Thoughts about food and technology
Fri, 16 Jul 2010 15:13:39 +0000
Sun, 05 Nov 2006 18:20:26 +0000
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 . 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
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!
Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner in Print!
Fri, 20 Oct 2006 21:38:54 +0000
I’m delighted to announce that you can now purchase a lovely
of . Thanks to our friends at , we’re now offering the print-on-demand edition—7 x 9 inches, with a Wire-O binding to lie flat on your kitchen counter and a laminated, color cover. The pages inside can be printed in either black and white ($19.99) or color (for $35.99). (Those who have already purchased the ebook can get a $10 discount on the printed version by clicking the “Check for Updates” button on the first page of the PDF.) Purchasers of the printed version also get access to the downloadable “Print Me” file with all the recipes and schedules, in case you want to write on them, tape them up around your kitchen, or whatever.
Mon, 18 Sep 2006 14:00:41 +0000
Morgen and I have been (mostly) on the
for a couple of months, and for those who know anything about it, it involves eating a lot of eggs. As a result, I’ve been thinking more than usual about different ways of cooking them, just to have some variety.
Still, I was a bit shocked to find out how many different ways people had come up with to perform the mysterious process of hard-boiling eggs; I listed
on SenseList. Why should it be that hard or confusing?
Further research led me to
at Khymos.org, which digs into the science of egg cooking in excruciating (and fascinating) detail. It turns out that all the methods in my list are really approximations, because they don’t take into account important variables such as egg size, the exact starting temperature of the water and the eggs, the ambient air pressure, and so on. But the most interesting fact I learned, which frankly had never occurred to me, is that (just like the white meat and dark meat of a turkey) the white and yolk of an egg cook at different rates, and therefore getting either of them to the desired consistency could have adverse effects on the other. Even
can’t address this problem.
The solution, apparently, is to cook the eggs at a much lower (i.e., lower-than-boiling) temperature for a significantly longer time—unfortunately a bit tricky given the equipment in most kitchens. But that’s if you want the egg to be utterly perfect and you’re extremely nitpicky. I’m not, and for the record, I hard-boil my own eggs following
Cover eggs with cold water
Heat to boiling
Cover pan, remove from heat, wait 12 minutes
Peel immediately under cold running water
Update: Erik Fooladi at Science- and Fooducation has a marvelous post on the topic: .
Recipe: Roasted Green Beans
Fri, 15 Sep 2006 14:00:00 +0000
As far back as I can remember, green beans were high on my “yuck” list. Yucky green beans took either of two forms. First was boiled: even if they started out fresh (canned and frozen were more usual), by the time they hit the table they’d had all the life boiled out of them and were wimpy, soggy, and highly unappetizing. The other way was the
that every American and Canadian has seen at countless picnics and potluck dinners: you know, the kind made with cream of mushroom soup and topped with French’s canned onion rings. Even the casserole couldn’t disguise the sogginess of the beans, and of course as a kid mushrooms and onions were also high on my “yuck” list, making the problem worse.
It wasn’t until I reached my mid-30s (honestly) that I began to discover that green beans could be heated in such a way that they remained crisp, and that when so prepared, were actually quite tasty. And so I’d have them in the occasional stir-fry or sometimes raw on a salad. They’d disappeared from my “yuck” list but I still didn’t have them very often.
That all changed with the November, 2005 issue of , which somehow managed to devote a full two-page spread to what must be the world’s simplest green bean recipe. This dish is so amazingly delicious that we generally have it at least once a week, and even French fries have got nothing on these beans. They’re so good that they’re now near the top of my “Yum” list.
It’s really so simple that it’s not even worth putting in recipe form. You take some fresh (must be fresh!) green beans and snap off the stem ends. Toss the beans lightly with olive oil and a little salt. Put them on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake at 450°F/230°C for 10 minutes. Swish them around a bit, trying to turn over as many as you can, and back in the oven for another 10–12. Eat.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention any quantities: it’s a highly adaptable and forgiving recipe. (And if you put on too little salt, you can always add more later.) The foil is key, though: for one thing, it keeps your baking sheet from getting gunked up with oil; for another, the shiny surface helps the beans get crisp without burning (at least not much—a little black is actually good).
By the way…personally, I still feel that the only valid food colors in a
are shades of white, yellow, orange, red, and brown. However, if you must cook something green on Thanksgiving and your family isn’t pushing for the green bean casserole, consider giving these beans a try.