stand out. When combined with the baking powder and baking soda the resulting chemical reaction makes for a batter completely filled with air bubbles. Add in whipped egg whites and you’ve got amazingly light-as-air waffles. A combination of cocoa powder and lots of chopped dark chocolate creates an deep chocolate flavor while olive oil adds an earthy tone that keeps the waffles from becoming sickly sweet. They taste fantastic with the classic butter and maple syrup combo but I expect that I’ll be eating them for breakfast with a swipe of peanut butter many times this week. Or maybe this peanut butter caramel sauce… now that would be interesting…

Chocolate Buttermilk Waffles
Serves 4-6
From Mast Brothers Chocolate Cookbook via Bon Appetit Magazine

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
butter and syrup for serving

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (this is for keeping the waffles warm while waiting for others to finish). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Once combined, make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, buttermilk, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Use a fork to mix the liquid ingredients together, gradually incorporating the dry ingredients in the bowl. Switch over to a rubber spatula to give the batter a final mix, making sure there are no more spots of dry ingredients.

Using an electric mixer or a metal whisk beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the waffle batter and then carefully fold in the chocolate.

Heat up your waffle iron and cook according to the irons instructions. For mine, I used a half-cup of batter for each waffle. Place the cooked waffles on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven until all of the waffles are made. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Blueberry Pancakes with a Twist

Lo and behold, it is somehow already September and by the looks of a Target I was in yesterday, it’s apparently almost Halloween too. I’m the sort who would gladly live in a world where summer reigned all year round, but I know it will inevitably slip away, leaving me to acclimate to the change by means of cinnamon scented candles and the sudden appearance of flannel-clad L.L. Bean-esque men everywhere. Though with that said I suppose things could be much worse.

So in my attempt to keep the summer spirit alive as much as possible, I have sworn I will not open the Pumpking beer currently in my fridge until a day comes that I need a jacket outside… And we can just forget the fact that I binge ate a bag of pumpkin spice latte flavored M&Ms at my desk yesterday. Whoops!

My other attempt to bring a taste of summer into the colder months is with these blueberry pancakes with a twist. But blueberries? In the fall? That doesn’t make sense at all. Well that’s where the twist comes in. Thanks to the genius of the aptly titled Genius Recipes by Food 52, blueberry pancakes are better than they’ve ever been before and don’t need to be restricted to the seasonal appropriateness of the blueberries themselves. The secret, dried blueberries.

When allowed to soften in boiling water, the dried blueberries get back some of their juicy quality. But since they are still very much void of moisture, they don’t turn into the soggy mess that blueberry pancakes generally resemble and leave only that condensed sweet-tart flavor. These pancakes are also unique in that they have a TON of cottage cheese and sour cream in them making them spongy in the nice way that Yorkshire pudding is spongy. Yes, I know that cottage cheese and weird, and like, who really eats cottage cheese anyway, but trust me on this one. It has triumphed in waffles and does also in pancakes. Lemon zest and nutmeg add that little extra touch that makes these pancakes so incredible. So maybe this fall, instead of reaching for yet another can of pumpkin to add to your breakfast baked things, try out these blueberry pancakes instead.

Blueberry Pancakes with a Twist
From Deborah Madison via Food 52’s Genius Recipes
Makes about 20 small pancakes or 12 larger pancakes

1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup 4% cottage cheese, drained of liquid
1 cup sour cream
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
butter for frying and butter and maple syrup for serving

Place the blueberries in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Set aside while you make the batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese and sour cream. Then, one at a time, whisk in the eggs. Mix in the vanilla, lemon zest, nutmeg, and sugar and then gradually incorporate the flour, baking powder and salt. Drain the soaking blueberries and add to the batter. Gently mix them in.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter. When it’s melted and hot, drop large spoonfuls of the batter into the pan. Once browned evenly on the bottom, flip to cook the other side. Serve with more butter and maple syrup.

