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Waffle King

Hey batter batterWaffle King

Hot on your platter

Waffle King

Say what's the matter

Don't you know who I am . . . ?

Yes, Weird Al, we know who you are - and you're NOT the sole scepter-keeper of waffledom.

Anyone can become a Waffle King (or Queen). All it takes is a little time and a handful of ingredients. And unless your waffle iron is faulty, ungreased or occupied by a geometrically housed commune of appliance-dwelling roaches, it's not difficult to press a puddle of batter into a crisp delight.

Serve hot waffles with butter and warm maple syrup and voila! You rule the kitchen. There's no waffling on the matter. You've been elevated from plain 'ol cook to hero status.

Pancakes (also called flapjacks, hot cakes or griddle cakes) are a rather fun, filling variation of the above-mentioned batter. Short stack or tall, they're a homey favorite of folks everywhere in the world - from crisp lentil patties of India to the delicate French crepes.

In an unscientific survey, we proved absolutely nothing when we asked a group of people these probing questions:

- Do you like waffles?

- Do you like pancakes?

- Do you only like waffles and NOT pancakes?

- Do you like pancakes and ABHOR waffles?

- Have you changed the air filter in your furnace in the past year?

The general consensus was unclear. However, there are indeed those who like waffles and shun pancakes, and vice versa.

Hence, the inclusion of BOTH waffles AND pancakes in the first story of 1998. Something for everyone.

The point here is that whether you choose waffles or pancakes, they're not just a breakfast food.

WAFFLES

Veteran author Dorie Greenspan explains in her recently released cookbook, "Waffles from Morning to Midnight," that the book contains a hundred recipes for waffles and toppings, both sweet and savory.

"I could have created hundreds more because each waffle idea instantly begot another," she said.

Once Greenspan tossed out her long-held notions about waffles being best for breakfast or suitable for a dessert with ice cream, she was free to experiment. With new mixes of flavor combinations, she found that waffles are ideal for midday meals, dinners, snacks and sweets.

She suggests a few ways with waffles that will inspire you to keep that waffle iron on the counter, instead of hiding it under the 25-pound bag of lentils.

- When buying a waffle iron, buy the best iron you can afford. Choose a nonstick surface. With nonstick you don't have to add extra fat to a recipe in the form of grease for the grids. There's also no need for scrubbing during clean-up. Just let the iron cool and wipe the grids down with a damp paper towel.

- You can mix waffle recipes in a food processer by first pulsing the dry ingredients to mix, then turning them out onto a sheet of waxed paper; process the milk, eggs and other liquid ingredients together; return dry ingredients to the machine and pulse just to combine. Finish by pulsing in the melted butter.

- Employ two or three footed cooling racks - the kind used for cakes. Make sure the feet are high enough to allow air to circulate around the hot waffles; if they're too low to the ground, the waffles will steam and become soggy.

- Use your microwave while makingwaffles. Melt butter and chocolate, heat small amounts of liquid (no more than 11/2 cups), and cook bacon. DO NOT use the micro-wave to reheat waffles; the waffles will toughen and lose their crisp crust.

Pancakes

Ever tried to flamboyantly flip a flapjack into the air, catch it on a plate - perfectly centered? As if you didn't already know . . . the pancake's first flip can be messy.

Why? Even cooks who can cook perfect pancakes often can't make perfect FIRST pancakes. For some reason, the first batter poured on the griddle has a tendency to tear, crumble or otherwise BOMB.

Marie Simmons' new cookbook, "Pancakes A to Z," tells the reader how to solve the first-failure syndrome, along with other helpful ideas.

- To prevent first flops, preheat the griddle over medium heat and test by adding a drop or two of water. It's hot enough when it sizzles for a second and then evaporates.

- Choose the right kind and amount of fat (oil or clarified butter). Use a pancake turner with a beveled, not blunt edge, and never rush pancakes. Simmons says, "A rushed pancake, though brown on the outside, will be underdone on the inside."

- Let the pancakes cook slowly until tiny bubbles begin to appear all over the surface. This will take from two to three minutes or more on each side, depending on the consistency of the batter.

- When bubbles appear on the surface, gently lift one side and look at the bottom of the pancake to see if it is evenly browned. Turn and cook the other side.

- Brush the heated pan or griddle with a thin layer of vegetable oil or spray with a nonstick spray. First pancake failure is often caused by too much oil on the griddle.

While living in Pittsburgh years ago, I remember being pleasantly surprised when a neighbor invited us to dinner and served pancakes. PANCAKES!? Why, isn't that breaking the rules? But the meal was like having a party on a Thursday night . . . and the kids loved the idea of an offbeat eating adventure.

Small pancakes are popular now as party appetizers. The recipe for Ginger, Carrot and Sesame Pancakes that follows is a delicious dive into different ways of developing the simple pancake.

Try something new this week. Changes in cooking the "old standbys" can add flare and fun in future ventures into the pantry.

Pancakes and waffles can add a sensational sizzle to your meals. They're not reserved only for breakfast but are great for brunch, lunch and dinner.

