Maybe it’s because I’m a late February baby, but I’ve always had a thing for Valentine’s Day. Abundance of twee notwithstanding, I just sort of love the idea of a Love Day. Granted, there have been years when I was Valentine-less, but even then I guess it was the hope that one day I would have a Permanent Valentine that buoyed me, along with a legit excuse to get chocolate wasted. These days, I still get chocolate wasted on Valentine’s Day, and this year in particular I’m pretty excited about celebrating some Big Love with our Little Family. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past several months, plenty of ups and downs and stressing until I think I might lose it (and on a couple of occasions I totally have). But we might (maybe? Please, universe?) be entering a bit of sweet spot right now, a little calm before the next inevitable storm. And so I say, bust out the chocolate. Turn dessert into breakfast, or vice versa. And good grief, don’t forget the Champagne.
Since we’re on the subject of love, let’s also talk about the totally scandalous affair I’ve been having with my waffle iron (my life is so sexy!). With the all craziness around here, I’ve been looking for quick meal components that transcend pickiness (well, one picky 5-year-old eater, and one really tiny eater who is just so beyond thrilled to be eating real food, he’ll take whatever you give him–congratulations, son, you are now my favorite child).
Long ago, I vowed I would never kowtow to my children at meal times and make them something separate from what their parents were eating. Long ago, I never had actual children. (Oh, the big ideas we have about parenting when we’ve never actually parented! Adorable.)
Now that I’m living in the Real World of Raising and Feeding Small People, MacGyvering dinner via the waffle iron has been an especially glorious thing on nights when the adults around here want to eat something with non-kid-friendly flavors, but I don’t have the mental capacity to coach/bribe my oldest through finishing an unfamiliar meal, and yet I don’t want to play short order cook and wash, like, five pans and three cutting boards. On multiple occasions, my trusty waffle iron has totally saved the day, and my sanity. Yes, we’ve done breakfast for dinner with some excellent whole wheat waffles and crispy thick-cut bacon, but there have also been grilled cheese waffles (just a handful of grated Cheddar and parm, and sometimes even bacon bits thrown into a good boxed pancake mix), and panini-esque grilled sandwiches filled with everything from turkey and cheese to PB and J. Easy clean up, happy, full bellies all around. Waffle iron, I salute you.
So it really only seems fitting that I start using the waffle iron for dessert. Or dessert-y breakfast. It’s Valentine’s Day, people. Do it for love.
Little Cocoa Liege Waffles
Makes about 3 dozen 2 to 3-inch baby waffles
I love making these waffles teeny–kind of like the silver dollar pancake, but waffle-y. These really can be either a very indulgent, kind of crazy breakfast, or as a novel dessert, served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and fresh berries.
If you wanted to keep it traditional, you’d use a Belgian waffle iron, the kind with fewer, really deep pockets. But because these are on the smaller side, I find my regular waffle iron does the trick just fine. Just be sure to keep the spoonfuls small when portioning the batter–just about 1 teaspoon of batter per waffle is all you need.
Even though they’re tiny, I still like to use the bigger Belgian pearl sugar here. But if you have a hard time finding it, look for Swedish pearl sugar (which looks a little like pretzel salt), or in a pinch even a coarse raw sugar like turbinado works, too.
A couple tips: don’t spaz out about the yeast–we’re not doing any kneading or anything like that here. Think of it as a much more flavorful alternative to baking powder. It’s also the traditional way of making Liege waffles. Also! Be sure that your eggs are completely at room temperature, otherwise the melted butter will seize and get all lumpy when you whisk it into the eggs. For the impatient (and I count myself among you), to quickly warm the eggs, place them in their shells in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes.
1 1/2 teaspoons (1 scant packet) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (no more than 115°F, if you’re being picky)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pearl sugar, or a little more, if you like
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast and warm water. Set sit for five minutes to activate the yeast.
In a large glass measuring cup (for easy pouring) or a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
Into another medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt.
With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour half the wet ingredients into the yeast. Add half the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Repeat with the second halves of the wet and dry ingredients. Mix for 1 full minute (the batter may still be a bit lumpy, but don’t fret). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the batter is doubled in volume, about 1 hour (or let rise in the refrigerator overnight, to make the batter ahead). After the rising period, fold in the pearl sugar.
Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature, to have a place to keep the waffles warm as you cook them in batches.
Preheat your waffle iron to medium-high heat. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter onto the waffle maker and cook until lightly browned and crisp with caramelized sugar gilding the edges. finish a batch, place them in the warm oven directly on the oven rack (if you stack them on a plate, they’ll steam and become soft). Serve with confectioners’ sugar, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and fresh strawberries.
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