Liège Waffles

In the realm of sweet breakfast-y things that are generally paired with butter and, my favorite condiment, maple syrup, waffles are without a doubt my numero uno. Over the years it evolved from the Eggos and Aunt Jemima of my childhood to the classic Belgian style with real syrup, and then became more experimental. I had much success with the previously documented oat and orange waffles with whipped cottage cheese and pear-cherry compote and I have dipped my toe in the realm of the yeast-raised variety. And yes, I am talking about the ever-famous Marion Cunningham ones. But I must say, despite a whole lot of waffle lovin’ in my life, the ones that changed everything are the Liège waffles.

I first had them in what now seems like a full state of waffle naiveté from a food cart in London. On that chilly fall day, waffle-in-hand and walking through Hyde Park, I took a bite, expecting something along the lines of the crispy pancake-esque waffles I was used to but got so much more. Made from a slow rising yeast dough, enriched with lots of butter and eggs (think brioche) and studded with handfuls of Belgian pearl sugar*, the Liège waffle, once cooked in the waffle iron, becomes a whole new beast.

The inside stays very tender and light but at the same time has a nice bit of chew and stretch to it, like a croissant. But the magic happens on the outside. The pieces of pearl sugar completely melt with the heat of the iron coating every part of the waffle exterior with molten caramel. Once cooked, removed and let to cool slightly, this sugar hardens into a paper thin layer of crackly sugar coating giving each bite a satisfying combination of crispiness and meltiness.

I’ve been meaning to make them on my own for a while now, yet never seemed to get around to it. But when Deb over at Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe recently, I could no longer resist. The process ended up being simpler than anticipated and the hardest part was undeniably the wait for the overnight rise. The next morning (very early, I couldn’t wait any longer!) I shaped the dough while making my coffee and basked in the smells of butter and caramel as they cooked. They were fantastic on their own but no harm ever comes from a little chocolate drizzle, powdered sugar, and whipped cream, right? After spending the morning indulging in a solitary waffle feast and then pondering the ways to clean burned sugar off the waffle iron**, I froze the remainders in an attempt to maintain some sense of self-control and swore to myself I would never go so long without a Liège waffle ever again.

*pearl sugar is a little difficult to find, but, when in doubt turn to Amazon
**a small offset spatula to pry out larger pieces and then a damp washcloth

Liège Waffles
Makes 16 waffles
From Smitten Kitchen

½ cup whole milk
¼ cup water
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast
2 room temperature eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
14 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups Belgian pearl sugar

Start by making the dough. Combine the milk and water and heat until lukewarm. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the brown sugar and yeast, give it a stir, and set aside for about 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. Whisk in the eggs and the vanilla and then use a rubber spatula to stir in 1-1.5 cups of the flour. Stir in the salt. Now slowly incorporate the butter. I took a spoonful at a time and used the rubber spatula to mash it against the side of the bowl and mix it into the batter. Do this until all of the butter is added (it will take a little while).

Hook the bowl up to the stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Add the remaining flour and turn the machine to medium speed to allow it to knead for 5 minutes. Add more flour if it looks too wet. Once the dough is finished, shape into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover and leave it out at room temperature for 2 hours. It should double in size. Punch down the dough, reshape into a ball, cover the bowl again, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, transfer the dough to the countertop and knead in the pearl sugar. Once incorporated, divide into 16 even pieces. While you are doing this, heat the waffle maker. Place two balls of dough on opposite ends of the machine and cook according to the instructions. Since my waffle maker is nothing fancy, I found that the waffles turned out best when I spent about half of the cooking time clamping the iron shut with my hands so that the waffles cooked uniformly. Once the shape set, I could let go and let them finish cooking. Once golden brown, use tongs to transfer the waffle to a cooling rack (be careful, they are very hot at this point). Eat warm either plain or with the toppings of choice.  

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.

