Waffles...a taste test!

After years (and I do mean, years) of "waffling" on the question of buying a waffle maker, I finally got one over Christmas!  It's been the most exciting new "toy" and I've been having such fun taste-testing classic waffle recipes with my family.  I can tell you there sure are a lot of waffle recipes out there and I'm only talking about your basic waffles. I haven't even gotten into savory waffles or flavored waffles, or using the waffle maker to make other things like omelettes or pizza.
There's been a lot of "waffleing" at my house lately!
I've made and taste-tested six basic waffle recipes so far.  I thought it would be fun to lay them out here and share what we thought of them.  The weekend is just around the corner so let's settle in and chat about waffles, and if you have a favorite waffle recipe, please send it my way!

Before we get into specifics, I did come to a few overall conclusions: 
  • There were no "bad" waffles.  We ate all the versions I made thus far and enjoyed each variety. They each had something going for them and were tasty and enjoyable in their own way.  All waffles were happily eaten and nothing wasted in our taste experiment.
  • A lot of waffle recipes are quite similar.  With the exception of the yeast waffles, we're generally talking milk or buttermilk, butter vs. oil, whole eggs or folding in separately whipped egg whites.  Proportions are about the same but little nuances make small changes, and you just have to try them to see what you prefer...or discover that you like them all and just want to mix it up at different times.
  • Making waffles is fun!  I haven't flipped a pancake in a few weeks and it's been such a nice change.  While the waffles are cooking, you can do other things and prep the rest of breakfast.  Keep them warm on a rack-lined baking sheet in the oven while you cook the batches and freeze extras for a quick breakfast on the weekdays.  Waffles are definitely a good thing.
Now for the fun part!  Here are the 6 waffle recipes my family and I have been noshing on in the past month or so.  I'll give you an intro, our taste-testing takeaway, and what I might want to do differently next time.  I might even name a favorite!

1. Classic Belgian Waffles

The waffle maker I got for Christmas is a deep-pocket Belgian-style waffle maker so I suppose all the waffles I tried were technically "Belgian" waffles.  But for lack of a better title, I'll say this first recipe is what we think of as a "classic" Belgian waffle in terms of what we expect here in the States. 
Recipe: I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe.  The highlights or main ingredients are milk (vs. buttermilk), butter (vs. oil), a good amount of vanilla extract and sugar, and separately whipped egg whites that are folded into the batter to lighten and crisp the waffles.  

Taste-taste takeaway: These waffles earned the "taste award" at our house!  They had incredible flavor - sweet, with a strong undertone of vanilla.  They reminded my husband and me of Hong Kong egg waffles in their sweet custardy flavor.  On the slight downside, they didn't turn out as crisp as we wanted and were perhaps slightly too sweet for me personally.

What I'd like to do different/try next time: I'd love to make these again, with a little less sugar.

2. Overnight Yeasted Waffles

Long before I got the waffle maker, I'd been compiling a mental (then written) list of recipes I had to try.  I have to say this yeasted waffle recipe has been the one I was most eager to try after hearing so much about it and knowing the magic of yeast.  
Recipe: The classic overnight raised - or yeasted - waffle recipe comes from Marion Cunningham and I used the recipe I found via Smitten Kitchen.  The batter is actually not suitable for a deep pocket Belgian-style waffle maker like the one I have but I increased the baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon (from 1/4 teaspoon...a tip I picked up here) and it worked quite well.

The highlight of this recipe is the use of active dry yeast in the batter, which you let sit overnight.  You can set the batter in the fridge to rise but room temperature is recommended for a more flavorful waffle.

Taste-taste takeaway:  My oh my, these waffles were unusual and special!  If the Belgian waffles above took the "taste/flavor award", these yeasted waffles certainly earned the "texture award"!  The texture is something ethereal that's unlike anything we've had before.  The waffles are so crisp and light as a feather.  When you bite into it, you get that sharp crispness that practically shatters but it isn't harsh or rough...and the waffles just melt in your mouth.
My husband took the pic above to show the airiness and texture of these remarkable waffles.  

Taste-wise, I let my batter sit overnight and I can tell you we tasted the complex, somewhat fermented, yeast flavor.  I want to tell you we loved that but actually, we didn't.  It was interesting and we didn't exactly dislike it but it was just a bit too strong for us.  It left us wishing we could take this texture and combine it with the flavor from the first waffles we tested.

What I'd like to do different/try next time: These overnight waffles are pretty amazing.  Next time, I'd let the batter sit in the refrigerator overnight (instead of on the counter at room temperature) and see if it results in a slightly milder flavor that my family and I might actually prefer.

