The Waffle Truth

The Kitchen

            The Waffler

MOM: [puts waffles into a toaster, yells to her kids elsewhere] Emily, Sam, time to get up. Breakfast. Come on, kids.

WAFFLER: [knocks at the door]

MOM: Hmmm. Who could that be?

WAFFLER: [deftly removes the waffles from the toaster]

MOM: That was strange. Nobody's there. Huh. [returns to the kitchen, and looks into the toaster] My goodness. My waffles.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Businessman

BUSINESSMAN: Hmm, maybe I've got enough time for a couple of Eggos and, maybe, the crossword puzzle. That sounds like a good idea.

[the phone rings]

MAN: Uh, who could that be? [answers the phone] Hello. Hello? Hello!

WAFFLER: [removes the waffles from the toaster]

MAN: On, don't waste my time. At least I've got my ... what? Where are my Eggos? Wait a minute. Ugh. Buster? [we heard a dog whine] Buster, get in here! GET IN HERE! Arrgh!

The Kitchen

            Radio DJ

COOK: [pours waffle mix (from a box) into a waffle iron]

RADIO DJ: And with highs in the 70's, it looks like another sunny day out here in the suburbs. But hey, kids, it looks like there is a cloud in that silver lining.

COOK: [leaves]

RADIO DJ: Police report this morning that several homes in the area have been broken into just this morning ...

WAFFLER: [takes the waffle iron, the batter and the boxed mix]

RADIO DJ: ... and although officials can't say yet whether the invasions have been the work of a highly organized group or one determined individual, they do know that the only thing that has been taken at this point is ... get this ... waffles. So lock those kitchen doors.

COOK: [returns and is angry]

The Kitchen

WAFFLER: I'm The Waffler. I'm a crusader, battling to save common, everyday, decent folk from the soul-stifling power of mediocre waffles. Oh sure, you could say that it's stealing. But, I would say that I'm not taking anything anyone wants in the first place. Waffles—that is, real waffles—are some of the most sublime culinary items on earth, not to mention, fine multi-taskers. But their unique shape and crust characteristics make them especially attractive to foodstuff manufacturers who have flooded the market with counterfeit waffle wanna-bees. Floppy, flavorless factory food. So, if I haven't hit your house yet, do yourself a favor and toss out those grim, store-bought grids of yours, because real waffles, perhaps more than any other food on earth, are ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

The Kitchen

GUEST: Sister "Deb", aka Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

    Waffles distinguish themselves by virtue of a curious and curiously effective shape. I mean, just look at it. I mean, besides keeping melted butter and syrup properly contained, this unique three-dimensional grid creates a strange anomaly. The waffle has more outside than inside. It's just as simple as that. And how could such a strange, other-worldly design come into being?

DEB DUCHON: [stands next to AB in a full Nun habit]

    Some culinary anthropologists believe that the answer is in a penguin tank, hah hah hah hah.

DD:  [swats AB's hand with a ruler]

AB: Ow!

DD: On your knees, boy!

AB: Oooh.

A Church

[while moving to their knees, they've been transported to a church interior]

AB: Ow, ow, ow. I wasn't done with my breakfast. [looks around] What does this have to do with waffles?

DD: Well, Alton, the word "waffles" and "wafers" both derive from the same Old German root word Wafel [pron: VAY-full], which is also related to words that mean "weave" and "honeycomb", which could be the precursor to the grid pattern on the modern waffle.

AB: Okay, what's that got to do with church?

DD: [swats AB's hand again] Keep your voice down.

AB: Ow!

DD: Wafers were originally communion wafers. Back in the Middle Ages, the monasteries were in charge of baking the communion wafers, but they were one of the few foods that people could eat during fasting periods. So, there was a big demand. Eventually, the secular bakeries got into the act and they started making them bigger and fancier with elaborate designs and patterns on the top.

AB: Makes sense. [tries to get up, DD pulls him back] Oooh.

