Worth saving

I have been fooled by a whole lot of low-fat recipes in my time. As a kid, I drank only skim milk. I often ate 98% lean hamburgers with whole-wheat buns and 50% skim cheddar cheese slices on top, and I liked them quite a bit.

But once I tasted the real things—sharp cheddar, creamy milk, hamburgers with just a smidgen of grease—the jig was up. My parents tried their hardest, but innocence can't last forever, and it was terribly hard to rewind.

Which is why the low-fat waffles I made this weekend didn't fool me one bit. They were clipped from a magazine whose name reads something like Booking Bight and whose March 2007 issue contained a recipe for Gingerbread Waffles as part of the menu for a champagne brunch.

After two whole years of anticipation, you can imagine the let down when they came out sort of floppy and with a distinct lack of oomph. They were good, but I'd been hoping for some va-va-voom, if you know what I mean.

I may have played some part.

First of all, there was the two-year build up, which never helps expectations, and secondly, I did some ingredient swapping here and there. I added in whole-wheat flour where I maybe shouldn't have, substituted candied ginger for the real, fresh thing, and used sour milk instead of buttermilk. Maybe, maybe, if I had kept everything just so, the recipe might have turned out perfectly. But I kind of doubt it.

I think the real problem was that the waffles were low-fat.

I don't make this claim lightly. I've spent an awful lot of Sundays doing research, eating waffles at friends' houses and from my own press, and I've learned that the basic recipe can take almost any sort of milk or fruit or flour variation. Whole-wheat flour, powdered buttermilk, sparkling water, even, can all turn out a mean batch of Belgians. But when you start fudging fat content, well, that's where things start to go downhill.

For starters, the waffles lose their crispness. They get kind of spongy and floppy, better for toasting from the freezer than eating on the spot with a puddle of syrup. They also require a lot more butter spread on top, which sort of defeats the original purpose, if you see what I mean.

I should have seen it coming, what with the applesauce and the canola oil and the fat-free buttermilk.

The good news is, I think the recipe can be salvaged, and handily at that. Anything with a title like Gingerbread Waffles is worth saving, after all. The waffles also have on their side the fact that they used up a good deal of applesauce from the freezer, had a delightful Christmas-morning sort of ring, and popped up bites of candied ginger at all the right times.

I think, in fact, that with their fat back, they're going to be not just average March Sunday keepers, but maybe even New Year's Day or Easter material. So here's a modified recipe. Tweak it further as you'd like, just don't leave out the fat. Once you've lost your innocence, they just won't taste the same.


adapted, ahem, from this recipe, published in this magazine in March 2007

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 cups sour milk or buttermilk (I'd stick with 2% or whole for best results)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
2 eggs, separated
a pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup minced candied ginger (optional)

Plug in your waffle press to preheat it, so that as soon as the batter is mixed it'll be ready to go. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a medium-size bowl, stir together milk, butter, molasses, grated ginger, and both egg yolks. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Sprinkle in the candied ginger, and mix that in too.

In another medium-size mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks. Using a spatula, gently fold the beaten whites into the batter. Ladle about a cup of batter onto the preheated iron, and cook according to manufacturers instructions. (A good rule of thumb is that when the steaming stops, the waffles are ready to come out.) Serve hot with butter and maple syrup, or as the original recipe recommends, champagne and a dollop of lemon curd. Hear, hear!

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