Waffle Batter: Staying Warm
Almost every waffle recipe I read, in print or online, is vague about ingredient temperatures. You’re instructed to use an egg or two, a cup of milk, etc., but should those be cold, room temp, warm or even hot? As I’ve detailed in recent posts, keeping it all warm is a crucial point that will profoundly affect the texture of the final product.
I’ve noticed many recipes have little “tricks” for getting that ideal crispy on the outside, light on the inside texture. Adding corn starch, using corn meal, mixing in rice krispies, replacing butter with vegetable oil, and more. But why are there so many workarounds? Is it as simple as those bakers not knowing to use warm ingredients? In a word, yes.
Waffles have been going strong for about 500 years, and if you read the old recipes, their bakers are not obsessing over ingredients that can fix the texture. They weren’t using corn starch, corn meal, rice krispies, or vegetable oil. They didn’t even have those. The only way to leaven the batter and affect the texture (beyond simply adjusting the ratio of ingredients) was to use ale yeast or whip your egg whites. One or the other, never both. These people kept it simple, and it was easy because of one key factor . . .
The old bakers didn’t have refrigeration, so all their ingredients were at room temperature, if not warm. In fact, almost all of the batters had to be warm because that’s the only way the yeast can thrive. For the most part, they were all cooking next to open fires, too. Check out the de Loose painting at the top of this post. Imagine how warm that container is. Notice how rigid her freshly baked waffle is. It was a snap because the batter was warm and fluid, not cold.
So as we bakers of the 21st century do our recipes, we need to remember that the waffle evolved out of warm conditions and warm batters. Even when we forgo the yeast or whipped egg whites and use baking soda/powder, we still need to keep everything at an elevated temperature. Using cold or cool eggs, milk, and more fundamentally changes what you’re baking. It’s not really a waffle then.
To bake a waffle properly is to work with a warm batter. It’s not only the surest path to perfect texture, it is the most traditional.