Waffle tips: building a better waffle, step by step

When was the last time you made waffles?

A long time ago, huh? And why is that?

Oh, because they’re too much fuss on a weekday, when everyone’s buzzing around the kitchen slapping PB on toast and standing in line for their turn at the Keurig.

And then Saturday rolls around, and you’ve got a million things to do, starting with hitting the gym… Sunday, blessed Sunday, is a day of rest. A bagel and cream cheese is your upper limit of effort in the kitchen, so there you have it: the weeks go by, and NO WAFFLES.

Which is a shame. A well-made waffle is every bit as pleasurable as a perfectly flaky Danish pastry, or sumptuous eggs Benedict. Add whipped cream and fruit, and you’re approaching fancy hotel $22 breakfast levels.

So, why don’t you make waffles more often?

Because you have to drag out the waffle iron, that’s why. And it’s in the back of the cupboard, behind the Tupperware and your old electric eggbeater, and who wants to move all that stuff and then put it all back, just to make waffles?

I’m with you. My 39-year-old waffle iron sits unused in the pantry, buried under a haphazard landslide of other seldom-used gear, awaiting its once-a-year-or-so appearance. In fact, it’s usually my husband, Rick, who finally retrieves it; waffles were one of the things he became “expert” at during his bachelor days.

I recently found myself craving a waffle. Maybe it was a couple of food porn waffle pictures I saw on Instagram recently. Or maybe I’ve simply grown tired of the daily glass of almond milk mixed with Ovaltine. At any rate, I thought I’d turn this craving into a blog post – because between me, Rick, and many years of sporadic though happy waffle making, we have some waffle tips to share with you.

P.S. After making a couple of batches of absolutely delicious, crunchy/tender waffles, I’ve rearranged my shelves for easier access to the iron. Because it will surely be making more regular appearances from now on.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #1: Add a bit of spice.

Waffle batter is a simple combination of eggs, butter/oil, milk, flour, salt, and leavening. It’s a blank palette, awaiting your favorite spice. I love both vanilla and cinnamon; add a touch of nutmeg for doughnut-like flavor.

How much should you add? For a typical waffle recipe, I’d add 1 teaspoon vanilla, or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Want to add all three? Go right ahead! Allspice and ginger give waffles a winter holiday flavor, while lemon oil or extract is perfect for summer – especially if you’ll be topping the waffles with fruit.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #2: Warm your liquid ingredients.

Why? Two reasons. First, if your recipe calls for melted butter, stirring it into cold buttermilk will coagulate it, leaving you with little nuggets of solid butter which refuse to become one with the batter.

Second, liquid ingredients blend together more easily and completely when they’re all around the same (warm or room) temperature. Consequently, when you add them to the dry ingredients, you won’t have to stir as long to make a smooth batter.

Think of waffle batter as you would pie crust or biscuit dough: the less handled, the less gluten development, the more tender the end result. Don’t beat your waffle batter; for light and tender waffles, stir just to combine.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #3: Separate the eggs and whip the whites before adding them to the batter.

This seems like an unnecessary step, on the face of it. Won’t the egg whites just lose their air when the waffle batter is flattened and baked in the iron?

As it turns out, no. Above, at left, is a waffle made without whipped egg whites. On the right, one made with whipped whites. The difference is fairly subtle, looks-wise, but when you eat them side by side, waffles made with whipped whites are noticeably lighter.

One caveat: more isn’t better. Whip whites only until soft peaks form (as pictured above); they shouldn’t be insubstantial and cloud-like, but should mound in the bowl. Too-stiff whites won’t blend easily with the other ingredients (see tip #2, above).

Also, make the waffles ASAP, once you add the egg whites. This isn’t a batter you want to stow in the fridge overnight, or let “season” on the counter while you fry the bacon. The whites will gradually deflate.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #4: Unless your waffle iron is reliably non-stick, grease it before using.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I made the mistake of thinking my ancient iron must be “seasoned” by now, and wouldn’t need to be greased. WRONG – as the picture on the right graphically proves.

Rick swears the best bet is to brush the iron with melted butter; I prefer vegetable oil. Either way, we find that a simple spritz with a can of non-stick vegetable oil spray doesn’t do it. When using an older iron, take the time to use a pastry brush to paint all the nooks and crannies with the fat of your choice.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #5: Figure out ahead of time how much batter to use for each waffle.

A scant 3/4 cup batter in this deep-pocket 7″ Belgian waffle iron, enough batter to completely cover the surface of the iron, makes a perfectly round waffle. Some waffle irons will ooze batter from the sides if you fill them completely; not this one.

