Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago my family boasted many good cooks. Both my grandmothers were excellent in the kitchen and as far as I could tell as a child neither were jealous of the other. I do have a somewhat negative memory of my Swedish maternal grandmother though, forcing us kids to eat a concoction she called Prune Whip. Even today I don’t think I could choke down any more of that.
My mom was a great cook and as a child introduced me to a whole buffet of foods, sometimes with a great deal of trouble to herself due to being a single mother. She had all kinds of vegetables in our kitchen that I still eat today. Sometimes I use the same preparations she did, but I do have an adventurous tongue and seek new flavors to customary ingredients.
As I was growing up some of my fondest memories center around my brother and I visiting my aunt and uncle who lived in Glenview, then later in Deerfield. Their oldest child, my cousin John, was almost exactly 4 years younger than I. We played together and hung out as kids, and, even though he now resides in California, we still keep in contact.
His father, my Uncle Gordon, is the renowned breakfast cook in our family. Any time a family get-together centered on breakfast or brunch my Uncle Gordon had a strong hand in it. He is never happier than when preparing eggs, scones or waffles for anyone else in the family. My Uncle Gordon is also a talented whistler and I remember him in the kitchen happily at work making scones and filling the house with a sweet melody.
Waffles are definitely one of his centerpiece recipes. Most waffle recipes utilize only baking soda and/or baking powder as their active ingredient. My uncle found a great deal of success with his yeast waffle recipe. Making waffles with an active ingredient of yeast adds a whole new flavor to the finished product. It also allows for some of the lightest and crispiest waffles you can make.
My Uncle Gordon's waffle recipe must be made the day before, in this fashion it has the opportunity to sit, (in the refrigerator or on the counter), overnight and develop flavor. This is not unlike making bread, or bread starter, the day before and then finishing it up 24 hours later. The whole purpose is to allow the yeast to grow and build flavors in the waffle batter.
These crispy, flavorful delights coupled with your favorite homemade preserves, or pure maple syrup, will make you a breakfast hero. One more suggestion…..just after you add the batter to your waffle iron sprinkle on a couple tablespoons of pecan pieces, then close the top of the waffle iron. The pecans will lightly toast while the waffles cook, adding a beautifully rich, nutty flavor and crunch all its own.
One of the techniques employed in this recipe is folding in stiffly beaten egg whites. When beating egg whites be sure the equipment you use is perfectly clean, as any grease residue at all can severely compromise your effort. When ready to start folding in the beaten egg whites, roughly divide them into thirds. Stir in the first third without regard to any folding technique. This actually does lighten the batter and prepares it for the folding of the other two thirds. Next, add the second third and do gently “fold”. When the second third is mostly blended, add the last third and gently fold again. It is okay if there are a few pockets of beaten egg white in the batter.
Uncle Gordon’s Overnight Yeast Waffles
The Night Before
2 cups all purpose flour
1 package yeast
2 tsp sugar, (may substitute brown sugar for a different flavor)
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk
4 Tbls unsalted clarified butter melted, or 2 Tbls each melted un salted butter and vegetable oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs separated
In mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Heat 1 cup of the milk to 100 degrees and blend into the flour mixture along with the other cup of milk. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. You may also allow this to stand on the counter overnight, all though there are some who feel this to be a bad practice.
In the morning stir in your 2 egg yolks along with the melted butter and baking soda. Heat up you waffle iron while you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Using the method described above fold in the egg whites and make your first of many wonderful waffles.