Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Sample of Book in the Works, the "Big Kitchen Hunting"

Waffle Hunt

I like maple syrup a lot.  Almost so much that even the table syrup that contains 2% or less real maple syrup is good, not great mind you but good.  Maple syrup requires a delivery method however, or it just feels wrong.

I also like making maple syrup, the long slow way, outside over an open fire, in a big pot, cooking it down into a rich dark amber.  It gains a lot of smoky flavor from the wood, and it is nothing like the syrup you can get from the stores, not even the stuff that claims to be pure maple syrup.  That stuff from the store is cooked on huge flat conveyor belts, over a gas flame, and you can taste the difference.  Some people like it better that way, I do not.  Sometimes I will then cook it down into sugar, but not often, I prefer the liquid, it fits my favorite delivery system better.

Maple syrup delivery is really a simple affair.  It consist of some flour, salt, leavening, oil, eggs and buttermilk, or other liquid, but buttermilk is the best.  I don’t mind whole grain flour, but it really should be sifted first, to lighten it a bit, and remove any large hard materials.  For leavening baking soda if you are using buttermilk, or baking powder if not, but I prefer baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), so I will often add a few drops of acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.) to the liquid if I am not using buttermilk.  For the oil I often just use melted butter, but sometimes I will use vegetable oil, or maybe another liquid fat, like melted lard, but most of the time it is just some melted butter.

Eggs, this is the special part, it is what elevates this from ordinary griddle cake recipe to the much more refined and perfected maple syrup delivery device, the waffle.

You can’t just add the eggs all in like you might if you were just making griddle cakes and you wanted a little more refinement and protein in them.  No you have to separate the yolks from the whites, only use half the yolks, and twice the whites.  You still can not just dump the whites in there, you have to incorporate air, through a process of whisking them until they are at the stiff peak stage, that is when they can be folded into the rest of the mixture, and then you are nearly done.

This type of cooking is all about process.  Shifting the flour and leavening agent together to ensure that you have good even disbursement of the leavening throughout the mixture, and that you have incorporated air into the flour.  Then you can add the salt, or you can put the salt in the liquid, that will ensure that you have it dissolved properly.  Now some people would add a little bit of sugar here, but I feel that takes away from the sharpness and tang of the buttermilk, so I do not.  I do however; often throw a pinch of nutmeg into the flour, but just as often I do not, it really does not make that much difference, except you can only use a very slight pinch, as nutmeg is a very strong spice.

If you are not using buttermilk, add your acid to the liquid, most often I use milk, to which I add the melted butter, and some cider vinegar, which in effect makes buttermilk.  It is not the same, but it is very close.  I do not add the liquid into the dry yet, first I prepare the eggs.  I separate the eggs, usually two, and feed the extra yolk to the dogs.  If you are making a lot of batter, you can save the extra yolks for something that needs a lot of yolks, like quiche.  I then whisk the egg whites until they reach the stiff peak stage, this will give them lots of body.  If you want you can add a little cream of tartar once they have hit the soft peak stage, and they will stiffen up more, and do so faster and last longer, but it does not really matter all that much.  Once the egg whites are ready, you can then whisk up the egg yolks, until they turn a lemony yellow, or if you have my eggs until they lighten a little and begin to foam.

Start with the liquid, and drizzle that into the egg yolks, whisking the whole of the time.  When the eggs and liquid are fully mixed, begin folding in the flour mixture, a little at a time, do not whisk it in, fold it into the liquid mixture, so you do not lose air.  Once you have that done, you can then begin folding in the egg whites, careful not to break them by being too vigorous.  It is not necessary to blend them perfectly, they just need to be folded in gently and well, but also quickly, as the leavening in the flour is beginning to react with the acid in the liquid, and so you do not want to take too long.