DD: Such wafers are still associated with certain celebrations in Europe such as the Twelfth Night celebration, that's celebrated in places like Holland, where the original Pilgrims first hung out for about ten years before coming to the New World.

AB: Yeah, I, uh ... we did a show on doughnuts and dealt with that whole Holland thing.

DD: [grabs AB by the ear] Come on.

AB: Ow, ow, ow!

Paris: Arc de Triomphe de L'Etoile

GUEST: French Street Vendor

[she's pulled his ear into Paris, France]

AB: Ow, I wish you would quit that!

DD: The German Wafel became the medieval French gaufre, which eventually became gaufrette. Now the closest thing we have to gaufrette in the United States is the ice cream cone.

AB: Oh, speaking of ...

DD: [AB and DD both turn to the street vendor] Deux, s'il vous plait.

VENDOR: [hands them waffle ice cream cones]

DD: Mercí.

AB: Mercí.

VENDOR: [in a French accent] Whatever. [exits]

DD: Look at your ice cream cone. See the waffle shape?

AB: Sure. But, this isn't French. This isn't European. I mean, the ice cream cone was invented at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis by a Syrian pastry maker. Besides, how did we get from this thin, crispy wafer to the big, soft, beautiful waffle?

DD: Well, what had started as a Catholic symbol of self-denial eventually, through secularism and free enterprise, became a nice, fluffy waffle that we know today.

AB: Okay, I'll buy it. How do you like yours?

DD: Oh, I like to put a purée of wild persimmons and a sprinkling of wild hickory nuts on it.

AB: That sounds funny

DD: [swats AB's hand again]

AB: Ow! [drops ice cream cone] Oh, le bother!

The first Waffle House opened in suburban Atlanta in 1955.

The Kitchen

    Of course, there could be no waffles without waffle irons. Now early models resembled this iron set which is made for campers. You just heat it over direct heat and then you very carefully move off the bottom part. You add some batter there, a couple of spoonfuls. Then you take this other scorching, hot piece of iron and you hinge it on, like that. There's a little lock there. Now, I love waffles but I don't know that I love waffles enough to go through this.
    When cook tops became the norm in America, ironworkers started cranking out beauties like this which were a little more convenient to use. You would heat both sides over the cook top, then you would add the batter on one side, cook it, flip it, cook it, and then take out the finished waffle. Still a lot of work.
    Now the real waffle renaissance in this country had to wait for electricity. You see, after they finished saturating the American market with toasters, appliance manufacturers turned their minds to waffle irons. And by the 1940's, pretty much every household in America had one. Now since they got really, really, really hot, they weren't really safe, and aren't now. But they are extremely collectable, and models like this with ornate tops are the most desirable.
    Now if you are in the market for a new waffle iron, there are a few things to consider. Follow me.

Cornelius Swarthout patented the waffle iron on August 24, 1869.

Testing Laboratory

GUEST: "W", Equipment Specialist

[scene opens on a lap where many "hands" are turning, opening and closing an array of waffle irons]

AB: Hi, W. How's the iron?

W: We're just finishing up the lid test. But I can already tell you, this is the one you want.

AB: This is the one I want?

W: That's it.

AB: Wha ... what, no, no charming banter? No witty repartee?

W: My doctor says I have to reduce my stress levels. So, no.

AB: Well, I like this one here. Look, it's got an interior texture adjustment on it.

W: All you need is a ready light with an audible alarm and a doneness setting. That's it.

AB: Well, this one's really cool. Look, you can do two at a time. You put the stuff in, and you flip it over, and you put more in. That's cool.

W: Yes, but to cook them both quickly enough, to create the crispy exterior, the iron would have to draw so much electricity that it would blow most household circuits. It doesn't, so it can't.

AB: All right. Well, I really like this square one over here. This is really groovy because I can put a whole lot in there, and I can cut it up ...

W: No! Rounder is better. The batter will spread and cook more evenly without corners which are less efficient in terms of heat transference.

