In the night kitchen

Orangette readers know that Molly recently posted her buckwheat version of Marion Cunningham’s brilliant yeasted waffle recipe.  I was only lukewarm on Marion Cunningham before this recipe, but I have now ordered her breakfast book and feel a strange, almost devotional tie to her.

But let’s start at the beginning.  We are not waffle makers at our house. In almost ten years of togetherness we have used our waffle maker (which is a delightful little Belgian that came with Kyle to our relationship and I am pretty sure dates from his youthful fondness for the As Seen On TV store) maybe three times. He can remember two times in Princeton, and I think we made them once in San Rafael, when we were feeling nesty around Jacob’s arrival. Pancakes, yes. We make pancakes every weekend, often during the week, and usually have a bag full of leftover weekend pancakes in the freezer for emergency pancake-needing situations. I have been planning to post our go-to pancake recipe, and our special-occasion pancake recipe, and our extra-healthy pancake recipe — and I will, soon I will. But this waffle.

Three times in ten years – so take it seriously when I tell you that I have made these waffles FOUR TIMES IN ONE WEEK. They are that good.

How did I discover this, when we are, as I mentioned, more of a pancake bunch? It was the overnight rise that drew me in. Why, I thought, I could make this batter the night before, while the kids are asleep, and in the morning, just whisk a couple eggs and turn on that waffle iron — where IS that waffle iron? Did that thing make it back from Princeton? Do we actually have buckwheat flour in the house? 

I was excited enough about the overnight aspect of the waffle batter that after our jaunt to the library (this was Friday, March 9th, for those keeping track) we swung by the grocery store for a little package of buckwheat flour, and that night — milk in the batter, milk in the batter, we bake (waffles) like nothing’s the matter … 

The next morning – well. It was a waffle, yes it was. But it was so much more. The buckwheat (I used a bit more than Molly, and will be curious to see Marion’s original recipe) gives a dark color, a heft and density, and combined with the yeast there is an incredible, almost beer-y aroma. The milk sours just ever so slightly from being out all night, and the crisp outside of the waffle sort of shatters against your teeth and then there is the soft, structured inside that is vaguely reminiscent of sourdough bread. Kyle and I sat stunned, chewing slowly and slightly dazed. The kids gobbled theirs down (bonus), while we stuttered and pondered – “I have never tasted anything like this,” Kyle finally said. And I had to agree.

The crispy, golden, whole-grain exterior soaks up syrup like a dry sponge, so you have not a soggy waffle but one slightly infused with maple throughout. And this waffle is so savory, and slightly sour, that it NEEDS syrup – this is not a pairing made out of indulgence or weekend-brunch excess. It feels, and tastes, like culinary magic.

So that is why, after the first run on March 10th, we made the waffles again on the 11th. The guys and I spent most of the next week down in Santa Cruz – I toted along a packet of yeast and some buckwheat, so that we could make them again on the 15th. The 17th saw more waffles. And this morning, to start our week off right, we did it again. This morning felt extra magical – Kyle had an early meeting, so we both were in the kitchen at six. The house was still, the boys asleep and dreaming, and we were drinking steaming mugs of coffee out of the Bialetti, talking quietly while waffles toasted. The sun slowly turned the dark outside our kitchen windows to gray, then blue and pink and gold, and then ‘sunshine colored’ as Jacob calls it – in and of itself a treat, after five long days of rain.

I suppose you could try making pancakes with this batter, but I am now a waffle convert — and this is a waffle recipe that will be with us for a long time to come. Thanks Molly, and Marion, for the night kitchen magic.  You can see how delightful it made our morning!

Yeasted Buckwheat Waffles
From Molly Wizenberg at Orangette (and Marion Cunningham)

I followed Molly’s recipe very closely. I switched the flour amounts, opting to use more of the whole-grain buckwheat and less regular flour. I also used a brown Muscovado sugar instead of white, although the amount of sugar in the recipe is so small it probably makes very little difference.

In the night kitchen:
1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups milk, warmed (room temperature works fine)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Muscovado sugar (Molly uses white)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (Molly uses 1 1/3 cups)
1 1/3 cup buckwheat flour (Molly uses 2/3 cup)

In the morning:
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. baking soda

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large mixing bowl (batter will approximately double in volume overnight, so use your biggest bowl!). This will take a few minutes (I help it along sometimes with a quick whisk)

Then add the milk, flour, salt, sugar, and butter, making sure that if your milk is cold it doesn’t re-solidify your butter. Whisk until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature. After the first time making these, I have taken to lightly oiling the plastic wrap, since the batter always seems to rise into it — I guess my biggest mixing bowl isn’t quite big enough!

In the morning, turn on your waffle maker so it can heat up. (Follow your waffle maker’s instruction manual for this – ours just plugs in and goes, but I think many waffle makers have power buttons, various settings, etc).

Just before cooking the waffles, whisk the eggs and add them with the baking soda to the yeasted batter (it will deflate – that’s fine). Stir to mix well. Pour an appropriate amount of batter into your hot waffle maker: I have found a scant half-cup per waffle on the belgian (ours makes two waffles at a time), but this amount will depend on your machine. Cook until golden and crisp (takes about five to eight minutes for us, and I can’t figure out what is causing the variation! Will let you know if we discover it).

We wind up with 18 to 20 squares (nine to ten waffle-makings in the belgian). They freeze and then re-toast well enough in the toaster, though with hungry boys and delicious waffles we usually seem to tear through them with no leftovers.