Serious Eats: Recipes

Belgian Waffle's Secret Ingredient Is Beer

After working out my biscuit recipe, waffles were the next item on my brunch menu agenda. Because we had already purchased a Belgian-style waffle maker—one with deep impressions for making thick, pleasantly crisp waffles—I decided to shoot for a Belgian-style recipe.

Belgian waffle batters generally utilize yeast for leavening. As a result, Belgian waffles tend to have a slightly yeasty flavor. I liked the idea of yeast bringing a complex flavor to the waffles. Just the same, I had no interest in a batter that would have to be made several hours or even a day in advance in order to develop the proper rise, texture, and flavor.

I wanted a waffle batter that could be whipped together, wet parts mixed into dry, in a few minutes. For that, I turned to American-style batters, leavened with baking soda and/or powder, rather than yeast. Though these batters were indeed faster to produce, the resulting waffles were slightly heavier, with a more one-dimensional, generally sweeter flavor than the Belgian varieties I'd tried.

20081119-waffles.jpgIn order to recreate the heady depth of flavor imparted by the yeast, I tried adding various ingredients to the batter, including malt powder, but none were quite right.

Then I added beer, and all was right with the world.

Genesee Cream Ale, the mildest and most neutral beer we have on tap, which also happens to hail from Tyler's and my Western New York homeland, imparted just the right amount of yeasty goodness and complexity, without overwhelming the sweet, subtly buttery flavor of the waffles.

About the author: Amanda Clarke is pastry chef at No.7 in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. During her time away from the restaurant, she writes, tests, and develops recipes between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

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