I occasionally like to bake up others’ recipes. It helps me set a baseline for what’s out there and what people consider good. Finding a great recipe also helps keep my waffle ego in check, lest I begin to think I’m the only one perfecting the craft. So I was definitely intrigued to try the Cook’s Illustrated version of buttermilk waffles (viewable copy here). Cook’s Illustrated purportedly tests all of their recipes very thoroughly and goes to great lengths to offer their readers something special.

What struck me about the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, in particular, were four different issues. First, they don’t use buttermilk, they use buttermilk powder. Taking a natural, delicious ingredient like that and reducing it to a dehydrated ghost of itself is absurd. Second, they call for using sour cream. Why not just use fresh buttermilk instead of inflating the ingredient list? Any recipe should always be about elegance — never using more than what’s necessary. Third, the recipe has no butter, only oil. Oil isn’t just a flavorless substitute for butter, but it’s a too-modern, processed ingredient that has no place in a buttermilk waffle recipe, which is something so fundamentally simple and classic that tradition begs to have its place. Lastly, they call for using seltzer water — as if baking soda wasn’t enough, nor could yeast be used.

The result was predictable . . . I have never had a more flavorless waffle. And while lighter than what many other recipes produce, it was also far too dense. Literally a box of Aunt Jemima mix turns out more nuanced than what Cook’s Illustrated has people doing. Whoever crafted that recipe should be fired. They have no doubt soiled thousands of people’s breakfasts with absolutely crap work.

Cook’s Illustrated Buttermilk Waffle Grade: F-