I’ve always had a soft spot for waffles. You know the kind; thick but light as a feather, dripping with melted butter and fresh maple syrup. When I was a child growing up in the Sixties, my Mom would actually cook up a batch of waffles for dinner if she was pressed for time. This probably explains my current affinity to carbohydrates of any kind, although these waffles were rather unimpressive compared to the thick, fluffy Belgian waffles you’d get at restaurants. One of my first memories of waffles is from the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, where I seem to recall diving into some extremely yummy Belgian waffles with whipped cream and fresh strawberries on top – pure heaven!
At our wedding in the prehistoric year of 1979, one of the gifts we received was a waffle iron. This was the standard 1970’s model, with a Teflon cooking surface that could be flipped to expose either a flat surface for grilling sandwiches or the standard grid we all associate with waffles. Unfortunately, like many of the multiple-use appliances of this era, the waffle-iron-cum-grill did nothing well. The waffles had a tendency to stick to the nonstick surface or burn, and when they did actually cook properly they were thin and unappealing. The waffle iron ended up collecting dust in a kitchen cupboard until about ten years later when it sold at a garage sale.After these failed waffle experiments, my wife and I stuck to the miserable toaster waffles. Being vegetarians, we were eating organic frozen waffles that were probably much better than the “Eggo” variety but they still ended up being rubbery or too dry. The frozen waffle era continued until last year when I finally decided that there was more to life than eating doughy hockey pucks.Like the good geek that I am, I sat down one day and went through a number of websites to search for a waffle maker that would meet three important criteria:
- It should make light, fluffy waffles, the type of my culinary dreams.
- It should be inexpensive.
- It should be easy to clean.
There were plenty of expensive waffle makers available, some in the $400 range like the KitchenAid KTA-KPWB100PM Pro Line Waffle Baker. The best rated waffle irons had one feature in common; the ability to flip part way through cooking so that the waffles were light and airy. The way these waffle makers work is simple – you pour the batter onto the hot iron, causing it to cook one side of the waffle almost immediately. When you flip the iron, gravity does its best to pull the rest of the batter to the other side. Since the iron is still hot on both sides, the waffle becomes golden brown and slightly crunchy where it is touching the hot metal, and the center is nice and fluffy since it has less density than the top and bottom.
Since one of my criteria was that the waffle iron had to be rather cheap, I started to narrow my search to irons that cost less than $50. The only waffle maker that had consistently high ratings from buyers and met my requirements was the Hamilton Beach 26200 Flip ‘n Fluff Belgian Waffle Baker
This sweet little device takes up a tiny amount of space in your crowded kitchen cupboards since it folds shut to a small white suitcase-like container only about 2″ wide. Other than the Hamilton Beach logo on each side, the surface is unmarked. On one side of the handle are two small lights – one green, one red – that tell you the status of your waffle making. While whipping up a batch of store-bought waffle mix (i.e., Krusteez) or batter you’ve created from scratch, you plug in the Flip ‘n Fluff and the red light glows a warning that the waffle iron is getting hot. When the green light goes on, it’s time to pour in the batter!
I have two hints for those who want to make perfect waffles with the Flip ‘n Fluff. First, make sure that you beat the eggs you’re adding to the waffles to a froth – that seems to make them even lighter and more heavenly. Second, add oil to your batter to insure that the waffles simply fall out of the iron. It’s also important to make sure that you time the cooking phase. Once you’ve poured the batter into the Flip ‘n Fluff and flipped it over, wait at least five minutes before opening the waffle baker. Hamilton Beach recommends waiting until steam stops coming out of the iron, but I’ve found that can overcook the waffles. Five minutes seems to be the optimum cooking time.
Speaking of steam, Hamilton Beach recommends that you use a cooking mitt or other hand protection when flipping the waffle iron, since the escaping steam can cause burns. When the five minutes is up, pop open the top of the Flip ‘n Fluff and behold perfection! Light, nicely formed waffles! Taking the waffles out is easy – just take a fork and flip the cooked waffles onto a waiting plate. I like my waffles in the classic format, buttered and smothered in heated maple syrup.
Hamilton Beach provides a wonderful little cookbook of waffle recipes, or you can use your secret family recipe. One helpful hint I’ve found when making blueberry waffles is to wait until you’ve poured the batter into the waffle baker before adding the blueberrys. Adding those luscious berries into the batter ahead of time will usually result in bluish-green waffles that are still very tasty, but not visually appealing (except to six year-old boys).
If there is any negative about the Flip ‘n Fluff, it’s that you can only make two waffles at a time. I’ve solved that problem by purchasing a second Flip ‘n Fluff – after all, it takes up very little room, and that way I can cook up a big batch of waffles in no time for those holiday breakfasts. These have been selling at Amazon for as low as $22, so buying a couple Flip ‘n Fluffs isn’t going to dent the credit card balance much. I’ll close this article with a short list of waffle recipe websites. After all, this is The Geeky Gourmet!
Waffly Web Resources!