*Update (April 2016): We happily re-tested these overnight yeast waffles by letting the batter sit overnight in the refrigerator instead of on the counter (though I set it out for about an hour in the morning before cooking).  The batter does not rise as much and as expected, you end up with a milder flavor waffle.  You can still detect the yeast flavor but it is distinctly less sourdough-like than the alternative.  I also noticed that the waffles were not quite as ethereally crisp, but still airy and light and still crisp yet slightly chewy.  Overall, we liked it a lot (on par with the winning waffle recipe)!  The milder flavor suits us but I recommend trying it both ways to see what you prefer.

3.  Basic Waffles

The next batch of waffles is what I'm calling "basic" ones.  It reminds me of pancake batter - milk, flour, whole eggs, a touch of vanilla, and vegetable oil - mixed together. This would be the kind of quick standby recipe I'd like to know as an easy option that doesn't involve a lot of frills.
Recipe: The recipe is from allrecipes.com.  You don't have to whip the egg whites separately; instructions call for first whipping the whole eggs until fluffy before proceeding.  It's a very simple batter.

Taste-taste takeaway: These were very pancake-like, as we expected.  The interior is soft and cakey.  It's sort of like eating pancakes in waffle form, with a bit more of an edge.  
Chicken and Waffle, at home
I topped these basic waffles with some baked "fried" chicken for our lunch one day.  I thought the mild flavor of the waffles would be a good base for the chicken.

What I'd like to do different/try next time: Much like with making pancakes, I find that I generally prefer batters made with butter instead of vegetable oil.  I like the extra boost of flavor from the butter.  Next time, I'd try butter instead of oil in this recipe.

4. Buttermilk Waffles

Just like pancakes, you have to give some love to buttermilk when it comes to making waffles!  I started with this simple buttermilk waffle recipe - a easy batter that involves butter and whole eggs.
Recipe: The recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  Again, it's a very quick and easy one that does not involve separating eggs and whipping the whites.

Taste-taste takeaway: Similar to the previous basic waffles, these are something like the equivalent of buttermilk pancakes in waffle form.  We preferred these to the basic ones; in comparison, this buttermilk version had a deeper/better flavor, likely thanks to the buttermilk as well as butter rather than oil in the recipe.  They were satisfying and tasty.

What I'd like to do different/try next time:  Aside from possibly trying this recipe by taking the extra step of separating the eggs and whipping the whites to fold in at the end, I'd likely stick with this recipe as is.

5.  Light and Crispy Buttermilk Waffles

I'm listing these waffle recipes in the order in which my family and I tried them.  This recipe was an unexpected entry, brought to me by my sister who spotted it on Instagram.  And boy, am I glad she did!!
So I gathered my sister and her family over to our place for a little waffle brunch gathering to try this recipe out together.  Although I managed to knock a glass of mango mimosa over the table right before we sat down, we still had a lovely brunch (thanks to my husband's quick cleanup efforts), with the highlight of sampling these waffles. Just like the name suggests, they were indeed light and crisp, with a great flavor to boot!  

Recipe: This recipe comes via Food & Wine.  Reading the ingredient list, I had a very good feeling they would be as special as the magazine claimed.  Here's the interesting thing about the ingredients: cornstarch!  These waffles have not only all-purpose flour in them but a quarter component of cornstarch.  Since my go-to pancake recipe is one that has potato starch in it, I had a good feeling going in.

These waffles pull out almost all the stops and it's worth the effort!  Not only do you have some cornstarch throw into the mix, there's buttermilk and milk, as well as a separately whipped egg white involved.  The recipe calls for a generous amount vegetable oil; I dialed it down a little and liked my results immensely. 
We were too busy enjoying these awesome waffles to take beauty shots...
Taste-taste takeaway:  The magazine, which says this recipe (originally from Pam Anderson's cookbook, Cook Smart) has won the hearts of even yeast waffle fans, totally wowed us all!  The waffles are very crisp and light yet soft inside.  It had a great flavor even using vegetable oil.  These waffles were our favorite so far!

What I'd like to do different/try next time:  Honestly, I'd be perfectly happy to continue making and eating these waffles just the way I made them.  I'd be interested in swapping the vegetable oil with butter and I might increase the amount of vanilla extract a touch.


6.  Whole Wheat Waffles

My initial round of waffle taste-testing wouldn't be complete without trying a whole wheat version.  In the last few years, I've come to actually prefer whole wheat versions of many things and I was hopeful, though nervous, about these waffles.  
Recipe: I used a recipe from King Arthur Flour.  All the flour in waffle is whole wheat - specifically, white whole wheat flour, which is my go-to preference when it comes to whole wheat flour.   These waffles call for milk and I opted to use butter over oil (and I dialed down the amount slightly).

