In the food section of my brain, there are two major filing cabinets: (1) New York City restaurants organized by location, allowing me to choose the perfect spot to nosh no matter where we are in the city; and (2) a recipe file.
My recipe file is mostly organized by ingredient (chicken, peas, bacon), though occasionally it’s organized by equipment. There are the recipes I make with my ice cream maker, the recipes I make with my new wok, and, filed away in there, was the recipe I wanted to make if I ever received a waffle maker.
Well, that filing cabinet drawer flew open this past weekend. Craig’s parents bought me a waffle maker for Christmanukkah and when it arrived last week (we shipped it home) I knew what I had to make on Saturday morning: Marion Cunningham’s Yeast-Raised Waffles as transcribed in Kim Severson’s book, “Spoon-Fed.”
In her chapter about Marion Cunningham, Severson writes: “Those waffles are perhaps the most enduring symbol of Marion. As often as they could, people with some connection to food who lived in Northern California or were in town for a visit would brag about having gone over to Marion’s for waffles. It was a line in the sand. You were either someone who had gone to Marion’s for waffles or you weren’t.”
What makes them so great? “The recipe she always used is from the Fannie Farmer cookbook. You make it with yeast, so a stay overnight in the refrigerator helps it develop a kind of malty flavor. They come out of the waffle iron crisp and airy.”
You can see why I filed this recipe away in my brain.
It’s funny, typing that text, it mentions spending the night in the refrigerator; but in the recipe itself it says you leave it out overnight at room temperature. I find that interesting because the smell that emitted from the bowl the morning after I left it out overnight at room temperature with the milk, melted butter, flour and yeast, was funky with a capital F.
That funkiness, I decided, was part of its appeal; sort of the same smell you get from the no-knead bread dough when you make it.
And, indeed, the waffles that this recipe produced were light, crispy and airy as could be. The yeast lends it complex flavor and, served with bacon and a hot mug of coffee, your weekend morning couldn’t begin any better. Which is why this recipe’s getting filed into a very special drawer, the most precious drawer of all: the one labeled “Make Again.”
Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles
Makes enough for about 8 waffles
1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups milk, warmed (not too hot; you don’t want to kill the yeast. Just warm enough to be about body temperature)
1/2 cup butter, melted (let cool a bit so, again, you don’t kill the yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1. Use a rather large mixing bowl–the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, until yeast dissolves.
2. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour to the yeast and beat until smooth and blended.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
Here’s what it looks like the next morning:
4. Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin.
5. Cook on a very hot waffle iron, adding about 1/3 cup batter per grid. Do not use a Belgian waffle maker. Bake until the waffles are golden and crisp to the touch.
Serve with softened butter and good maple syrup. Eat hot.