This means that we are pretty picky about waffles. Buttery flavor, naturally. Lightly browned exterior. Slightly sweet, with a kiss of salt. But the key to a fantastic waffle is this: a crisp, shattery exterior crust that gives way to a light and tender interior. That's it.
The catch? (Of course there is a catch.) To make a truly fantastic waffle, you have to commit. It takes a little time, more than a few dirty bowls, and a whole lot of egg white whipping. This isn't a box of Bisquick, after all. But the rewards -- if you are a waffle lover like me -- are great. One waffle to rule them all, indeed. If you want them, come and claim them! (We got sucked into a LOTR marathon this weekend, sorry.)
And if you are team pancake, please feel free to leave me your favorite pancake recipe in the comments.
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes 4-5 waffles
Notes: Mark and I make a few changes. The original recipe calls for buttermilk, which we don't always keep on hand; instead, we use 1% milk (or whole milk, if we happen to have it, which makes a richer waffle) and lemon juice or white vinegar. 1 cup of milk plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice is the usual proportion. Once the mixture clabbers, you have a decent buttermilk substitution.
Also, the original recipe calls for vegetable oil but we substitute an equal amount of melted butter. The first time I made this substitution, I found that if you let the warm butter and cold milk mixture sit around while you whip the egg whites, the mixture seizes. If you switch the order of the steps in the original recipe, though, it works fine. That is what I do below.
3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) bleached all-purpose flour
1 oz. (1/4 cup) cornstarch
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup buttermilk OR 3/4 cup milk + 2.25 tsp lemon juice/white vinegar
6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 large egg, separated
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Heat the oven to 200F and heat the waffle iron. If using vegetable oil, skip to step 2. If using butter, place 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a microwave proof bowl. Melt and set aside to cool.
2. If using store-bought buttermilk, skip to step 3. To make a buttermilk substitute, combine 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar in a Pyrex measuring cup. Stir well and set aside.
3. Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking power and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl.
4. Separate the egg. Add the egg yolk to a second medium mixing bowl. Add the egg white to a metal mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Beat the egg white almost to soft peaks. [How to know if you have soft peaks? The egg whites will transform from clear to foamy to opaque. When the egg whites have just become opaque, start testing by dipping your whisk into the egg white and turning it upside down. Examine the peaks that form: are they soft and do they melt back into the egg white batter after a second? Those are probably soft peaks.] Once you get soft peaks, sprinkle in 1 tablespoon sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are stiff. [How to know if you have stiff peaks? Test by dipping in your whisk, turning it upside down, and verifying that those peaks are firm, fully opaque and glossy. Most importantly, they should hold straight up without collapsing. Check out this visual guide for help.] Set aside.
4. Go back to that bowl you set aside, the one that contains an egg yolk. Add the buttermilk and 1/4 cup milk. If using vegetable oil, add 6 tablespoons vegetable oil. If using butter, add 6 tablespoons of the cooled, melted butter you set aside earlier. Stir to combine and immediately pour the contents of this bowl into the dry ingredients. Whisk until just mixed. Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter in dollops and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated.
5. Pour the batter onto the hot waffle iron (mine takes about 3/4 cup) and cook until the waffle is crisp and nutty brown; follow the manufacturer's instructions for timing at first and then adjust to your liking (ours takes 6 minutes). Set the waffle directly on the oven rack to keep it warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining batter, holding the waffles in the oven (don't stack them). When all the waffles are cooked, serve immediately.