Taste-taste takeaway:  I needn't have been nervous about these whole wheat waffles. They were great!  I don't know why I was so surprised but I liked them so much that I would be more than happy to make these my "everyday" waffles.  

The fellas enjoyed the plain whole wheat waffles and then tried my second spin on them...you see, I couldn't help but make chocolate chip waffles!  I think I was rationalizing the indulgence of the chocolate chips with the wholesomeness of the whole wheat waffle base.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Waffles
The mini chocolate chips I folded into the whole wheat waffles transformed them into a rich, almost fudgy-tasting, treat.  For breakfast, I preferred the plain whole wheat waffles but not surprisingly, the fellas wanted the chocolate chip ones!

What I'd like to do different/try next time: Since I made these with butter, I might alternate and try these with vegetable oil next time.  It was a solid recipe that I'm happy to keep making either way.  

Final Thoughts...

Are you craving a waffle now, or sick of them after looking at all my iterations?  

Personally, I've been having a lot of fun "waffleing" the past month (my family isn't complaining either).  I'm very happy we finally got ourselves a waffle maker!  I see a lot more waffles in our future...but right now, the most important question I have to answer for myself is this: which of these waffles would be best to top with ice cream?  When my husband and I were dating, we'd often go to a cafe in Brooklyn during the late afternoon for dessert (we knew how to live it up) and often, we'd share an order of waffle with ice cream.  Now that I have a waffle maker, it's time to make a homemade version real soon.

Thank you for taking this little waffle trip with me!  I've linked all the recipes I used but I'll sign off now with the recipe that turned out to be the favorite for my family in this first round of taste-testing.  Remember, they're all good...but this one was truly awesome...

Recipe:

Light and Crispy Buttermilk Waffles
Adapted from Pam Anderson's cookbook, Cook Smart, via Food & Wine

This recipe has quite a few tricks up its sleeve - cornstarch, buttermilk as well as milk, whipped egg white, and a good amount of oil.  It's worth the effort because after trying six terrific recipes, this one edged out as our favorite.  The waffles are crisp and light, with a soft flavorful center.

- Makes 4-5 Belgian waffles (4x4 square and 1-inch deep) - 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil (note: I dialed it down and used a rounded 4 tablespoons and it worked well)
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (note: I recommend going a little heavy on the vanilla)
Maple syrup, for serving

To keep waffles warm while cooking in batches, preheat the oven to 225 degrees; set aside a baking sheet with a rack on top.  Preheat waffle maker. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a glass measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, and milk, then beat in the egg yolk.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white to soft peaks.  Add the sugar and continue to whip until egg whites are firm and glossy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisking until just combined.  Lastly, fold in the beaten egg white until just incorporated.

When the waffle maker is heated and ready, scoop about 3/4 cup batter (depending on size/capacity of your waffle maker) into each square of the waffle iron.  Use a small offset spatula to spread the batter near the edges and smooth out the surface.  Cook, according to manufacturer's instructions and to your desired level of doneness. Serve immediately or place onto the baking rack and keep warm in the oven until ready to eat.  Serve with maple syrup.  



40 comments:

  1. You are making my mouth water and I am totally craving waffles and the worst part about it is that our waffle maker from Fortress has died and no longer works. If it was not the world's most crazy holiday I would venture out to get one right now but it will have to wait until the massive migration of people has left town. Gong Hei Fat Choy!

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    1. Definitely too much frenzied shopping out there right now to go shopping for a waffle maker...but hope you find yourself another one soon! It took me long enough to finally get one!

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  2. Now you have me crave waffles for the dinner!

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    1. I adore waffles and I need to have them for dinner one day!

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  3. Mmmmm, I love waffles and your pictures are making me drool. I wish I could have some right away! Have a lovely weekend. :)

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    1. Thanks, Anu. We enjoyed all the "testing" for sure! Have a nice weekend!

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  4. haha oh my gosh I love that you did this!! I've tried certain ones of these but not all ... I kinda feel like I need to now! lol And I officially want some waffles... Happy weekend Monica!!

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    1. I finally got the waffle maker, Ashley! One day, I will make some exciting waffles like yours. Seeing waffles like yours definitely inspired me to go and get that waffle maker already! Loving it so far. ; )

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  5. Thank you so much for this review. I made waffles recently and thought they were pitiful. I can't wait to try your F&W favorite - great post! Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Thanks, Tricia. They honestly were all good and I want to re-test each one basically...but that F&W recipe was really good. I wonder what you'll think of it...We had a snow day today! Not too much snow but I should've made waffles! ;) Enjoy the weekend...