AB: Okay, round it is. But you know, I think I'm going to get this plastic one. It's got sweet lines, and it's real lightweight.

W: Lighter just means there's less mass, which means there's less metal in the grid plate, and fewer heating elements.

AB: Okay, waffle number one wins. Anything else I should notice?

W: Yes. Just look at the angles in the grid. In better irons, the angles are sharp and not smooth or rounded. And please take note of the large runoff moat.

AB: Yeah, it is big. Well. Hey, and look, it's even got a little place to coil up the cable on the bottom.

W: It's got everything that you need.

AB: Okay. Well, you know, W, you could have just given me, you know, this one at the beginning and could've spared ourselves all this idle chatter. You know, I'm a busy man. [walks off]

W: [through clenched teeth] Mmmm. [mumbles something] Happy place, happy place. [to the waffle irons] Quiet!

The Kitchen

    If there's a big, fat lie in waffle-dom, it's that decent waffles can be made from pancake batter. Oh sure, they both contain eggs, flour, leavening; they're both served for breakfast. But even if you take the shape out of consideration, there are huge differences. I mean, look at this. Yeah, the pancake's brown, but it's all soft and spongy. And when you look inside, it looks more like a cake. And in fact, I've made cakes from them.
    Waffles, on the other hand, are crisp on the outside and light on the inside, kind of like French fries, or beignets, funnel cakes, corn dogs, hush puppies, or those Dutch yummies known as doughnuts. In other words, waffles are fried, only instead of cooking immersed in hot oil, they cook while encased in hot-oil-coated metal. And anybody that's done any serious frying will tell you that by having a little more sugar and fat in the batter, things will fry better; and that's just what we're going to do.
    Here, now, is my all-purpose waffle batter, which is never ever to be used as a pancake batter, okay? Promise! Say it! Okay.

    Now we will require 4.75 ounces by weight of both AP and whole wheat flour. Now that's about a cup for you volumetric types. Anyway, I think that using a little whole wheat flour contributes a kind of earthiness that'll counterbalance some of the extra sugar that we're having to use. 4.75 Ounces Each
    All-Purpose Flour &
    Whole Wheat Flour
    Now speaking of sugar, we will need 3 tablespoons primarily because we want extra browning and crispiness on the outside of the waffle, and a teaspoon of kosher salt. 3 Tbs. Sugar +
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
    Next, the leavening: 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of baking powder. Now that combination will give the batter an initial boost which will help to thicken it, which is good. And then, because we're using double-acting baking powder, we'll get a second hit of CO2 once the temperature inside the waffle hits 120 degrees. And that, of course, is going to give us a nice, fluffy interior. 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder
    Now let us turn our attention to the wet works. In another larger bowl, say, one and a half quarts, beat 3 eggs smooth and drizzle in 2 ounces of melted butter and whisk it until thoroughly combined. Now by adding the fat to the eggs before introducing any other water-type liquids, we'll create a smooth batter, because we're making an emulsion. Why? [holds his hand to his ear] I think I heard someone at home say, "lipoproteins". Very, very good! Thanks to the lipoproteins found in eggs, both the fat in the butter and the liquid in the buttermilk to come will have something to grab hold of, and that'll make for a smoother batter. 3 Whole Eggs
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter,
    So, now 16 ounces—that's one pint—of room-temperature buttermilk. Now just beat that smooth. It won't take long because the lipoproteins. 16 Ounces Buttermilk

    Now it is time to introduce the wet goods to the dry goods. But first, did you plug in your waffle iron? Hmmm. Because if you haven't, this would be a darn good time to do it. You got it? Okay.
    Now, we always dump the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients because otherwise the flour would just kind of fly all over the place. And you might want to get rid of the whisk which will quickly turn into a club, and get yourself a spatula, better for the folding. Now, as is true with all muffin method mixtures, over-mixing is the major cause of malfunctions. That's because more mixing produces more gluten which will make waffles more suited to, I don't know, being on the bottom of your tennis shoes than being on your breakfast plate.
    [finished mixing] There. Now just walk away. Just walk away. Walk away. Move away. No, really, walk away. I know. It's got lumps in it. It's got funny-looking little bubbles in it. But trust me, it'll all work out during a nice five-minute rest. And we're going to leave it alone for five minutes to thicken up.