My shallow-pocket, standard American iron needs 1/2 cup batter for each 5″ square waffle; so the amount of batter you use will change, iron to iron. Take the time right up front to learn your iron’s optimal capacity, and from then on you’ll make perfectly round waffles.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #6: Don’t lift the lid until the iron stops steaming.

How do you know when your waffle is done? Some irons tell you via a light or a beep; with some, you just have to guess. A good clue is to NEVER open your iron until steam has stopped seeping out its sides.

I ignored that advice (above) to prove the point, opening the iron while it was still steaming. The waffle looked lovely, but was completely stuck to the top plate. After giving it a couple of additional minutes in the iron, it slipped out easily.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #7: Serve with room temperature or warmed butter.

A cold pat of butter atop a hot waffle will just sit there. Unlike pancakes, most waffles don’t have much interior to keep them warm; as soon as they’re out of the iron, they cool quickly. Using room temperature or even slightly warmed butter will give you a better melting-butter-and-syrup eating experience.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Waffle tip #8: Keep finished waffles warm in the oven.

You’re not baking just a single waffle, right? Most recipes make 5 to 7 waffles. Unless you’re going to sit down and eat the first one, then make the rest later, keep the finished waffles warm and crisp in a 200°F oven. Placing them right on your oven’s rack will prevent sogginess.

Waffle Tips via @kingarthurflour

Now, tell me again why you don’t make waffles more often?

Looking for a good waffle recipe? I highly recommend The Best Waffles Ever, which includes a “secret ingredient:” a touch of cornmeal/cornstarch, for extra crunch. Does your favorite waffle recipe have a secret ingredient? Share with all of us in comments, below.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Dan J

    YEAST! I made waffles today and a yeast recipe is 1000% better than whipped whites and/or baking powder. The flavor and texture cannot be beaten.

    Reply
  2. Gourmand2go

    Thanks, Laurie, that answers my question. I once neglected to add melted butter until the next morning rather than adding to the preferment, and regretted it! I do add extra sugar for crispness, and will try cornstarch. But I wonder, would arrowroot powder work as well? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Arrowroot starch is a stabilizer and thickener, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work! Bryanna@KAF

    2. Gourmand2go

      I’ve found that the arrowroot powder works fine and prevents spillage. Two teaspons when I make a half-batch of batter is enough.

      Here’s a somewhat relevant question: Does yeast know when it’s spring?

      Lately I’m having huge fermentations, both in my waffle batter and my pizza crust dough, despite that I forgot to turn on the furnace last night and it was 64F when I woke up! And it’s not a new jar of yeast.

  3. Benita

    I’m looking for the “secrets” that give waffles a CRISP crust.
    From the above, it sounds like cornstarch helps. And at least one poster thinks oil (rather than butter) helps. So here are my questions:
    1. Lower gluten versus higher gluten? (pastry or cake flour versus bread flour).
    2. No sugar versus lots of sugar in the recipe?
    3. Minimal fat versus lots of fat in the recipe?
    4. Thin batter versus thick, almost dough batter?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Use a lower gluten flour for less chew in the final product. Bread flour is probably too high in protein! The fat in the recipe slightly coats the gluten strands, inhibiting the development of the gluten structure in the final product, so you do need some fat. The sugar in the recipe tenderizes by attracting water molecules, slowing the development of the gluten. It also helps to brown the exterior for a crispier crust. A thick dough would be used for the chewier Liege style waffles, while the thinner batter spreads easily in the waffle iron and in my opinion, creates a more tender, crispy waffle. Keep in mind, waffle opinions are almost as widespread as the thin crust vs. thick crust pizza opinions, provoking the same factions. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  4. Scott Sexton

    The first time I made overnight yeast waffles, the recipe called for maple syrup for flavor. I didn’t have any, but while digging through my cabinets looking for something to substitute, I came across some barley malt syrup. So my secret ingredient is 1 tablespoon of barley malt syrup. Ever since my first bite of that first crispy, yeasty, malty waffle I’ve never looked back.

    Reply
  5. Lynne

    When I do waffles, I always heat the real maple syrup and butter together to pour over, making sure to get some in each “pocket”. Also — warm the plate ALMOST until it’s too hot to hold — no more cold waffles!

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    Tip: I like to set my waffles on a cookie cooling rack so they don’t get soggy while I continue to make more. Late-comers who slept in can pop them in the toaster oven to warm them when they are ready for breakfast.

    Reply

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