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  6. Haha yay for waffles! Such a fun post! I love that you are showing a comparison of all the recipes. I remember being on a mission to find the best crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside waffles when we first got our waffle maker too. They all look delicious and now I want waffles for lunch :) Happy Friday!

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    1. Glad you like it, Kelly. It was fun to do and fun to write. It's like a notebook for me and I can refer to it in one place. : )

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  7. Wow!! waffles are my all time favorite. They look delicious. Love it. Yum Yum :)

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    1. Crisp on the outside, soft on inside, sweet/flavorful waffles are just so good, aren't they?!

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  8. I used to own a waffle maker, but then it got lost years ago during the move! I need to get myself a new one so I too can taste-test these fun homemade waffle recipes! Homemade waffles is just so much better than the frozen ones! They look mouthwatering!

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    1. Hi Melanie - yes, I always had frozen whole wheat waffles tucked away in the freezer and sometimes I bought Trader Joe's Belgian waffles. No more... I can make my own! Hope you get waffleing soon too. ; )

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  9. I love that you provided all the recipes you tried along with your notes! It's great to see you putting your new waffle maker to such good use!

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    1. Hi Natalie - thanks so much. We're having such fun with my new "toy". I have more waffle recipes to try and need to revisit some of these recipes, too...but honestly, I would pick any of these I made and not go wrong. : )

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  10. Yup, I am 100% craving waffles now!! I love that you've made and analyzed so many different versions. This is an awesome post!

    Sues

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    1. Thank you very much! Have a great weekend, maybe with some waffles?

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  11. Lovely review. I make waffles frequently, here at home we adore. Have to try the Belgium recipe (with beer) Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. That sounds fantastic - there truly are so many recipes to try and many ways to get to deliciousness.

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  12. Sounds like you've had a fun month experimenting with recipes! We love waffles, but I usually just use my basic pancake recipe. Sounds like it's time to branch out!

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    1. Great fun, especially since each one was tasty in its own right. : )

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  13. I'm so glad that you're enjoying your waffle maker. Since my husband is insane over waffles, I gave him one for Christmas years ago and he's only used it once. Your recipe for the yeast batter waffles just sounds totally special and yummy, Monica! I better get the waffle maker out to try those!

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    1. I love how different recipes (though the waffles all look very similar!) appeal to different people. The yeast one is just fascinating. I can't wait to try it again. Hope you dig your waffle maker out soon! :)

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  14. The reason I have never owned a waffle maker, is that I am afraid of having fresh delicious waffles at my disposal. I would eat them all! I am delighted, however, to enjoy your waffle making adventures. Wow, Monica, you are a waffle scientist! There really is chemistry going on here and your waffle experiments produced a variety of textures and flavors. I'm excited to see what you waffle-up next!

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    1. It is so fun to try different recipes and taste them and try to understand the nuances. I might be over-thinking it but happily, they were all so tasty, it wasn't hard work. Can't wait to keep waffleing. ; )

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  15. oh wow! There's nothing as comforting as ggood waffles ! Love it!

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  16. Great post, really interesting but not actually something I've ever made - I should give them a try!

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    1. Appreciate it...one day, you'll find yourself with a waffle maker and be hooked. ; )

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  17. How fun! I love that you tried all those different waffle recipes. I use a similar buttermilk waffle recipe. The waffles always come out really light and crispy! Now, I'm craving for some waffles! Can't wait to see your flavored waffle recipes soon! :)

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    1. This was a lot of fun...I'm digging my waffle maker and it's just a nice change from pancakes all the time. Crisp on outside, soft and sweet in the center is perfect when it comes to waffles. Time to make a batch soon... ; )

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  18. This was a really fun post to read! You saved our time trying to figure out which tastes good! By now you're pretty expert making good waffles. I like waffles more than pancakes (because I love crispy texture in general). We stop eating waffles and pancakes on weekends because we usually start working/filming and no time. I need this one of these days. I miss eating waffles with fruits!

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    1. Thanks so much, Nami. I love a good waffle and it's my 'treat' when we go to the diner. For a long time, I wanted to keep it a treat for when I go out but I finally had to succumb after seeing and drooling over so many waffles on blogs and such. I love it!!

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  19. Wow! That's a lot of waffles and now I'm craving for it. Time to look for my waffle maker! Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. haha - thanks! Glad to inspire waffle-hunger. : )

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  20. Wow! All of these waffles look and sound amazing, Monica. I love the idea of topping waffles with ice cream. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! (:

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    1. Yes, waffles with ice cream is a favorite. Only did it for the chocolate-chocolates ones so far (a later post...) but really, you can plop ice cream on any of these...why not! : )

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