Waffle Batter: Thickness & Lumps
Given that I’m more than a little into waffles, I’ve read “a few” recipes over the years. There are two pretty consistent results during the blending stage of those recipes — thick batter (thicker than pancake batter) and lumps — at least one of which gets called out by the recipe author as “ok” if not “good”. When it comes to making American-style “Belgian” waffles, let me just set the record straight…
You want thin batter. So many recipes talk about the joys of a thick batter. But a thick matter is, by definition, one that cannot smoothly expand in the iron. It’s going to come out unnecessarily dense, likely even undercooked. For the standard Classic Waffle Recipe here on the site, the final hydration is 56.9%. That’s thin … thinner than pancake batter. And that makes sense because, unlike pancakes which need to cook in a fairly neat little circle against a single hot surface, waffles cook quickly against two hot surfaces, where they need to shoot swiftly through a dimpled maze, in order to cook evenly. A thick batter is not going to get through that very well. Instead, it’s going to cook so quickly on the outside, relative to the inside that its expansion has to stop before the pressure of the leavening has been able to fully do its job. And, paradoxically, wetter batters can actually cook up in less time than stickier ones because their fluidity and lack of density during the bake means there’s less material for the iron to cook, and the steam can shoot out of the waffle/iron with less resistance and greater efficiency – thereby adequately dehydrating the final piece even faster.
Lumps are not ok. The reason many recipes advocate them is that they are trying to get you away from overmixing, which will indeed over-develop the gluten in the flour and make the waffle less tender. But what lumps really mean is that you haven’t properly blended the ingredients – i.e., your mixing technique is poor. Fortunately, this is a very easy problem to solve. First, be sure that you’re adding your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and not the other way around. Second, do not add all the liquid ingredients at once. Put in everything (eggs, butter, vanilla, etc.) but slightly less than half of the milk/water/cream you’re using. Then, using a whisk or fork, stir the ingredients just enough to moisten all the dry ingredients; it will look pasty with small lumps. Then add the rest of your liquid and finish mixing with a spoon or spatula. The lumps will disappear almost instantly, and the batter will be exceptionally smooth. If done correctly, you’ll actually stir the ingredients less than you would have ordinarily done and, at the same time, you’ll have eliminated lumps.
For more insights into the baking process — and achieving the waffle’s dream texture — check out “Crisp Waffles: Lessons in Texture“.