By Gary Meyer
The other morning I woke up and read on my phone that it was National Waffle Day. Why not celebrate?
I looked through cookbooks searching for an easy recipe. Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food had just what I was looking for as it was quickly made with ingredients we had on the shelf. Well we didn’t have everything but it sure seemed like one open to adaptation. In fact that is one of the joys of this book. Use it as guide but don’t feel you must stay on the path all the time. Take your chances.
We didn’t have pastry flour so I used half whole wheat flour and a mixture of corn, rice, and rye flours. We didn’t have two cups of buttermilk so one cup augmented with yogurt and milk. Half a cube of butter was half the amount in Alice’s recipe but it was plenty. I used brown sugar instead of white and a dash of cinnamon.
After finishing mixing the batter I added raspberries, figs, and walnuts because I can’t keep it too simple. I could have tried other flours like coconut or almond or added chia seeds. Next time.
The recipe said it makes eight waffles but I got eleven so there were plenty to freeze for other days. When you are ready, take them out of the freezer pop them into the toaster to get a nice crunchy waffle.
No additional butter is needed. Top with syrup, yogurt, nuts and/or fresh fruits.
If you are serving the whole batch keep the cooked waffles warm on a rack in your oven at 200 degrees while you finish cooking the rest. A rack keeps them from getting soggy while waiting to be eaten.
After enjoying these pretty perfect waffles I found out National Waffle Day was actually the day before, August 24 but who is keeping track?
It turns out August 25 was:
- National Whiskey Sour Day
- National Banana Split Day
- National Secondhand Wardrobe Day
- National Park Service Founders Day
- National Kiss and Make Up Day
Whiskey Sour Banana Splits after dinner? We dressed in some old clothes, found a National Park and made out—-oh —I misread it but I like making out better than a simple kiss with lipstick and mascara.
How about a waffle ice cream sandwich with the leftovers? Here are some ideas on Let’s Eat Cake.
The National Day Calendar is good to keep handy. Check any and every day for a specialized holidays you never imagined existed. There are recipes, ideas for celebrating and you can even register your own holiday.
Moving on. There is an incredible waffle that takes more time but worth it.
Tanya Holland makes the absolute best cornmeal waffles at her Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area it is worth the trip. During the pandemic they are doing pick up, delivery and outdoor seating service, but the waffles are not currently available.
Lucky for you we have the recipe from her book Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-style, down-home recipes from sweet West Oakland.
The late L.A. Times food writer wrote, “The best waffles commercially available, I am prepared to state, come from Brown Sugar Kitchen, a small, fragrant breakfast diner in Oakland. The waffles, Tanya Holland’s cornmeal-enhanced riff on Marion Cunningham’s famous yeasted waffles, are crisp, light and so violently leavened that they threaten to leap from the waffle iron in which they are cooked.
Holland includes a splendid recipe for these waffles in her book “Brown Sugar Kitchen,” and it works as well in my battered old waffle iron as it does at the restaurant. You mix the batter the night before, chill it in your refrigerator while you sleep, and stir in a bit of baking soda just before you pour it into your hot iron. (Remember to grease the iron well, or your first waffle will tear into delicious waffly shards when you attempt to lever it out onto a plate.) At the restaurant, Holland serves it with a sticky syrup made from boiled-down cider, but I always end up using Grade B maple syrup instead, because I am lazy and I am a barbarian. They are the best waffles you will ever taste.
Holland tends to pair the waffles with insanely delicious herbed fried chicken, and you also get a shot at her shrimp ’n’ grits.”
Makes 8 large waffles and 1½ to 2 cups syrup
- 1 (¼-ounce) package active dry yeast
- ¾ cup warm water
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1½ tsp. sugar
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) melted butter
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- Vegetable oil for greasing waffle iron
–In a small bowl, stir together yeast and water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
-In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. In a medium bowl, sift together cornmeal, flour, salt, and sugar. Add yeast mixture to eggs and milk.
-Whisk in dry ingredients, then butter.
-Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight.
-Stir baking soda into waffle batter.
-Preheat waffle iron and brush lightly with vegetable oil.
-Cook waffles until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
-Keep finished waffles warm in an oven in one layer to stay crisp.
Apple Cider Syrup:
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 1½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups apple cider
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 Tbsp. butter
-Combine all syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan.
– Bring to a boil and reduce until liquid coats the back of a spoon, 10 to 15 minutes. (If not using right away, refrigerate syrup in an airtight container for up to 1 month.)
-To serve, spoon warm syrup over waffles and eat immediately.
Other toppings Tanya offers:
Rosé-Steeped Strawberries with Vanilla Whipped Cream Topping
- 1 lb. strawberries, stemmed
- ¼ cup sugar, divided
- 1 cup dry rosé
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
-Slice strawberries into thin wedges and gently mix with 3 tbsp. sugar.
-Let sit 10 to 30 minutes, then pour in rosé.
-Let sit 10 minutes, then strain juices into a saucepan and reduce over medium heat until deep pink, slightly syrupy, and flavorful (4 to 7 minutes).
-Let syrup cool, then pour over strawberries.
-For the cream, whip cream with remaining 1 tbsp. sugar and the vanilla extract.
-Spoon strawberries and syrup onto waffles, pancakes, French toast, or crêpes and top with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream.
Praline Bourbon Bacon Syrup Topping
* 1 cup dark brown sugar
* 1 tsp lemon juice
* ½ cup toasted coarsely chopped pecans
* ½ cup crisp-fried diced bacon (from 6 oz. raw diced bacon)
* 1 tbsp bourbon (optional)
-Simmer brown sugar with 2/3 cup water until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
-Add lemon juice, pecans, and bacon.
-Stir in a splash of bourbon if you like and serve warm.
About 25 years ago I took my young son and his friend to Roscoe’s House of Chicken n Waffles, the Oakland branch of an L.A. based chain located near Jack London Square. It was a popular joint for the Black community, especially politicians. The idea of friend chicken and waffles made the boys think I was crazy but a friend’s description made it worth an adventure. I will never forget the looks of joy on their faces after those first bites. We returned often, the place closed and then reopened near Lake Merritt and then closed again. There have been others serving respectable versions but for my taste buds none touch Tanya Holland’s.
Matt Haber interviews Tanya Holland about how she has kept her business going during the pandemic by pivoting to takeout and serving donated meals to frontline medical workers through an organization called East Bay FeedER, started by her friends, writers Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon. Here she talks about the challenges of being a Black business owner in a city experiencing the one-two punch of Covid-19 and street protests and heightened police aggression following the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. (Inc.)
Tanya Holland site where you can buy her book.
Patricia Leigh Brown writes about her family’s encounter with Alice and The Art of Simple Food. (New York Times)
Buy directly from Chez Panisse to benefit The Edible Schoolyard Project.
Learn about the Edible Schoolyard Project and how you can support its delicious revolution to change how young people eat.
Read Kathryn Bowen’s Berkeleyside article about the future for the Edible Schoolyard.