The more time I spend at home with Oliver, juggling a quesadilla and baby sunscreen on our way out the door, the more I think about the way we all really eat throughout the day — and what it is we actually want to be eating. With all of the beautifully photographed food blogs and glossy monthly publications, you’d think we were all waking up in the morning and eating black sesame waffles with tahini yogurt and macha dust. Now I don’t know about you, but that is decidedly not what we’re waking up to around here. I’m not sure if it’s because time is stretched thin now that we have a baby or perhaps it’s that warmer weather is on its way — the ultimate encouragement in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-cooking — but preparing a full meal in the kitchen feels like a luxury more than it ever has, and I find myself craving simplicity. Good, honest recipes.
Sam recently sent me a Slate article about the huge gap between the food we see in magazines (and, perhaps, even love to talk about) and the food we’re actually cooking at home. It seems you can’t turn a corner without hearing about cauliflower fried rice or poke bowls (for the record I’ve not tried either but am most curious about the former). On a similar note, Tim recently wrote a post about lemon zest, questioning why the heck we all feel the impetus to add it to virtually everything. We claim that it “brightens” up every baked good and salad dressing that comes our way, when really, the result is that the baked good or salad just … tastes more like lemon zest. I have to admit I might be a little guilty of this. But the point is that there’s this constant search for the new trend, the new thing, the next Big way to make a waffle. When really, the old way to make a waffle worked pretty great.
This whole wheat waffle I’m sharing with you today began with a cut-out of a 2012 recipe from Whole Living (RIP!) that used a bit of wheat germ in the mix, giving them a warm, almost nutty flavor. The waffles were great but I don’t particularly love using canola oil and I had a few other tweaks in mind so I started using warmed coconut oil instead, but when the oil joined with the cold milk, it seized into clumps. Onward: warm the milk first before you add the coconut oil and now we’re in business! So I’ve made many waffles using this formula but then I started to become curious about making them even more accessible for people, selfishly thinking about our trip to my mom’s cabin in upstate New York this summer and wondering how we could make a batch in the country where there’s a definite lack of coconut oil. So I regrouped. If you follow The Faux Martha on Instagram (or read her lovely blog), you know she’s quite a waffle guru, and she uses butter in most of her waffle recipes so I opted for that instead of the coconut oil and the results are, to me, spot on.
This is a great basic waffle that doesn’t feel basic. A reliable traveling companion if you’ve got trips coming up this summer where you’ll be cooking breakfast for a crowd, and special enough for Mother’s Day this Sunday. The Blueberry Sauce recipe is from my cookbook and is an added bonus — an easy way to dress up a perfectly simple waffle if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, a bit of butter and good maple syrup is all you really need. I realize fresh blueberries aren’t in season yet, so I dipped into last year’s frozen farmers market haul. The sauce stained the back of one of my favorite wooden spoons — now a constant reminder about the warm season ahead, everyday waffles, more and more baby sunscreen, and a most probable lack of macha dust.
This is my go-to whole grain waffle recipe and I’d wager that anyone you make these for wouldn’t guess they’re 100% whole wheat. The batter is light; the edges are crisp; and they have an ever-so-slight fragrance from the vanilla. I love topping them with this fresh blueberry sauce and a big dollop of Greek yogurt, but of course any seasonal fruit is a great stand-in as is whipped cream. See my instructions below for freezing the waffles, if you’d like, for a quick weekday morning solution.
For the Waffles:
For the Blueberry Sauce:
For the Waffles: Preheat your waffle iron. Spray with cooking spray if need be.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir well until thoroughly combined.
When waffle iron is ready, add batter. The amount varies depending on your machine – for our round model, 1/2 cup of batter makes a perfect waffle, but always err on the side of too little to begin with to avoid a big mess. Cook until golden brown. Avoid stacking waffles on top of each other as they’ll become soggy; instead place in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
For the Blueberry Sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to slowly bubble and boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve warm or at room temperature, or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
To freeze waffles: If you’d like to bake off a big batch of waffles and freeze them for later, prepare according to instructions above. Then lay waffles out on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Next place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lay a single row of waffles down. Lay a sheet of parchment on top of that layer and repeat, until you’ve stacked all your waffles on the sheet tray. Freeze completely, at least 3 hours. Remove from freezer and wrap individually in plastic wrap or small freezer bags. Store up to 3 months. To reheat / serve: we just use our toaster oven, but if making for a crowd, you could easily place on a baking sheet at 350 F and warm, about 8 minutes.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
This time last week I was up in the Skagit River Valley sitting in the early fall sun eating wood-fired bagels and chatting with farmers, millers and bakers at the Kneading Conference West. I made homemade soba noodles, learned the ins and outs of sourdough starters, and sat in on a session where we tasted crackers baked with single varietal wheats. It was like wine tasting, but with wheat and the whole time I kept pinching myself, thinking: THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! I don't get the opportunity to be a student much these days -- usually on the other side of things teaching cooking classes or educating people at the farmers markets about whole grains and natural sugars. So to just sit and listen with a fresh (red!) notebook and a new pen was surprisingly refreshing. I miss it already. Thankfully, this cookie recipe has come back as a memorable souvenir, and one that is sure to be in high rotation in our house in the coming months.
Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.