Posted in Food

Thin or Thick, Stuffed or Impressed

With the Lenten period still on and more hours at home, the breakfast menu has been varied depending on the choice of each as well as the helping hands available on deck. Which is why there is plenty of batter made in the morning. From pancakes to waffles, there is plenty of fun and chaos to welcome the mornings.

Interestingly waffles aren’t a recent recipe, but can be traced to the ancient Greeks. Believed to have descended from the Ancient Greek obleios, it was flat cakes made by baking batter between two hot irons. For the impressed patterns, exclusive to places or establishments, had originated in the middle ages. The early Middle Ages (9th to 10th century) saw the simultaneous emergence of communion wafer irons (fer à hosties or hostieijzers) and the wafer irons (moule à oublies). While the former depicted typically the imagery of Jesus and His crucifixion; the latter had impressions of more trivial Biblical scenes or just simple impressed designs often serving as emblems.

Both the communion wafer and the oublie, was mostly made of grain flour and water. From the 11th century onward, flavorings like orange blossom water, sourced honey and other ingredients came to being and establishing themselves firmly in the list of ingredients. Eaten piping hot, the initial waffles were sold on great religious feasts days with the best quality waffles known as metiers.

“The ancient Greeks used to cook very flat cakes, which they called obleios, between two hot metal plates. This method of cooking continued to be used in the Middle Ages by the obloyeurs who made all sorts of oublies, which were flat or rolled into coronets. The oublie became the waffle in the 13th century, when a craftsman had the idea of forging some cookie plates reproducing the characteristic pattern of honeycombs, which at that time were called gaufres (from the Old French wafla).” Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Revised and Updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 1285)

Though the initial waffles had originated on one side of the world, it had crossed the continents to entrench themselves into the local cuisine. Exploring the flavour of waffles, the subtle or gross changes have been made in the various ingredients going into the batter.

Known locally as “grid cake” or “grid biscuits”, the Hong Kong style waffles are usually made on the streets. Large, round and divided into four quarters; these waffles served as snacks with peanut butter, butter and sugar spread on it. Sweetened by the addition of eggs, evaporated milk; these waffles have the rich flavour of yolk, chocolate or honey melon. Changing the pattern to the ball-shaped form, these waffles are then known as eggette or gai daan jai. Adding a little of pandan (herbaceous tropical plant) and coconut milk into the batter, Vietnamese pandan waffles gives the distinctive green and chewy feel inside, though brown and crispy look outside; often best eaten plain. Keeping the batter a little more spicy, one can add a little of wasabi to give the touch of Japanese cuisine. Coming to a more variant style are the Thailand hot-dog waffles. With the hot dog cooked within the long waffles, they bear their similarity to the corn dogs. Otherwise the essential batter remains the same.

At home, while adding the South East Asian flavour to the waffles, a little of fine chopped spring onion greens, couple of coriander chopped, a bit of mashed carrot and beets gave the waffles a burst of colour. With plenty of jam, honey and sugar; the colorful waffles may have found favour with the young eaters. If not, there are always plenty of pancake batter to go around.

[1849]
“Waffles
Put two pints of rich milk into separate pans. Cut up and melt in one of them a quarter of a pound of butter, warming it slightly; then, when it is melted, stir it about, and set it away to cool. Beat eight eggs till very light, and mix them gradually into the other pan of milk, alternately with half a pound of flour. The mix it by degrees the milk that has the butter in it. Lastly, stir in a large table-spoonfull of strong fresh yeast. Cover the pan and set it near the fire to rise. When the batter is quite light, heat your waffle-iron, by putting it among the coals of a clear bright fire; grease the inside with butter tied in a rag, and then put in some batter. Shut the iron closely, and when the waffle is done on one side, turn the iron on the other. Take the cake out by slipping a knife underneath; and then heat and grease the iron for another waffle. Send them to table quite hot, four or six on a plage; having buttered them and strewed over each a mixture of powdered cinnamon, and white sugar. Or you may send the sugar and cinnamon in a little glass bowl.” 
-Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss Leslie [Philadelphia, 1849]. (p. 359)

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