Ask CK: Are Your Waffles Supposed To Be This Bland?

New reader Christie writes in (edited slightly for length):

Hi Dan,

First wanted you to know that my family seriously loved both the crock pot beef stew and the risotto. I admit I had my doubts while making the risotto, it seemed like an awful lot of liquid. My husband kept looking at the rice and making comments. But by the end it was super creamy and delicious!

My experience with your waffles recipe was less overwhelming. The texture of the waffles was absolutely perfect, light and airy. They were however, to be blunt, bland. My four teenage boys (not seriously picky I might add) each had about one (a minuscule amount for a bunch of teenage boys) and I threw out about a 1/3 of the batter – unheard of in this household! Any suggestions to improve the taste? I’ve always used the “Classique Fare Belgian waffle mix” from my local Wegmans, and the taste is decent. I’ve never found another brand to taste as good. However they are not nearly as light and airy as yours, and are sometime downright soggy. So I’d love to perfect your recipe. What is missing? Vanilla? I’m not sure.

Christie makes a good point. CK's waffle recipe isn't sweetened or sugared up like many store-bought waffle products. Instead, our waffle recipe is mild. In fact, I consider it a vehicle for maple syrup more than anything else. This might explain why kids might not like it, unless of course they can dump a ton of maple syrup on top. And please, please don't tell me you used fake syrup with these waffles.

However, if you're looking to turn CK's waffle recipe into something with more "pop" and a more assertive flavor profile, here are some variations to try:

Cinnamon. Add 1/2 to 3/4 of a teaspoon to the dry ingredients.
Vanilla, as you suggest. A teaspoon should be enough. Add to the egg yolks/milk/oil.
Chocolate bits. Gently fold in 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup as you fold in the egg whites.
Cayenne pepper. Yes, cayenne pepper! Add 1/2 teaspoon to the dry ingredients.

Here at Casual Kitchen we sometimes add oats to the recipe too (about 1/3 cup--also be sure to add a little bit more milk to keep the liquid/solid ratio constant), or we will add a combination of the ideas above: oats+cinnamon; vanilla+chocolate, etc. Finally, fruit and whipped cream could be a tasty, if less healthy, option to consider too.

Readers, what suggestions do you have for jazzing up breakfast waffles? And if you try out any of the variations I've shared above, let me know your results!

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Sally said...

What's missing? Sugar and salt. Enough salt.

I rarely make waffles, but I think the bland problem is due to lack of sugar and too little salt in the recipe. Also, using buttermilk instead of plain milk ups the flavor profile -- gives the waffles a little "tang." By the way, you can freeze leftover buttermilk in ice cube trays and save until you need it again.

I use this recipe, which is adapted from Mark Bittman's in How to Cook Everything.

It uses just a little more flour, but 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and buttermilk.

Jen Blacker said...

I use the recipe that came with my Belgian waffle maker. It's very simple, something like egg, flour, buttermilk (I use powdered for everything including salad dressings), salt, and i think baking powder or soda. I don't have the recipe in front of me.

Anyhoo, they aren't sweet but they are flavorful. The buttermilk and salt does the trick. A little butter and real maple syrup and you're good to go. I freeze any leftover waffles and reheat in the microwave.

NMPatricia said...

I haven't tried this recipe, but to jazz up mine at home, I grind almonds finely prior to making the waffles and then adding them to the mixture. I have to admit, my recipe doesn't have a lot of pizazz but I have my waffles to put fresh fruit on top or a bit of no sugar jam (all fruit).

Stuart Carter said...

I make waffles and pancakes with self-rising flour. It's got enough salt in it to do the job.

chacha1 said...

Nothing to offer here. To me, making waffles at home would mean giving up one of my few remaining rationalizations for going out for brunch. :-)

Daniel said...

I *still* think a proper waffle should NEVER be sweet. That way you get to pour on all the more maple syrup! :)


Sally said...

Daniel, I don't think 2 tablespoons of sugar in a recipe calling for 1 3/4 cups of flour is going to make it sweet. It will balance the flavors.

I agree with chacha1. It's why I rarely make waffles.

Lauren said...

I second (third?) the buttermilk suggestion, though that will likely lower the fat content since buttermilk is naturally about 1-1.5% MF, so you may need to add a little melted butter. I think every waffle recipe I've seen has some sugar, and I do often serve them savory (especially with bacon or pork and apple sausage) without that being a problem.
My favorite pancake recipe is here, and I do find that wacking the milk (we use yogurt) and flour together in a warm place the night before helps the texture (especially if using oats, in which case I make the batter in the blender) *and* retains the 'special occasion' feel of waffles for breakfast.
Final thought: I wouldn't consider real whipped cream and fresh fruit to be a 'less healthy' presentation; I try to serve fat, protein and carb at breakfast to increase satiation and diminish snacking (the effect lasts the whole day), so cream, melted peaches and baked bacon with waffles is preferable to plain waffles in my book.