Zucchini (and lots of other stuff) Muffins

This year is the first (in many) that my family put a garden in our yard. As a kid, I always remember having one. It was enormous and a mainstay for our summer table. For some reason many of my vivid memories of childhood stem from that garden; I feel like I was forced to pick green beans for hours every day though looking back that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But when we moved about ten years ago, the gardening stopped. Our house now is built on what used to be an old junkyard and we just happened to be a bit dubious about planting our vegetables in a sea of broken windshield glass and car battery acid. I guess we put caution to the wind this year when we planted a boatload in our little garden plot and watched as it very quickly became a miniature jungle out there.

Our garden, in only the past few weeks, has absolutely flourished. The size of the plants dwarfs those of the neighbors. We harvest about 10 zucchini a night only to find 5 more the next day that seem to have popped up in the matter of a few hours. It’s kind of ridiculous. I think the real reason for this is the fact that my mom sprayed the dirt with Miraclegrow. So…technically our garden is on steroids, the products of performance enhancing drugs. Now we couldn’t enter anything into the biggest vegetable contest at the county fair if we wanted to (actually I’m not sure if that sort of contest even exists) for fear of an embarrassing disqualification.

The only problem with an overwhelmingly flourishing garden is a sudden lack of refrigerator space and mouths in the household to eat everything. It has come to the point where only about a third of the produce stays in our home and the rest is placed into the hands of anyone who will take it. Strangely, it’s been hard to give away the Swiss chard. No one seems to know what to do with it, which is a shame. Obviously all they have to do is go on this blog and look here, or here. Problem solved. I’ve also been getting creative with the zucchini. The other day I made a Mexican vegetable and tortilla “lasagna”. My agenda today includes some pickle production. And Monday I whipped up a batch of these super-healthy zucchini muffins.

Despite their uber-grungy-hippie façade, these are not your classic crumbly and dry health muffins. They are also not cupcakes in disguise. Sweetened with only a little sugar, moistened with canola oil rather than butter, and absolutely chockfull of tasty mix-ins and, of course, zucchini, these are wonderfully filling and even delightful. They are heaven when eaten warm with a schmear of peanut butter and cream cheese. They are also perfect for adaptation. You really can adjust the nut and dried fruit types to your preferences. Want sunflower seeds, pepitas, millet? Go for it. Hate coconut (shame on you)? Leave it out. You could definitely also throw in a handful of grated carrot for good measure, if you’re so inclined. So if you find yourself the receiver of someone’s superfluous zucchini crop, make these.

Zucchini (and lots of other stuff) muffins
adapted very slightly from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook
makes about 15 muffins

½ cup oats, ground into coarse powder with a food processor
½ cup hot water
1 medium zucchini
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts
¼ cup toasted chopped pecans
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ apple, peeled, cored, and chopped into ¼ into cubes
2/3 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole old-fashioned oats
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put muffin paper liners in about 15 slots in some muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ground oats with the hot water until it forms a paste. Set aside. Grate the zucchini into a strainer or colander.  Press on the zucchini to release some of the excess liquid. Measure out 1½ cups of the grated zucchini. Add the zucchini, cranberries, raisins, walnuts, pecans, coconut, and apple pieces to the wet oat mixture and stir to coat. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with they whisk attachment, whip the three eggs and the brown sugar together on medium speed for 4 minutes until lighter in color and slightly frothy. Add the vanilla and then slowly pour in the canola oil in a steady drizzle. Remove the bowl from the mixer and set aside. Combine the flour, whole oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and stir to evenly combine. Pour the dry mixture into the mixing bowl with the egg and oil and quickly fold together until just mixed. Add in the zucchini mixture and gently fold into the rest of the batter.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. They will not rise very much so you can fill each almost to the top. Bake for 35 to 40 minute until just lightly browned on the top. These are best eaten within the first 24 hours they are made. For any extra, they keep for about 3 days at room temperature. They also freeze well, wrapped tightly in plastic or foil. Let them defrost in the refrigerator, at room temperature, or reheat in a 300-degree oven. I’ll admit, I actually heated them for 20 seconds in the microwave…you won’t want to wait for the oven to warm up, trust me.