Waffles for Mom

I don’t know why Mother’s Day is so closely associated (for me, at least) with breakfast.  Somehow those old “Leave It to Beaver”-era notions of surprising Mom with breakfast in bed still float around in my head whenever I think of the second Sunday in May.

Waffles are great for breakfast.  Actually, waffles are great for breakfast (with syrup), lunch or dinner (with chili sin carne), or dessert (with vegan ice cream and syrup or wet nuts).  My husband has fond memories of eating nothing but waffles and ice cream for supper on some lazy Sunday evenings in his childhood.  I was shocked by this decadence from his usually restrained family until I remembered the number of lazy summer Sunday nights when my (somewhat less restrained) family gorged on the last of that day’s homemade ice cream as our supper.  Waffles would have probably been a nutritional improvement!

I should mention that I have very specific ideas about what constitutes a good waffle.  The most important quality of a waffle is texture.  A waffle should be crisp, yet tender inside.  It should remain crisp for at least a few minutes – long enough for you to give it a light coating of both Earth Balance and real maple syrup or your choice of fruit-sweetened preserves, and get at least half of it eaten..

Regarding flavor, a waffle should be lightly sweet or not sweet at all.  It should definitely not be sweet like a cookie or a waffle cone.  Waffles with additional flavors, such as the orange waffles below, can be a bit sweeter, but savory waffles are more flexible and make a nice, blank canvas for many kinds of meals.

In researching recipes for this article, I found many waffle recipes in old vegetarian cookbooks – the kind that advocate self-reliance, sprouting your own grain, and eating things because they are cheap and “good for you”, with no regard to flavor or enjoyment.

Now, I try to balance my indulgences.  I am not a pure hedonist, but I am also not an ascetic.  The trouble with most of those old recipes is that they just don’t taste very good.  Well, actually, they taste fine, but their texture is all wrong for a waffle – flat and chewy, not light and crispy.  When I really looked at those old recipes, I realized what was missing – fat and leavener.  If you were making waffles with eggs, and beating the egg whites to lighten the batter, skipping the baking powder would be fine.  Vegan waffles, however, need leaveners and they need fat (usually oil).  They don’t need a lot of oil –as little as a tablespoon can be enough in a standard-sized recipe – but they need at least a small amount to make them retain their crispness for the few minutes it takes to get them on a plate and into your mouth.

My last criterion for these waffle recipes was that they be quick and easy to make and clean up after.  In our taste-tests, my husband and I actually preferred a sourdough waffle recipe to all the others, but it takes about three days of preparation, and the difference in flavor was not worth all that extra effort and planning.  I have a hard time remembering to soak beans ahead for supper, so I know that I’m not going to make waffles at all if I have to plan very far in advance to do it.

Unlike pancakes, waffles require special equipment.  Waffle irons come in two basic types – regular and Belgian.  The regular ones have a shallow profile, while Belgian waffles have very deep pockets to hold buttery stuff and syrup.  Beyond the relative thickness of the waffles, you can get waffle irons that make 1, 2, or 4 waffles at a time.  They can be round, square, skinny rectangular sticks, hearts, or Winnie-the-Pooh shaped.  All these recipes were tested in an old standard square 4-waffle iron with a non-stick finish and removable plates.  Be sure to do a trial run using your own waffle iron before “the big day”.

These recipes are all very simple and can take a little tweaking here and there.  The main things to remember are:

1. If possible, use a low-protein flour, like you’d use for biscuits or pastry.  All-purpose flour is fine.  Avoid bread flour, which makes tough, leaden waffles.

2. Preheat your waffle iron.  If your waffle iron comes with a temperature control, start with a medium setting at first.   If your waffles get dry before they get brown, turn up the heat.  If they burn before they are cooked inside, turn it down.  Waffles should be cooked fairly quickly (5 or 6 minutes for my ‘70s-era Sears thrift-store special).

3. Use pan spray on your waffle iron in between each waffle, especially if your waffle iron doesn’t have a non-stick finish.

4. Your batter texture should be like a slightly thick pancake batter.  It should be thicker than a cake mix batter, and thinner than a standard muffin batter.  It should be easy to ladle, but not all that easy to pour.  (Basically, you want it as wet as you can get it without having it run all over the counter when you close the lid.  Wetter batter equals more steam, which equals lighter waffles.  If the batter runs out, though, you’ll just end up with a messy counter and very thin, unappealing waffles.) When you fill your waffle iron, you’ll need to smooth the batter toward the edges, but do so quickly and close the lid, so your waffle iron doesn’t cool off too much.

5. Bake the waffles until you can open the lid easily, and the waffles are golden and crisp.

6. If you have leftover batter, go ahead and bake the extra waffles.  The batter won’t keep, but the waffles freeze well, and can be re-heated in a toaster.  (Homemade waffles not only taste better than the commercially frozen kind, they are much cheaper!)  Freeze the waffles while they’re still warm, if you can, in a single layer.  Once they’re frozen, stack them up in a freezer-safe bag.  Use them within a month.

7. If you like nuts, you can add chopped pecans, walnuts, or sesame seeds, or even dried, shredded coconut to the waffle iron before pouring in your batter.  This will toast the nuts and give your waffles a wonderful texture and flavor.

