Last Sunday, we woke up with plans to try out a new bake shop in our neighborhood for breakfast. Visions of puffed muffins and sugar-dusted scones and fat slices of quickbread dancing through our minds, we pulled open the blinds and set to excavating the protective gear required for a mid-January walk (even of only a few blocks) in Chicago. Somewhere along the line, Kevin had the good sense to consult the current air temperature and we were downright offended to find a stark, round zero staring back at us.
As in zero degrees.
Without so much as a discussion of let’s-brave-it-anyway or a-brisk-walk-could-feel-great, we began peeling off our coats, unwinding our scarves and unloosing our fingers from their mittens. Breakfast, it seemed, would be served right there at home.
We settled quickly on waffles and cornmeal ones at that and, before long, the waffle iron was sizzling and the maple syrup was heated.
I ladeled the not-too-thin, not-too-thick batter, flecked with the yellow grit of stoneground cornmeal, onto the iron’s lower jaw and, instantly, our kitchen smelled like the best kind of childhood morning—those that involved waffles and bacon and warm pajamas and cartoons.
With the iron clenched shut, the waffles set up into a sturdy, deeply golden specimens. Adorned with a melting pat of sweet butter and a splash of maple syrup, they prove to you that perfect waffles are absolutely possible to achieve in your own home.
And these waffles refuse to take the easy route, relying—as too many waffle recipes do—on sweetness to mask other deficiencies. Instead, the batter for these waffles eschews any sugar or sweetener (that’s what the syrup is for), which helps you appreciate their crisp, lacy exterior and their soft, airy insides. And the cornmeal? Its crunch—gently present in each bite—sealed the deal.
On the cusp of another weekend, I’m secretly wishing for another 0-degree Sunday.
Buttermilk Cornmeal Waffles
Adapted slightly from Gourmet
Yield: About 16 waffles
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stoneground
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional oil for brushing waffle iron
Accompaniment: pure maple syrup
Into a large bowl sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Repeat sifting 2 more times.
In another large bowl whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Add flour mixture all at once and whisk just until combined.
Preheat a waffle iron and preheat oven to 200 °F.
Brush waffle iron lightly with additional oil. Spoon batter into waffle iron, using 1/4 cup batter for each 4-inch-square standard waffle and spreading batter evenly, and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer waffle to a baking sheet and keep warm, uncovered, in middle of oven. Make more waffles with remaining batter in same manner, brushing waffle iron with mire oil before adding each batch.
Serve waffles with syrup.