Kidney stew served on waffles is a traditional
Sunday feast in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    Before battering up, you want to give your waffle iron a quick spritz with non-stick spray, even if you have a non-stick waffle iron, because it will ensure good browning and proper release.
    Now you ...

THING: [holds out a container of oil]

    Oh. Why couldn't you use regular oil? Well, I ... oh, let's take a field trip.

Whole Foods: Atlanta, GA - 11:15 am

    Although they've only been around since the late 1950's, aerosol cooking sprays are definitely the lube of choice in American kitchens. Now they are loved by health pundits who believe that they are a healthy alternative to traditional mediums like shortening and butter. But they are despised by gourmets who really reject the magical mists, suggesting that a spritz of extra virgin olive oil would do the exact same thing. And to that, I say, "Unh unh".
    Let's take a moment to examine the contents of these canisters. Each of these brands contains either soy or canola oil, which makes perfect sense when you consider that they are both very fine lubricants. They're cheap, and they have almost no flavor. They also all contain propellants of some type, such as, let's see, isobutane or propane, very small amounts. A few of them contain flour, which is very, very nice for baking muffins, cakes, and what-not. A few contain alcohol, which keeps the mixture clear and prevents it from foaming up, which is okay.
    But the miracle ingredient in all of these is lecithin. Now lecithin is a natural emulsifier found in eggs and soybeans. When mixed with oil, it's a very effective surfactant. That means that it helps the fat spread out evenly in a very, very thin layer, and it keeps the oil and the moisture from the cooking food from getting in each other's way. And that is why I use this stuff on my waffle iron.
    The one thing that I don't really like about these is that they often claim to be a gateway to zero-fat cooking. How can that be, when the contents of this canister are almost 100% fat? Well, the government says that if the fat content of a recommended serving is 0.5 grams or less, then the manufacturer can simply round it down to zero, okay? Well, how much is a recommended dose, so to speak? [sprays a bit into the air] About that much, which really isn't enough to properly prep a waffle iron. All the same, I really can't think of much bad to say about the stuff. [walks away, slips, and falls] All right, maybe one thing.

The Kitchen

    Now while I'm at it, I'm also going to lightly lube my one and a half-ounce scoop which I think is perfect for this. Actually, I'm going to use two of these for one seven-inch waffle. And just to guarantee evenness, I'm going to use the back of the scoop to kind of round off the batter, like that, to about an inch from the edge. Then the lid goes down.
    Now, patience is required. No matter what you see, hear, or smell, do not open that lid until the waffle iron beeps and tells you that it's time to open it. How long will that take? Well, it kind of depends on your waffle iron. Mine has a little doneness setting that ranges between one and seven. Since I really don't have any place in my world for floppy, moist, soft waffles, I always keep mine on the hottest setting, seven, which will also give me the fastest rebound time when it comes to making more waffles.
    Always open gently. Now that is a waffle. Now, if there is ever going to be any overflow, it's usually going to be right in the front. I don't mind it, but you can always trim it off and feed it to the dog if that's what you want to do. Waffles, anybody?

THING: [grabs the plate]

    Hence, the waffler's dilemma. A machine like this really just makes one waffle at a time. How do you get around that? Well, you could make a lot of waffles, and stockpile them in a warm oven. Simply keep them covered with aluminum foil until you are ready to serve.
    Of course, the other answer to the dilemma is simply to use two, side-by-side waffle irons. That way, you can just constantly produce them all the live long day. But there is something to keep in mind: a good waffle iron will be rated for 1000 watts, and at 120 volts, that means that each one of these, when in peak performance, will be pulling 8.3 amps. Now, the average kitchen household breaker is only 15 amps. This is 16.6. So, you'll have to separate your irons, and use them on two different circuits. Still worth it.

