Friday, May 16, 2014

Sourdough Ham and Cheese Waffles

...and a waffle iron bake-off.

What do you enjoy for a leisurely weekend breakfast? Waffles rank high on my list of favorites, and Belgium waffles are irresistible. My trusty, decades old, traditional-style waffle iron has been a worthy stalwart, cranking out hundreds of waffles without fail. The reversible plates no longer reverse, the heat setting knob was lost years ago and the DONE light never lights, but the waffles are still perfect. Perfect, except they aren't Belgium waffles... those other waffles with deep pockets... able to hold tasty puddles pools of butter and syrup. Mmmm, just the thought of a Belgium waffle's crisp exterior, its soft interior, the sourdough tang, can produce hunger pangs and tummy rumbles. 

Warning; the next few paragraphs are all about waffle irons. If you are looking for a recipe, scroll to the bottom.

Small, easy-to-store, Belgium waffle makers are readily available, in stores and online. I purchased two different models, one for the house and one for the boat. The Black & Decker purchased for home use was adequate. It was slow to preheat, produced unevenly browned exteriors and had sticking issues. Then it broke. One hinge cracked, the whole thing came apart, and I tossed it out with little regret. 

An 8"x11" Proctor-Silex acquired for the boat has been a reliable unit, with only a few quirky twists. Waffle tops and bottoms brown unevenly, requiring a quick flip and extra 30 seconds of cooking to brown both sides. There is no heat setting adjustment and the ready-light activates too early, so I need to monitor the steam to gauge progress. One cup of batter fills the 4 section, round waffle, and the 7.5-inch waffle fills a plate.

We moved back aboard in a rush this spring, stowing gear quickly to get it out of the way and randomly cleaning and organizing cupboards and cabinets as time allowed. Not the best plan. I mistakenly thought the boat still needed a waffle iron and purchased a small Salton iron. It looked promising and would fit in the cabinet, back in a corner... wait a minute! It fit perfectly - right next to the Proctor-Silex. 

The 9"x9" Salton produces two square 4-inch waffles, each requiring 1/3 cup batter. Like the Proctor-Silex it has no heat setting adjustment and the ready-light activates too early. A waffle bottom will brown and crisp while the top is still quite underdone.The unit produces slightly thinner waffles with shallower holes for the butter and syrup.

Storing two waffle irons in a small galley was not preplanned, but the duo will be useful for breakfast gatherings with friends. There will be less wait time for everyone, and the cook will get to dine much earlier. For the two of us, I'll just continue to use the Proctor-Silex, nibbling on one section while I serve the Capt. the other three. We DO prefer those deeper holes; better nooks and crannies to hold the butter, syrup, jam, etc.

Back to the waffles...

This recipe makes more waffles than we can eat at one meal, and that's a bonus. They hold well for days in a ziploc bag, stored in the fridge, ready to pop into the toaster for a quick reheat. Who can resist a sourdough waffle for breakfast or as a late-night snack? Thin-sliced deli ham and a mild white cheddar add subtle flavor to these already tasty sourdough waffles. Add larger cubes from a chunk of ham and a more assertive cheese for a stronger flavor pop. Toss in some spices, or not. Either way, give Sourdough Ham and Cheese Waffles a try and play around with your favorite toppings. Betcha' can't eat just one.

Ham and Cheese Sourdough Waffles

2 cups Sourdough Starter (my batter is quite stiff)
1 Tablespoon sugar 
4 Tablespoons oil or melted butter     
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup ham chunks, slivered or small dice
1/2 cup aged white cheddar cheese, grated
scant 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in warm water

Serve with pats of butter and warm maple syrup, 
OR grainy mustard and warmed mango chutney

1.Put the starter in mixing bowl; add sugar, egg and oil or butter. Mix well with wood or plastic spoon. (Some old-timers say sourdough doesn't like metal bowls and utensils) Thin with water as needed for consistency. Add the ham chunks and grated cheese and stir to combine thoroughly. 
2.Dilute the soda in warm water. Add the baking soda at the last minute, when you’re almost ready for the batter to hit the iron. Fold the soda water gently into the sourdough batter. Do not beat it in heavily, you want to encourage the bubble formation, not defeat it. The batter will fill with bubbles and increase in bulk. It's ready when it is fluffier.
3.Ladle batter onto a preheated, well-oiled Belgian waffle iron; cover quickly and bake until done. For me that means crispy brown on the outside and soft in the middle.
4.Serve on a  hot plate; accompany with butter and warmed syrup or for a more savory taste offer grainy mustard and warm mango chutney. Repeat with the remaining batter.

  • To cook ahead and hold briefly, transfer each freshly make waffle to a wire baking rack and hold in the oven at the lowest temperature possible. This will keep them crisp, resting them directly on a plate will cause the bottom to steam and soften.
  • A Belgian style waffle iron isn’t essential. You can use another style, but we prefer the deeper holes that hold extra butter and syrup.

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