Tag Archives: holidays

Waffling

One of the joys of a holiday weekend is actually having enough time to do everything one wants to do and still have time to relax. (Note – this statement mostly applies to childless, non-holiday hosts like myself – results may vary.) This weekend I managed to bake two pies, make snacks, clean the house, spend time with family, go out to dinner, play board games – and still have time to lounge around the house aimlessly. Even aimless lounging requires some energy, however, and so a decadent Sunday breakfast is necessary before getting down to the serious business of nothing much.

Lately Mr. Menace and I have been taking advantage of our waffle iron for said Sunday breakfasts, which is a very good thing indeed if we are going to allow it to take up valuable pantry real estate. Over the years I’ve played with various waffle recipes and techniques and I’ve finally found the keeper – right in my old standby cookbook, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. For too many years I stuck with the super easy, most basic recipe in the book, but recently I decided to try the Rich Buttermilk Waffles variation. They weren’t even so much more work than easy version – you just need to have buttermilk on hand, although that can even be faked with the old “white vinegar in milk” routine. That said, I’ve now done it both ways and the actual buttermilk variation seems to be a bit fluffier and richer than the fake-out.

It starts, like all waffle/pancake/muffin recipes, with the dry ingredients:

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Mmm…powdery.

Just some flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. This was a double batch, because Mr. Menace likes to have extra to toast up later. Bittman would consider this sacrilege – he calls waffles “delicate creatures” in the book – but luckily he hasn’t been around to complain.

Next the wet ingredients. First you’re gonna separate some eggs. This is the most time-consuming step of the whole process (not so much the separation but WHY you are separating, which you will see in a moment) but I promise that it’s worth it.

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Sent to separate bowls until they learn to behave!

The yolks will get added to the buttermilk and the largish amount of butter that you have previously melted. Don’t freak out too much about the butter. These are rich waffles, after all. Add some vanilla extract if you’re into that, which I am.

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Just some buttermilk, butter and egg yolks, hanging out in a bowl.

Now you need to beat the whites until the hold soft peaks. If you’re a masochist, you can do this by hand, as I did the first time, or if you’re sane, you can do it with your stand mixer like I did this time. Maybe that’s REALLY why they were fluffier this time around.

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This is what a soft peak looks like.

Now you should turn on your waffle iron and brush it with oil, to get it ready.

Then, you’re going to put the wet bits into the dry bits:

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Gloppy!

and fold your egg whites into THAT mess:

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Gently folding.

 

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Complete integration achieved! See how fluffy the batter is?

Now you’re ready to cook those waffles! Bittman tells you to put a “ladleful” of batter on that iron – for the one I have, 1/2 cup seems to be the perfect amount. Cook it for 3-5 minutes – I found 4 minutes on the highest heat setting yielded the best results, but again, irons vary. It should be delightfully golden brown and come out of your waffle iron without a fight.  The first one might be a little ugly:

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This is what 2/3rds of a cup of batter looks like in my waffle iron. TOO MUCH.

But the next one should be lovely:

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Near perfection!

The first one is always funky. Such is the nature of wafflehood. Now eat them, with plenty of butter and just a bit of syrup, or however you prefer your waffles to be adorned. If you’d like the complete recipe with amounts and so forth you can find it here.

What’s your favorite Sunday breakfast treat?

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Out With The Old, In With The Chex Mix!

So, 2009 comes to a close – not just the end of a year, but a whole decade! And what a year it was – I started this blog, committed to running the marathon, and generally had a pretty good year in spite of it being kind of lousy for a lot of folks I know. Still, there’s always room for improvement, and I’m hoping that 2010 will bring even better adventures!