Once you have completed that process, hopefully you had read through this, and did not just attempt to make it while you read, because you needed to prepare your waffle iron first.  I use a stove top iron, because I cook on a wood stove, and I do not like what electric ones do to the waffle anyway.  My irons I heat open, usually I use two sets, so I can make two waffles, about all that I need, although if my wife is eating or others are about I might use another set or two.  I heat them on the hot part of the stove, until they freely melt butter but do not smoke, I then move them to a less hot part of the stove.  Once the mixture is ready I move the bottoms back onto the hot part of the stove and put some more butter on them.  I then ladle some of the waffle batter onto the bottom griddle it takes about one ladle full, as I have fairly good sized ladles and good sized irons as well.  I do not spread the batter out, instead I put the top griddle onto the mixture, which does this for me rather nicely.  You can now move that one to the warm part of the stove top, and bring the next one over and repeat.  The mixture I make is good for about 6 or so waffles, but you can adjust the values to make more or less, although making less than four is really hard to do, and it means it will be a little heavy on the eggs.

Cook the waffles until they are just starting to take color on the edge, and then flip the set over, and back onto the hot side, cook them until they just start to turn a light brown, they are done.

Get them out of the griddles, put them on the plate, put more butter on them if you want, but it really is not necessary at this point, I usually do.  Then put a good amount of syrup on them, it should at least touch most of the treads, but not fill them completely that is just overkill.  Put your griddles back on the hot part, and repeat the process.  If there is someone around to eat them now would be the time, if you are making them ahead to be eaten later, even a few minutes later, let those that eat them apply the syrup and butter as they so chose.  If you put them in the warmer they will stay warm, but they will also soften, and lose that crispy outer edge that makes them so wonderful.  One way to keep them a little longer in better shape is to put them on the warm part of the stove if you have the space, and keep turning them over so they don’t get too soft.  However; they are best eaten right when they are done, or put out on a tray off the heat and allowed to cool completely and then reheated in an oven at some other time.

Waffles actually freeze well, and can be kept good, so often I will make a bigger batch and put some away for reheating another day.  They won’t be as good reheated, but they are still quite good, and the labor is far less the second time.

I do not use a recipe, but here is one I think will work, although adjustments may be needed.

2 cups of flour (1 all purpose and 1 whole grain or whatever)
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
½ tsp baking powder (baking soda and powdered alum) (see: my baking powder)
This is the dry stuff, mix it together through a sieve to lighten the flour, set aside.

1 tsp salt
About two (2) cups of liquid, or 16 ounces, more or less as atmosphere predicts
mix this together to allow the salt to dissolve completely.

2 ounces of melted fats or oil, about four (4) tablespoons or about a ¼ cup liquid measure
3 large eggs, I say large, as my eggs are really large compared to most commercial eggs, so often I only use two, if you use three (3) subtract one yolk from the mixture.  Separate them, as I told you before, and mix the yolks with the fats/oil and the liquid after you have whisked the whites to stiff peaks.

If you want the sugar, add it to the yolks before you add the liquid and whisk it until you get them well blended and they start to lighten, then add the rest of the liquid.  I would suggest no more than two (2) or three (3) tablespoons of sugar.  One thing to note, if you do not have real maple syrup and you want a little hardier waffle, use molasses instead of white refined sugar, or in addition to as some people like things extra sweet, treat as any other sugar.

Mix as I said above and make adjustments as needed.  I looked at a lot of recipes and this is the general consensus of what goes into waffles and their basic amounts as best I can tell.  I make more or less depending on how many I feel like making, or how many I need depending on the people I have to serve.

It really is how you make it, and learning to feel for how much flour to liquid ratio you need, and then knowing how much leavening is needed to lift that much flour.  You learn these things if you use the materials long enough.  Don’t be afraid to break a few eggs, get yourself a good dog, if it does not work, the chickens, the pigs, or the dog will eat it, and you can try again, and this time adjust and learn.

Measurements mostly thanks to the Food Network’s Alton Brown, but also other sites as well, including allrecipes.com, and several others, thanks to Google.com for their wonderful search engine.  Note the links may be dead, and they certainly will not work in the printed form, but somewhere I have included a list of my sources and the links are there to use in their full ineloquent glory, or you can just be brave and experiment and learn.

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