Look What I Made: Cornbread Waffles

Cornbread waffles with brown sugar and molasses syrup (photos by Travis Awalt)

Happy early part of January to all. I’m going to cut to the chase: I got a new waffle iron. I know; I’m as giddy as you are. Good riddance Year of Gangnam Style*, bring on the Year of the Waffle!

See, my parents, my siblings, my nephews, me, my dog – we’re a waffle eating people**. Several years ago, my brother gave me a waffle maker for Christmas. We lived together at the time, so the waffle maker was a kind of symbiotic gift. Made a lot of sense for both of us. And for awhile there, it was what academic-types often refer to as a ‘waffle bonanza.’

Cornbread waffles loaded with black eyed peas, poached egg and red-eye gravy (photos by Travis Awalt)

Here’s the rub: I came to realize that the waffle maker kinda, well, sucks. It does. It sucks. The surface of the griddle just doesn’t get hot enough. It made for appealing looking waffles that were cooked through, but never with a delicate, crispy exterior. I tried it all, too: more oil, different oil, separated eggs, cooking spray, cake flour, bread flour, yeast batter, you name it. I even tried just cooking the hell out of them, but nothing worked.*** That’s right, I literally couldn’t burn a waffle with this waffle maker when I tried. Seriously, what is that?

The point is that, assuming you have standards, a proper waffle iron is a must. My dad makes the most amazing waffles, and – unless waffle irons are like pet goldfish and you just flush them when they die and quickly replace them so the children won’t notice – he’s owned exactly two in the last 30+ years. Right, so lesson learned. I asked my dad for one like his. I got it and it is awesome. My waffle woes seem to be behind me and I can concentrate more on my hobby, which is also waffles.

Waffle up

These cornbread waffles were a good way to kick off the Year of the Waffle. I tried both a savory treatment – loaded with leftover black eyed peas (betcha still have some) and topped with a poached egg and red-eye gravy (recipe below) – and a standard treatment topped with butter and brown sugar molasses syrup (recipe below). Oh and make a big batch and freeze the leftovers, they keep for awhile and they’re great straight out of the toaster.

Cornbread Waffles

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup plus 2-3 tbsp buttermilk
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp baking powder

Mix everything together except the extra buttermilk. It’ll be a very thick batter. Thin it out to your liking with the extra buttermilk. It’ll still be pretty thick, so I would spoon it down over the individual grids, rather than pouring from the center. Cook on high if your iron has adjustable heat.

Brown Sugar Molasses Syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Over medium high heat, mix together the brown sugar, water and molasses until molasses and brown sugar are dissolved. Bring it to a boil, then drop the heat to low stirring occasionally until syrup has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

Red-Eye Gravy

3/4 cup brewed coffee
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1 Tbsp flour

Mix the flour into melted bacon grease over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, then pour in the brewed coffee. Lower the heat and whisk like hell until the roux is completely incorporated (no lumps!). Stir occasionally, and remove from heat when the gravy has thickened to about the consistency of  brown gravy (or as desired).

*Honorable mention: the year of the monkey that got arrested at the Toronto IKEA and the year of that “Fiscal” Cliff guy.

**Although just to put my dog’s tastes into perspective, he loves eating nearly anything, provided one of two conditions have been met: a) I dropped it on the ground or b) it came from the trash. He’s also totally colorblind. Zing!

***Almost nothing. It made a fine bacon waffle (see below). But come on, you can’t just have bacon waffles all the time. That would be an absurdly decadent lifestyle. Like bloated rock star decadent.

Bacon waffles, the one good thing about my old waffle maker.