That said, I’m a big ol’ traditionalist, especially around the holidays. For New Year’s Eve, that means staying home, playing board games, and Chex Mix. When I was a kid, my mother, who’s a nurse, always had to work New Year’s to make up for the fact that she took off Christmas. Since she usually worked the graveyard shift, that really meant working New Year’s Eve, so she and my dad never went to parties – she went to work, and he stayed home with us girls, which he always turned into its own kind of party. We’d have ginger ale in champagne flutes (and he’d have Asti Spumante, since he likes it better than champagne) and tons of snacks, none of which was more sacred than the Chex Mix. He made it (yes, children, once upon a time you could not buy Chex Mix in a bag but HAD to make it yourself) in massive quantities according to the recipe used by his aunt, Mary. Great-Aunt Mary’s recipe is fairly similar to the one that Ralston-Purina’s been putting on the box since 1952, but with a few key variations.

First, the pretzels should be stick pretzels, not minis. This change is necessary to mesh with the other one, which is that Cheerios need to be added to the mix. Until recently, Chex and Cheerios had two different makers, so this was a rather scandalous addition, but an important one. For starters, the Cheerios suck up the butter sauce that coats the mix like nobody’s business, resulting in delightful little flavor-bombs. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, without Cheerios, what would you use as the wheels of your tiny Chex car? (See? The pretzel sticks are the axles!)

We’ve been making little cars out of our food as a family for as far back as I can remember, but one year it got totally out of hand (by then most of us girls were adults). My best friend came over and we sat with my parents and ended up making an entire Chex town, complete with a pig pen and a bus stop. Keep in mind that we were over 21 years old. I wish I had the pictures to show you, but alas, this predated my digital cameras. It was an utterly ridiculous evening, and one of the best New Year’s Eves I’ve ever spent.

These days I stay with Mr. Menace in my own apartment, but I still insist on Chex Mix as part of our celebrations. It’s a symbol of love, family, and enough salt to cure your tongue in your mouth. Happy New Year, y’all – let’s make 2010 the best year yet!

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Holiday Happenings

I mentioned in the “Snowy Day” post that I would fill you in on the further details of our cookie decorating party, and here they are!

This is a tradition that started about four Christmases ago, when I was getting ready to prepare my usual cookie plates. A large bulk of the cookies are decorated sugar cookies – they’re festive and fun, not too difficult, and have a sweet simplicity that people seem to enjoy. However, in large quantities, they are horrifyingly tedious. Sugar cookies are refrigerator cookies – the dough needs to be chilled, then rolled out with a pin and cut into shapes, or rolled into a log and sliced into circles if you’re less ambitious. The baker then baby-sits umpteen cookie sheets at about 5-8 minutes each, finally decorating them when they’re cool. I prefer to make a simple icing, color it, and paint the cookies. Which is fun for about five cookies or so, but when one is making five dozen becomes the most boring task imaginable. I found I’d often resort to dipping cookies into one color or another just to be done. The joy was being sucked out of my holiday preparations!

Then, in 2006, it struck me that what I needed was help. Not only to reduce the number of cookies I was icing, but to inject a little fun into the proceedings. I decided to throw a party – not a cookie swap, I didn’t need cookies coming INTO the house, but a decorating soiree, complete with savory snacks and mulled wine! (Mulled wine is a sure-fire way to make your house smell like Christmas, as well as to make a $14 box of wine a completely acceptable beverage to serve to your guests. I’d link you a recipe, but I just use a tin of mulling spices and follow the directions on it. My only real addition – orange slices.) That first year just four folks came over, but we had such a grand time that I vowed never to ice alone again.

We’ve come a long way with this party – more participants, better snacks, and prizes for arbitrary categories of my choosing! This year I even made different sorts of sugar cookie – a regular batch, a double-vanilla batch, and a spiced batch. I nearly didn’t hold it this year, what with all of the Marathon baking, but I’m really glad I did. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the season with good friends!

Here are this year’s winning cookies!

Best Traditional Cookie: Shaded Snowman
Traditional Snowman

Most Creative Use of Shape: Coyote from Dragonfly:
Coyote

Best Use of Color: Trout
Color winner

Most Evil Cookie: Blue Ghost
Hungry Ghosts

And last but not least…

What?!: Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse

Thank you to everyone who came out this year and celebrated with us! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and to those who don’t, Happy Year’s End!