The Belgian waffle made its international
debut at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

The Kitchen

    Although butter and maple syrup—Amber, Grade B—are darn fine waffle toppings, they're not actually my favorites. Nope. My favorite waffle topping is, absolutely, fried chicken. Just make up some waffles and cook up some fried chicken, hopefully from a recipe you got off of this program.

CHICKEN: Fry some more.

    Exactly. Then, here's the secret: you toss the chicken in your favorite hot sauce, then you put it on the waffle, and then you smother the whole thing in Grade B Amber syrup. Now this is a southern thing; sometimes it's a, you know, Pennsylvania Dutch thing. And if it's a Pennsylvania Dutch thing for you, then you'll probably want to use brown gravy. I don't see why you'd ever want to do that, because this is good eats. Mmmm.
    Hey, guess what? Here's something that the toaster waffle industry doesn't want you to know: you can make your own frozen waffles. That's right. Just cook them up the way you normally would, only if you can, set your waffle iron to medium, so they're not quite as crispy, and then you just cool them on a towel, or on a cooling rack, and then bag 'em, tag 'em, and freeze 'em for up to six months. To bring them back, all you have to do is stick them in your old toaster, just like the store-bought ones. With a stash like this on hand, well, the sky's the limit. You could make peanut butter and jelly waffle sandwiches at a moment's notice, or maybe chocolate-covered waffles, or ... Oh, chocolate waffles. Heh, heh. I almost forgot about those.

    Start with seven ounces of all-purpose flour. That's about a cup and a half. Add to that 1.75 ounces of sugar—about three tablespoons—1.5 ounces of cocoa powder—about half a cup—one teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of baking soda. Just whisk that to combine thoroughly. 7 Ounces All-Purpose Flour
1.75 Ounces Sugar
1.5 Ounces Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
    Meanwhile, three eggs will go into a bowl, along with two ounces of unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled. Beat that thoroughly, and then add 16 ounces of buttermilk at room temperature, and last, but not least, one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. 3 Whole Eggs
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter,
16 Ounces Buttermilk
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
    Then it's time to introduce the wet works to the dry works. Mix thoroughly, but not too thoroughly, and then add, last, but not least, four ounces of chocolate chips—that's about three quarters of a cup. 4 Ounces Chocolate Chips

    Load up your waffle iron just as with our other mixture, and allow them to cook, and I find that the higher setting works better. As far as service goes, well, you can go with butter and syrup, but I find that vanilla ice cream is better.

GUEST: Policeman

    Well, I hope we've inspired you to spend a little quality time with your gridiron. By tinkering with your batter, you'll be surprised with what you can come up with.

POLICEMAN: [outside door off camera] Mr. Brown, this is the police. Open up.

    Ahem. For instance, in 1971, a track coach named Bill Bowerman poured liquid rubber into his wife's waffle iron, and glued the resulting grid onto a pair of running shoes he'd been working on.

POLICEMAN: Mr. Brown, we know you've got waffles in there.

    Bowerman was trying to create a shoe with low mass, but with great traction, and he had a hunch that the answer lay in the high surface-to-mass ratio of the waffle grid.

POLICEMAN: You have to open up.

    Heh, heh, heh. The shoes worked pretty good.

POLICEMAN: Alright, boys, go and open ...

    So they named them after the fleet-of-foot Greek goddess of victory, Nike.

POLICEMAN: We're coming in, Mr. Brown.

[AB puts bends down to put on the shoes and rises up as the Waffler]

THE WAFFLER: I'm "The Waffler". See you next time on Good Eats. Ha ha ha ha.

The Kitchen

    ["The Waffler" throws a waffle Ninja style and it hits a doll which falls]

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010