Every week on Food52, we're digging up Genius Recipes -- the ones that make us rethink cooking tropes, get us talking, and change the way we cook.
In this week's installment, we ask kitchen scientists Shirley Corriher, Harold McGee, and Rose Levy Beranbaum to weigh in on why cornstarch makes the crispest waffle around.
Waffles of Insane Greatness
- Kristen Miglore, Senior Editor, Food52.com
I'm not the type of person who normally plans my breakfast the night before. This is probably something I should aspire to in life.
Lucky for me, this week's genius recipe is the ideal I-just-woke-up-from-a-waffle-dream waffle, a morning-of alternative to the overnight yeasted kind (which is, admittedly, a whole other kind of genius).
This waffle -- served up at a funky restaurant called Aretha Frankenstein's in Chattanooga, TN as "The Waffle of Insane Greatness" -- is perfectly, surprisingly delicate. The crust is thin and crisp as an eggshell, a dappled golden brown that gives way to a spongy, steaming crepe-like interior.
When I couldn't make sense of the Greatness -- what's going on with that cornstarch? -- I turned to a few people who could: Rose Levy Beranbaum (of The Cake Bible), Harold McGee (of Keys to Good Cooking) and Shirley Corriher (of Bakewise).
All three agreed that the heroic role of the cornstarch (which is inherently gluten-free) is in tamping down the gluten formation that goes on any time you make a batter with all-purpose wheat flour.
Some gluten here is helpful. Gluten strands "help hold the batter together," explained McGee -- "but they can also toughen the cooked texture." According to Corriher, this is partly because gluten molecules greedily tie up available water, which otherwise becomes steam "to make the waffles puff and to make them moist inside." Like in this recipe. Nice work, cornstarch! Beranbaum even makes her crepes with 100% cornstarch and they come out silky and delicate.
One last tip: I will add that these waffles make an excellent last-minute pantry dinner, for when you and your fridge are both running on empty. And breakfast for dinner is never, ever a bad idea.
Waffles of Insane Greatness
Adapted slightly from Aretha Frankenstein's restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Serves 4, or 2 very hungry waffle eaters
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (or a combination)
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter and pure maple syrup, for serving
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add the milk, vegetable oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.
2. Heat a waffle iron. Follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles. Serve immediately with butter and pure maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven, directly on the rack (don't stack them or they'll get soggy). These also reheat very well in the toaster.
Photos by James Ransom