Get adventurous. Attack one of our recipes . . . and don't waffle.

*****

RECIPES

LIGHT AND FLUFFY PANCAKES

1 cup plain yogurt

1 large egg

1 cup pancake mix

3/4 cup desired filling (Blueberries, mini chocolate chips, plumped raisins, dry cherries or cranberries, chopped nuts, etc.)

Nonstick cooking spray

In a bowl combine yogurt and egg; mix well. Add pancake mix and blend just to combine. Lightly spray a nonstick pan or griddle and ladle out 2 tablespoons batter per pancake. While pancakes are cooking on the first side, sprinkle with desired filling. When edges are firm, turn pancakes and cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat and serve immediately with syrup. Makes 10-12 pancakes.

- Each serving contains 59 calories, 1g fat, 10g carb, 181mg sodium, 20mg cholesterol.

- From Dannon

CINNAMON-RAISIN WHOLE-WHEAT WAFFLES

3/4 cup plump, moist raisins

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

If your raisins aren't moist and plump, place them in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let the raisins steep for a minute, drain, turn out onto a paper towel, and pat dry. Set aside. Preheat waffle iron. If you want to hold the finished waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Melt the butter; reserve. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until combined. Whisk in both sugars. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, vanilla and eggs with the whisk until well mixed. Fold the raisins and melted butter into the batter. Lightly add butter or spray to the grids of your waffle iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick. Spoon out 1/2 to 2/3 cup of batter (or a little more than waffler's manufacturer suggests) onto the iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to spread it almost to the edges of the grids. Close the lid and bake until browned and set. Serve the waffles you make the rest of the batch. Makes about five 61/2-inch round waffles. Serve with Velvet Cream Cheese Spread.

- Each waffle contains 317 calories, 9g fat, 53g carb, 447mg sodium, 12mg cholesterol.

- From "Waffles" by Dorie Greenspan

VELVET CREAM CHEESE SPREAD

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon sugar (or more to taste)

Beat together the cream cheese and heavy cream in a small bowl with a whisk or hand-held mixer. Beat in the cinnamon and sugar. Cover and refrigerate until needed. (Spread will keep up to 5 days.) To serve, put the waffles on warm plates and "butter" them with the cream cheese spread; pour over maple syrup, or use both. Serves 4.

- Each serving contains 107 calories, 10g fat, 3g carb, 33mg sodium, 67mg cholesterol.

- From "Waffles" by Dorie Greenspan

GINGER, CARROT AND SESAME PANCAKES

For Pancakes:

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 medium)

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, crushed through a press

1/4 cup cracker meal (crushed saltines)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil

Toast sesame seeds in dry skillet over low heat, stirring until golden, about 2 minutes. Combine carrots, scallions, ginger and garlic in large bowl; stir to blend. Add cracker meal, eggs, sesame seeds and salt; stir to blend. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a medium skillet until hot enough to sizzle a crust of bread. Add batter by rounded tablespoons and fry, turning once, until browned on both sides. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with Thai Dipping Sauce. Makes 20 bite-sized appetizers.

- Each serving contains 28 calories, 1g fat, 3g carb, 128mg sodium, 0 cholesterol.

- From "Pancakes A to Z" by Marie Simmons

THAI DIPPING SAUCE

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup hot water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons thinly sliced hot chili pepper (jalapeno or serrano are good) - or to taste

1 clove garlic, minced

Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, 1/4 cup hot water, sugar, chile pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Serve warm with Ginger, Carrot & Sesame Pancakes. Makes 8 servings.

- Each serving contains 27 cal, 1g fat, 6g carb, 744mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol.

- From "Pancakes A to Z" by Marie Simmons

TUTTI-FRUITTI WAFFLES

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup milk

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 small apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

1 small pear, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

Toppings*

Preheat your waffle iron. If you want to hold the finished waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. Melt the butter; reserve. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and sugars. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, orange juice, eggs and vanilla until well-combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed. Stir in the diced fruit and fold in the melted butter. Lightly butter or spray the grids of your iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick. Spoon out a generous 1/2 cup of batter onto the iron. Gently spread the batter over the grids with a metal spatula or wooden spoon. Close the lid and bake until the waffle is browned and set. Serve the waffles immediately or keep them, in a single layer, on a rack in the preheated oven while you make the rest of the bunch. Makes five 61/2-inch round waffles.

- Each serving contains 346 calories, 11g fat, 58g carb, 267 mg sodium, 28mg cholesterol.

- From "Waffles" by Dorie Greenspan

- *Note: Top with maple syrup if you're serving these for breakfast; ice cream for accompaniment if you're serving for dessert, or banana berry sauce.

BANANA BERRY SAUCE

One 12-ounce package frozen strawberries or raspberries in syrup, thawed (still frosty is fine)

2 bananas, peeled

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Place all ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor or a blender and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Serve immediately or chill. Makes approximately 2 cups.

- Each 1/4 cup contains 57 calories, trace fat, 13g carb, 2mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol.

- From "Waffles" by Dorie Greenspan