My friend Dan has an extremely entertaining blog, Waffleizer, in which he waffles everything but the waffle. Wait. Let me correct that. Had. He had a blog that waffles stuff. You see when Dan started his project, he had an end in sight and clearly stated “30 answers to the question ‘will it waffle?'” Along the way, he’s done some great stuff that had me, among others, looking at their waffle iron in a whole new way. I now routinely make hash browns in mine. Couldn’t be easier. I even waffled up some Indian food a while ago for a post. But like all good things, Waffleizer has come to and end. This week he posted his 30th entry and called it a day. Have to respect him for not jumping the shark.
I was an early supporter and often flipped ideas his way. Yes, I will absolutely take credit for the idea of a “falafel waffle.” Just saying it cracked me up. He waffled my pretzel rolls to great success (and a few laughs.) I even invited myself over for lunch once while he was working on a few recipes. (It was awesome.) A few weeks ago, he asked if I had any waffle recipes to wrap up the final post. “Waffle recipes? Like real waffles? Regular waffles?” I asked. “Yep.” Well, alright. I, of course, had my very favorite waffle waffle of all times … The Bacon Waffle … and I was happy to send it along. Honored in fact. It’s in the final post along with entries from Gale Gand, my pal Caroline and a few others.
As I explained in my entry, there’s a story to these. In fact, there’s a story to nearly every really good thing I make. It’s the complete silliness of the situations I find myself. Anyway, there’s a story and it’s a good one.
I was out for breakfast one day long ago with my friend Juliette. Now I met Juliette during marathon training eons ago (I haven’t run since I crossed that finish line. Shut up.) and she is super duper fit, does Ironman triathons, has a lovely french accent and is generally wonderful. Bitch. So we sit down at one of those brunch places that have the 36 page menus. Pancake concoctions that belong on dessert menus, 126 different omelets and all kinds of crazy stuff. I am so indecisive and low functioning in the morning that it usually takes me forever to order. I hate these places. To me, the ultimate breakfast would be the carbo load special – a short stack, rye toast and hash browns. Maybe with a side of bacon. As you can imagine, I do not subscribe to the Atkins theory of dining.
While I was flipping through, my eye was drawn to a little box in upper left corner of page 27. Bacon Waffles. What the hell? “That’s just crazy. Right?” I asked Juliette. She rolled her eyes. (She is used to my chatty ordering habits.) I continued to flip, front to back, back to front, always pausing on that little box. “Huh. Would a bacon waffle be weird? Would it taste good? What do you think it’s like?” More eye rolling from across the table. Then she said, completely uncharacteristically “Just order the damn thing.” (OK, maybe not quite like that. Juliette is infinitely polite but there may have been a firm tone involved.)
I am not unfamiliar with bacon in unconventional uses. I’ve made bacon birthday cakes, bacon toffee and countless batches of candied bacon for breakfast. I was right there at Vosges Haut Chocolat when Katrina was developing the bacon chocolate candy bar. I did the test batches years ago and I don’t care what anyone says, she did it first, way before anyone else. So the idea of bacon in a crispy buttery batter with a healthy splash of sweetness from maple syrup … well, it did sound good. So I ordered it. It was a banner moment. Heavens opened and the archangels sang in my ear. Crispy waffle dotted with salty savory bacon in every bite. Yes please. The butter and maple syrup just added to the overall flavor – salty, sweet, buttery goodness. Oh my.
At the time I was working in a restaurant and often worked the opening shift – 5 stinking AM. (I do not miss that.) I came in the next morning and immediately started talking about bacon waffles to anyone that would listen – the chef, the sous chef, the line cooks, my cashiers, the wait staff, the security, the cleaning crew. I was the head of a bacon waffle cult and on a mission to convert everyone I came in contact with. The chefs were intrigued, as our types usually are, and since the waffle irons were already fired up, gave it a go. I think we ate about 10 that morning between us all and it was fun to see their eyes light up. I mean, these guys have pig tattoos on their forearms and are way into nose-to-tail and making their own charcuterie so I knew it would be an easy sell. On my last day a few months later, the boys made me bacon waffles for my last breakfast. I was touched. Really.
Since then, I’ve played around quite a bit perfecting the recipe. I started with my very favorite waffle recipe from Marion Cunningham in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. You absolutely cannot go wrong with this one – even straight up it’s fantastic. It took a while to get it right and I learned a few things along the way. But eventually I nailed it. When Dan tested them out, he sent me this text: “Holy crap your bacon waffles are good. Wow.” Isn’t that nice? So a few things I’ve learned that you should know:
– Finely dice the bacon and cook until crisp. The smaller pieces will distribute themselves better in the batter.
– Once the batter is ladled into the iron, sprinkle the bacon on top before closing the lid. Mixing the bacon into the batter tends to make the bacon soft and you end up with a porky waffle. Definitely not ideal. Plus you can control how much bacon you want in each waffle.
– Cheapo bacon is the way to go here. I love me some fancy pants artisanal bacon and this goes completely against my quest to be an informed carnivore but the good stuff gets a little lost here, in my opinion.
– Reserve some of that bacon fat from frying – it gets added back into the waffle batter and helps make it all crispy and delicious. And yes, there is melted butter and bacon fat in the batter. Just do it.
– You may want to fry up a little extra bacon while you’re at it. The little bits tend to disappear along the way in the hands of greedy little snackers. Or your own.
– Serve hot and crispy with good butter and REAL genuine maple syrup. If you go Aunt Jemima on me I will reach out and slap you.
– These are best when hot and crispy, right out of the iron so it’s not exactly conducive to a large group of people if you want to eat at the same time. But if you do, keep the waffles warm in a low 200°F oven while you finish the rest.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: TOUGH TO BEAT. Make these once and you’re part of the cult, eager to convert new members. I lug my waffle iron up to my friends cabin every summer and spend a morning cranking these out. Everyone loves them and that in itself is a great feeling. I adore watching people eat their first one, when they get that initial bite of salty bacon, crispy waffle touched with a bit of butter and sweetness from the syrup. Eyes sparkle and dance and it’s fun to be responsible for that. Immensely satisfying.
In my waffle iron, which gives four thick square waffles per batch, I get about 2 ½ batches or 10 squares per recipe. The recipe doubles very easily.
½ pound thick cut bacon, finely diced
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons reserved bacon fat
- Cut the bacon into rather small dice – about 1/8” or about the size of bacon bits.
- In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside until needed.
- Measure off 2 Tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat for the batter and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper.)
- In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and the eggs, whisking to break up the eggs.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk/egg mixture and stir to just combine.
- Add the melted butter and the bacon fat and stir only until just smooth, careful not to over mix.
- Heat your waffle iron.
- Spray all the panels well with cooking spray then ladle the batter into the iron – I use about ¼ cup per waffle square.
- Sprinkle each waffle square with a healthy pinch of bacon bits.
- Close iron and cook until golden brown.
- Serve immediately with butter and real maple syrup. And maybe more bacon on the side – what else were you going to do with that extra half pound?