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Waffle lot of Love No waffling around: Tradition piques the appetite

THE BALTIMORE SUN

As baby boomers trade in heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for family foods this Valentine's Day, a little waffling may be in order.

Waffles are steaming onto the scene again as family cooks comb the past for familiar flavors and romantic reminiscences.

Welcome to the world of corrugated cuisine.

Ancient waffle irons, usually stored behind fondue pots, are getting dusted off. Cooks with fewer layers of kitchen archaeology are buying new waffle irons outfitted with electronic bells and whistles and even patterned in such child-friendly shapes as Mickey Mouse and Snoopy.

"We've seen a significant upswing in the market," says Rob Kass, director of marketing in the cooking products division of Black & Decker, which is enjoying success with a heart-shaped waffle iron that is sold in kitchen appliance sections of many stores. "We're seeing a consumer who is returning to home cooking and traditional values."

PD As the retro '90s household lets go of its frozen Eggo and makes

waffling a family event, the waffle iron is pressed into service for such special meals as a Valentine's Day breakfast, a cozy creamed chicken lunch or a stellar sit-down dinner dessert.

"As people get back to homey values," says Mr. Kass of Black & Decker, "we are finding a new premium on 'I made it myself.'

"On the weekends, especially, families can make waffles a cooking project," Mr. Kass adds. "And a quarter of a waffle produces the right-sized kid portion."

Indented waffle cakes have made a dent in history. They were hawked on Paris streets in 12th-century France, where they remain a classic country food. The Dutch brought waffles to the Americas in the early days of New Amsterdam, where the English borrowed the word from the Dutch "wafel."

Waffle irons were known even in ancient Greece. The patterned version dates to the 15th century, when they were engraved with everything from magical symbols to coats of arms and held at arms' length over burning embers.

Basic waffles can be a palette for many flavorful additions. Here are a few that can be added to the batter before baking:

* Chopped nuts

* Coconut

* Blueberries

* Chopped bacon

* Grated cheese

* Sunflower seeds

And toppings can extend beyond the traditional maple syrup. Here are some easy topping ideas:

* Crushed pineapple, thickened with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of the juice and then heated. Top with coconut and a macadamia nut for a tropical touch.

* Canned cherry pie filling

* Sliced fresh fruit

* Strawberry or other ice cream topping

Waffle irons can make an impression when it comes to leftovers, producing cakes that are as convenient as the store-bought frozen version. They save time and money.

While you have the waffle iron out, bake an extra batch. Put them on a wire rack to cool, then freeze in a self-sealing plastic bag.

When you need a quick breakfast, allow the waffles to thaw for about 10 minutes, then pop them in a toaster oven. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Chocolate-pecan waffles

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

apple-cinnamon topping (recipe follows)

Heat waffle iron to low setting.

In a small mixing bowl, blend cocoa and melted butter until smooth. Stir in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add alternately with buttermilk to the cocoa mixture. Stir in pecans.

Bake in waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions. Serve warm with apple cinnamon topping

or choice of toppings.

APPLE-CINNAMON TOPPING: In a small saucepan, combine a (21-ounce) can apple pie filling, 1 tablespoon butter and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Stir over low heat until warm. Serve over chocolate-pecan waffles.

Per serving (with apple topping): Calories: 246. Fat: 7 grams. Cholesterol: 59 milligrams. Sodium: 287 milligrams. Percent calories from fat: 27 percent.

Whole wheat waffles

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 cup skim milk

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 large egg whites, beaten well

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

topping of choice (suggestions follow)

Heat non-stick waffle iron to medium heat. Heat oven to 250 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix milk and honey thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder; add milk-honey mixture, egg whites and vegetable oil. Don't overmix. Pour batter into waffle iron and bake according to manufacturer's instructions. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve. Serve with strawberry or blueberry sauce or creamed chicken (recipes follow).

Per serving: Calories: 168. Fat: 6 grams. Cholesterol: negligible. Sodium: 216 milligrams. Percent calories from fat: 33 percent.

STRAWBERRY OR BLUEBERRY SAUCE: In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring 2 cups frozen strawberries or blueberries, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a simmer. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Add to the berry mixture, cooking over low heat for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: Calories: 81. Sodium: 2 milligrams.

CREAMED CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS: Melt 4 tablespoons margarine in a saucepan. Add 12 sliced mushrooms and 2 cups cubed cooked chicken; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons flour and cook for 2 more minutes. Slowly add 2 cups chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons sherry; season to taste with cayenne pepper and salt. Serve over toast or waffles. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: Calories: 304. Fat: 15 grams. Cholesterol: 67 milligrams; Sodium: 847 milligrams. Percent calories from fat: 46 percent.

Orange dessert waffles

Makes 6 servings.

2 cups flour, sifted

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

4 large eggs, separated

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

orange sauce (recipe follows)

sifted confectioners' sugar for garnish

Heat the waffle iron. Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Into a bowl, resift the flour with the baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the butter, egg yolks, milk and orange peel. In a bowl with the mixer, beat the egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined; fold in egg whites.

Spoon 1 to 1 1/4 cups of batter onto the waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's instructions. Continue until all batter used. Keep waffles warm on a baking sheet in the oven.

When ready to serve, remove waffles from oven, halve them diagonally on each of 6 plates and sprinkle them with confectioners' sugar. Spoon some orange sauce over the waffles; pass remaining sauce.

ORANGE SAUCE: You'll need 3 or 4 oranges. Holding the oranges over a bowl, with a serrated knife cut away the peel and pith from the oranges and section them between the membranes, using enough oranges to yield 3 cups of segments. Reserve the segments with their juice in a bowl. In a skillet, melt 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter over moderate heat. Add 2/3 cup sugar and the juice that accumulated from the oranges; stir until the sugar is melted. Add orange segments; cook until they LTC are heated through. Stir in 4 to 6 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur; simmer for 1 minute. (The sauce will be thin.)

Per serving: Calories: 839. Fat: 47 grams. Cholesterol: 272 milligrams. Sodium: 424 milligrams. Percent calories from fat: 49 percent.

Source: Adapted from "Gourmet's Best Desserts" (Random House, $29.95).

* Universal Press Syndicate

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