So, make your mom some waffles for Mother’s Day.  And remember – as nice as breakfast in bed sounds, nobody likes syrup-sticky sheets.  Clean off the dining room table and use the good china.  And clean up after yourself.  Mom deserves a day off.

Lisa’s Basic Vegan Waffles

This is a very basic, plain waffle.  If you use unbleached flour, it is very light in color and texture.  Adding whole wheat pastry flour helps give it a bit more “presence”.  I like a 50/50 blend of unbleached and whole wheat pastry flour in these, as I do in most pastries.  Feel free to change the flavoring extract, or leave it out altogether.  The sugar is also optional, but it helps with browning.

Recipe By Lisa T. Bennett
Serves 6 if they’re polite and not too ravenous
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

2 cups soy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups flour,(unbleached all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, or a combination)
1 tablespoon unbleached sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pre-heat your waffle iron per directions.  Set it on “medium” to begin with, until you see how your first waffle turns out.

Mix wet ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Lightly whisk wet into dry.  (Don’t worry if there are a few small lumps.)  The batter should be like a medium pancake batter.  Spray waffle iron with non-stick pan spray.   Ladle the batter onto your waffle iron and close lid.  Bake for 5 minutes and test.  If you can’t get the lid open easily, let it bake for another minute and try again.  Remove waffle when it is golden brown and crisp.  Serve immediately with desired toppings.

Crisp Cornmeal Waffles
These are crisp and delicious!

Recipe adapted from Nanette Blanchard, The Vegan Handbook
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

3/4 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour preferred)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat waffle iron.

Mix dry ingredients into a bowl or batter bowl (a bowl with pouring spout).   Add soy milk and oil and stir gently until well mixed.  If batter is not a good ladling/pouring consistency, add a little water.  Pour into waffle maker, and bake until golden and crisp.  Serve immediately.
Notes:  This waffle is also delicious served for supper with chili.  Add a little chili powder or cayenne to the mix if you like.

Wheat-Free Banana Waffles
I tested these with brown rice flour and they came out great – very crisp and light.  The banana flavor is very mild, but they would be great baked with some chopped pecans, and then topped with some banana slices.

Recipe adapted from The Garden of Vegan, Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

1 ripe banana (medium to large)
1/2 cup water
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups your favorite flour (I used brown rice)
1/2 cup rolled oats (see note)
2 teaspoons baking powder (see note)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Preheat waffle iron.

In a blender, blend the banana and wet ingredients until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend briefly, until well-combined.  If batter is too thick to ladle, add up to 1/2 cup additional water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is the correct thickness.

Spray waffle iron with non-stick pan spray, and pour in appropriate amount of batter for your waffle iron.    Bake until golden brown.  Serve immediately.
Notes:  While oats themselves are gluten-free, they may not be appropriate for folks with severe celiac sprue or gluten intolerance.  This is because there is often cross contamination of oats with wheat in growing, harvesting, and/or processing.  Most wheat sensitive folks are fine with oats, but if you or a loved one can’t have them, just substitute another 1/2 cup of rice or other gluten-free flour for the rolled oats in the recipe.

Also, for folks with severe gluten intolerance, make sure you use a gluten-free baking powder.

Orange Waffles
Start these before you take your shower or set the table so the batter has time to rise.  These are nice for breakfast and great with vegan ice cream for dessert.

Recipe adapted from Nanette Blanchard, The Vegan Handbook
Serves 3
Preparation Time: 1 hour

1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon orange oil or 1 tablespoon orange zest (see note)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Warm orange juice to about 120 degrees F or until it feels warm on your wrist but not hot.

Dissolve yeast in warm juice and let stand for 10 minutes.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir well.  Let batter rest, covered, in a warm place for 30 minutes.  While the batter is resting, preheat the waffle iron.

If, after sitting, the batter is too thick to pour, add a little water (a tablespoon at a time) until it is a pourable consistency.  Pour the appropriate amount of batter into the waffle iron and bake until golden and crisp.  Serve immediately.
Notes:  If you are going to use the orange zest, remember to zest the orange before you squeeze the juice for this recipe.

These waffles have both yeast and baking powder in them, like old-fashioned Angel or Bride’s Biscuits.

They make a delicious dessert when served with Ice “Cream” (Soy Delicious Organic  is very good) and wet nuts ( see recipe) or warm orange marmalade.

Wet Nuts
This is a very loose recipe.  Make it to your own personal preferences regarding thickness of syrup, type of nuts, and balance of syrup/nuts/margarine.
Recipe by Lisa Bennett
Serves 8
Preparation Time: 15 minutes or so

1 cup nut halves (pecans or walnuts)
1 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (Grade A or B) OR 1/2 cup rice syrup (less sweet, more buttery, thicker) OR 1/2 cup agave nectar (thicker but just as sweet as maple syrup)

Toast the nuts in a skillet with the margarine.  Stir and watch them until they are brown and fragrant, but be careful. They can go from “perfect” to burned very quickly.  Add your choice of syrup, stir, and taste. (Be careful – hot syrup can burn you badly.)  Adjust flavor and “wetness” with more syrup and/or margarine.  Serve warm or cold.  Store leftovers in the fridge in a pretty glass jar.