Under the counter where the coffee things sit in my kitchen, third drawer down on the left, is a waffle iron. We bought it on a whim years ago when Sean and his parents were talking about the waffle ice cream sandwiches at the CNE.
Due to that association, whenever I make waffles instead of the usual French toast or pancakes, it feels like a festive thing. The waffles here however, are celebratory on their own, since they're from Heidi Swanson's very soon-to-be-released cookbook, Near and Far. (Cue the confetti canons and cheers.)
Heidi is known for getting details right. It comes as no surprise then that this new book is an extraordinary object, smartly designed and impressive to hold. The raised cover, reminiscent of tin ceilings and anaglypta, is slightly velveted. Its pattern is elaborated upon in the endpapers, and the creamy off-white echoed in the matte pages between them. Every inch is considered.
It is a book with clear, learned perspective. Divided into categories—recipes her inspired by her home, then those she likes for journeys, and finally recipes from the around the world—while reading Near and Far it is impossible to ignore a prevailing, longing wanderlust. Through Heidi's evocative photographs and passages, and her characteristic care in choosing just the right ingredients, you are transported to her kitchen and table, even when that kitchen is in Rabat, New Delhi, or Tokyo, rather than her native San Francisco. There is a distinct sense of real, rooted places, and an intimacy in the shared experience.
Often it is a matter of alchemy in developing recipes; a combination of time, surroundings, outlook, and trend all contribute to a sort of collected whole. Heidi once said certain things "are simply in the air." In Near and Far, you're in that atmosphere with her.
(For some more on Heidi's cooking philosophy—vegetarian, with an emphasis on whole foods—here's what I wrote about her last book, Super Natural Every Day.)
The breadth of this latest collection is all-embracing, and I've an eye on some to become new-to-me favourites—tempeh with shoyu butter, Lillet shrub, and farro salad (with this lip-smackingly piquant olive dressing) are all in the running. Then recently, Heidi told me her nephew Jack is a fan of the whole wheat waffles in the book. That was all the endorsement needed.
These waffles, like so many of Heidi's recipes, are familiar, but somehow that little bit better than you recalled. Lacily, crackly-crusted as you expect, but the centre has a set-custard quality, vaguely eggy and slightly elastic, so there's chew to back up the initial crunch. In my mind, that's not just the mark of a good waffle, but a superlative one.
Utterly fitting, considering where they came from. Tonight, with the leftovers, there'll be ice cream. Hooray, that.
And, once more, Heidi, well done. xo
WHOLE WHEAT WAFFLES
"These are the waffles I make most often—big, and Belgian-style. A combination of flours and rolled oats is lighted up with a bit of rice flour or organic cornstarch. It is a blend that conspires with lots of buttermilk to give the waffles a nice, moist interior and a crisp, golden crust."
— from Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press, 2015).
Makes 16 Belgian-style waffles
- 1 cup | 4.5 oz | 120 g whole wheat flour
- 2 cups | 9 oz | 225 g all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup | 1.75 oz | 50 g rolled oats or 1/2 cup | 1.5 oz | 40 g wheat germ
- 4 oz | 110 g organic cornstarch or rice flour
- 2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 cups | 1 L buttermilk
- 1/2 cup | 4 oz | 115 g butter, melted and cooled
- 4 eggs, separated
Preheat the oven to 225°F | 110°C. Combine the flours, oats, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, and egg yolks. In a third bowl, using an egg beater or an electric mixer, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks.
Heat the waffle maker, and when it is ready, add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture just starts to come together. Dollop the egg whites across the top of the batter and fold until uniform, using a few strokes as possible.
Use a scoop to ladle the batter into your waffle iron and cook until deeply golden and crisp. Transfer to the warm oven while you make the remaining waffles—the dry heat of the oven helps them set a bit. Any leftover batter will keep for a day or so, refrigerated.
NOTES FROM TARA:
- I used the wheat germ suggestion rather than rolled oats.
- I served the waffles with Five Spice Roasted Peaches, mapled blueberries, and sweet labneh. I prepared the peaches as written, then stirred some wild blueberries through the leftover maple-vanilla syrup while the peaches roasted. I made the labneh from my cookbook, with orange zest, brown sugar, and vanilla (p. 229). The sprinkles are a bit of bee pollen.
- This recipe does make quite a lot of waffles; my waffle iron isn't super deep, so I think the yield was about 18. I froze the extras on a sheet pan, then transferred them to a freezer bag. They toasted up beautifully when needed. If preferred, the recipe halves neatly.