First in an occasional series of Food section staffers' attempts to satisfy cravings for the really good stuff.
One recent Saturday morning, I awoke early with a weird mission in mind: I was going to make Belgian waffles. Never mind that I had not a whiff of experience with making Belgian waffles (well, technically no experience with "Brussels" waffle, since there are countless variations in Belgium). All I could think about were Belga Cafe's light and crispy cakes, sprinkled with just enough confectioners' and brown sugars to keep the lid shut tight on the syrup bottle.
I was determined to make my own at home.
Of course, my first problem was obvious: I don't own a Belgian waffle iron, which was an easy problem to fix. I marched over to Strosniders and plunked down $34.99 for a Black & Decker WBM500 Belgian Waffle Maker. I then found a semi-decent recipe online, a cake-flour-based one that includes baking powder and whipped egg whites. They would help create light and fluffy waffle, but perhaps not as light and fluffy as a yeasted one. Right?
I used about every mixing bowl in the house to prepare the batter, which, once completed, I poured gingerly into the B&D wafflemaker, careful not to overfill my shiny new piece of kitchen equipment. When its orange light blinked off, as the B&D instruction manual informed me, the waffle was supposed to be done. If I wanted a crisper waffle, the booklet noted, I should let the batter cook a little longer. I let it cook a little longer.
And a little longer.
And a little longer.
Several minutes past the "done" point, when the exterior had turned a darker shade of gold, I dislodged the waffle and plated it, dusted it with confectioners' sugar, fanned a few strawberries at the center and drizzled some Grade A, dark amber syrup over the top. The thing looked tasty enough.
I could tell as soon as my fork touched cake that this waffle would not match the Platonic ideal I had been pining for since sunrise. The thing was soft, almost Eggolike in consistency, boasting the kind of crispiness usually associated with an empanada left in the fridge for a week. If I was disappointed, you wouldn't have known it by looking at my plate, which was spotless, virtually licked clean as if a dog had sneaked into our dining room. That's what the combination of desire, hunger and obscene amounts of sugar will do.
But disappointed I was. I related my tale of waffle woe to my colleagues here at the Food section. Recipe guru Bonnie Benwick (also known as the deputy Food editor) suggested that next time I use pearl sugar, which caramelizes during the cooking process to create an exterior crust. Food Editor Joe Yonan then suggested I turn this project into a recurring column, where a quest can veer toward public humiliation.
So here I go. My next attempt recipe will incorporate both yeast and pearl sugar. I'll let you know how it turns out. In the meantime, what recipe suggestions do you have? Perhaps something like Lisa Yockelson's Waffles of Many Flours and Meals, but with a little more Belgian influence.
What I don't need: Directions to Belga Cafe.