Article and Photo by Pam Vukelic
Our microwave recently crashed and I thought, “Oh well, I won’t miss it that much.” Then I wanted to make popcorn, heat frozen vegetables, melt butter, and warm up frozen taco meat. I ended up scrapping the popcorn idea, prepared a salad instead of frozen peas, melted butter in a preheating oven, and used a saucepan to heat up the taco meat. Having the microwave on the fritz was a bigger inconvenience than I anticipated.
It made me think about other kitchen appliances I have and how much I (don’t) use them. Many of them are nestled in the back of a cupboard in a state of hibernation. I found it was easy, however, to transition my waffle irons into versatile pieces of equipment with just a little online research.
Puff pastry browned in a Belgian waffle iron is simply delightful! I cut one sheet, which had been thawed overnight in the refrigerator, into nine squares and toasted one square at a time. The toasted pastry, called a Puffle, can be a base for creamed chicken, which is a little reminiscent of southern chicken and waffles. It also was delicious topped with a little syrup and eaten as French toast. Imagine it with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with caramel. Yum! It’s a great way to use up leftover puff pastry.
Gadettes are cookies made in a waffle iron. If you use a flavored brandy, such as the Slivovitz I mention in the recipe on the next page, the flavor comes through beautifully.
Not as far back in the cupboard, but not routinely used, is my Norwegian heart-shaped waffle iron. I remember the first time I ate these waffles. Gerd Tønjum had invited several of her friends to her backyard for coffee. She served the waffles with cream and berries. At the time, I was an employee of Gerd’s at Fleischer’s Hotel in Voss, Norway, where I had a summer job in the dining room. It was 1977. Much more recently, when Gunnar and Feli were here from Oslo for Meredith’s wedding, Gunnar mixed up a batch of the waffles for breakfast, no recipe needed.
This time I “baked” brownies in that waffle iron. I found the batter needs to be quite thick to work well. They are delicious simply topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, but they, too, could accommodate ice cream, whipped cream, berries, mini chocolate chips, or chopped pecans.
A few years ago, at the Høstfest in Minot, I purchased the recipe book “We ‘Love’ Waffles” by Stine Aasland. A quick online search revealed dozens of cookbooks devoted to the humble waffle.
I also found it appealing to use my standard waffle iron as a panini press. Grilled cheese sandwiches are delicious.
Why a waffle iron? There is approximately three times as much surface area, which adds a whole bunch of extra crispy texture. All the little indentations are perfect for collecting sauces and holding cheeses. You don’t have to heat up your oven.
A few waffle iron tips: Be sure to preheat it. Most recipes for cookies, brownies, and puff pastry call for medium heat. Do NOT spray the grids with cooking spray, but do rub lightly with an unflavored oil as needed.
You can transition other appliances, too. Use your panini press to grill chicken breasts. A pizzelle iron can make cookies, but the cookie can be turned into a bowl or cone if molded while still warm. This is true of krumkake, too. Spiced nuts can be made in a slow cooker. In fact, you can make Play Doh in your slow cooker, or you can heat scented towels for a soothing break after a run or long bike ride.
I’m determined to revamp my kitchen cabinets in order to have easier access to the small appliances tucked inside them. Quick internet searches will yield all kinds of suggestions for you to transition some of those not-so-often-used tools into frequently-used favorites.
Waffle Iron Brownies
½ cup butter
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat waffle iron. Melt butter in saucepan, remove from heat and stir in cocoa. Mix in the sugar, eggs, and water. Add the flour and salt, beating well. In each segment of the waffle iron, add one well-rounded spoonful of batter. Cook as you would a waffle. Dust with powdered sugar.
1/3 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tablespoon bourbon or brandy* (optional)
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
dash of salt
powdered sugar (optional)
Place butter in large mixing bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with electric mixer after each addition. Beat in brandy, if you like, and vanilla. Beat in sugars until well combined. Gradually add flour and salt. Cover and chill dough at least two hours or until firm enough to scoop. Preheat waffle baker. Drop dough from a small cookie scoop into center of each waffle grid. Close lid. (Make four at a time.) Bake about three minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes about 25.
*I used the wonderful Croatian plum brandy called Slivovitz.
Pam Vukelic and her husband, Jim, have attended two class reunions this summer, which reminded them how fortunate they are to have grown up in small town North Dakota. Pam says catching up with classmates is a study in transitions.