Thursday, February 26, 2009

When in Belgium - You Better Mind Your Waffles

Food origin … (and the ranting of a crazy person)

Most people are aware that French Fries are not from France, Cornish Game Hens are not imported from Cornwall, England and that “Danish” pastry originated in Vienna (It’s true, really). One of the few foods that HAS been properly designated by its origin is the Belgian Waffle, for it does, in fact, come from Belgium. However, if you ask for a Belgian Waffle at a café in Antwerp, no one will understand what you are talking about… and probably mistake you for the town crazy.

You see, there are many different waffles made in Belgium. What we silly Americans think of as the quintessential “Belgian Waffle”, is actually a ‘Brussels’ Waffle, as opposed to a ‘Liège’ Waffle, which is also a Belgian Waffle, and quite delicious I might add, with it’s crunchy brûlée exterior. But that is another post.

Getting back to the Brussels “Belgian” Waffle –
By definition, the Brussels Waffle is a yeasted dough that is baked in a deep grid rectangular iron (American - Belgian waffle irons are the wrong shape; being split into 2 squares) characteristically crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.
The Liège Waffle, on the other hand, contains pearl sugar (which is hard to find in U.S.) and is baked in a sort of oval shape. It’s much denser and has mini-chunks of "carameled" sugar dispersed throughout.

OK, so you are probably asking yourself, "Why is he being so OCD about this whole "Belgian" Waffle scandal?

Well I was offended earlier today, by a Food Network chef, who shall remain nameless, when I went hunting for ideas of what to serve on the Brussels Waffles that I am taking to work tomorrow for our IS/IT Breakfast. I came across a “Classic Belgian Waffle” recipe. Which is all fine and dandy, but when I clicked the link to see how they were presented and I saw the ingredient list to the actual waffle, I became enraged. There listed 2nd was the infamous "Baking Powder" and not one freeze dried granual of yeast was to be found in the whole recipe. NO yeast… !?!.... Nuh Uh!

This is called "American" waffle batter and there is nothing “Classically Belgian” about THAT… The batter's light sourness from the yeast counterpointed by the faint sweetness is missing. The texture may be crisp, but the interior is more rubbery. In fact, the final product is nothing but an American waffle with a deeper grid… Sadly lacking the refined flavor of a true Brussels "Belgian" waffle. Not that I am knocking American waffles either... but the batters are better suited to "standard" smaller grid irons. I wont touch on Danish Waffle irons, or Dutch irons in this post.

The point I am trying to make in my rambling, is that just because you slap American Waffle batter into a deep grid waffle iron (let me restate that the “Belgian” irons available in the U.S. are shaped wrong anyway) does NOT make it a Belgian waffle; Brussels, Liège or otherwise…

FOR SHAME ON YOU!!!! BAD, Food Network Chef!!!! BAD!!! Go to your ‘Walk In’ and THINK about what you have done…!!!!!
Suffering the American people to culinary mediocrity... And maligning the name of "Belgian" (even though misnamed) Waffle... For Shame!!! I will not be eating breakfast in YOUR restaurant any time soon.

At this point, I was beginning to wonder just how far this sort of thing had gone.... So, I looked at a "Belgian" Waffle mix while at the store this evening picking up some fresh berries... Sure enough... BELGIAN WAFFLE MIX.... Right on the ingredient list "Baking Powder".....!!!!! Apparently this is a rampantly growing phenomenon. Blatant false advertising. Oh, and, of course, it was TWICE the price of any other waffle/pancake mix on the aisle. I was wondering how they could possibly contend that their mix tasted anything like a real Brussels Waffle... Then as I kept reading past all the chemicals to prevent clumping and to preserve freshness, at the very bottom I saw the answer....

Artificially Flavored... Lovely.... gack!!!

So friends, I urge you... No, I implore you, please... If you have ever ordered a "Belgian" waffle and were terribly UN-impressed, or decided that you didn't like them, please, please, try this recipe before you pass your final verdict.

Brussels (Belgian) Waffles

Gaufre de Brussels with Creme Violette whipped cream and candied violets

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 110 degrees)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk (105 to 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 TB butter, melted and cooled

Sprinkle yeast over the 1/2 cup warm milk in a small bowl; set aside about 5 minutes to wake up.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and salt together.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork in a small bowl

In another small bowl or glass pitcher mix 1 1/2 cups warm milk with vanilla

Add melted Butter,

then add the beaten egg yolks.

Add butter/milk/yolk mixture to the flour/sugar mixture, beat until smooth.

By now your yeast should be good and bubbly; Stir it down to get it well dispersed though the milk.

Then stir the yeasted milk into the batter.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form;

fold gently into batter. (That wire whisk is REALLY old, my grandmother still uses one just like it, my dad fixed this one for me by adding a new handle to it)

Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you want to make them now you can leave it out on the counter for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume, but the flavor is better if refrigerated overnight.

Preheat an electric waffle maker. (Plastic housed waffle irons do not get hot enough to properly cook a waffle)

Remove from refrigerator and stir down batter.

Spoon about 1/2 cup batter into each waffle grid and use the back of a spoon or an icing spatula to spread over the grids a little.

Close iron; cook until waffle is well-browned and the waffle is no longer steaming (about 4 to 5 minutes).
Transfer cooked waffles to a wire rack and keep warm in an oven, set to 200 degrees, until all the batter has been cooked.

Makes 10 waffles. (that's 5 double squares by American Belgian irons)

Look, Even I can make a mess when I am not paying attention... LOL

Serving Ideas -
  • Orange Blossom Honey Butter (1 cup butter, 3 TB Orange Blossom Honey; Beat together until light & fluffy)
  • Whipped Cream (your choice of Liqueur Flavoring)
  • Confectioners' Sugar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Fresh Berries and Whipped Cream or Confectioners' Sugar
  • Bacon or Bacon and Maple Syrup
  • MMM or spread with Nutella
The possibilities are almost endless......

UPDATE: Now that the IS/IT breakfast is over, I can post a few of the pics that I was able to take before fork hit mouth.. (Which was lightning fast by the way - I swear, we need a sign over our area "IS/IT, will Work for Food")

I happened to noticed that my fellow computer geeks' personalities were coming out as the added toppings... I guess you can tell a lot about a person from their Waffles.....

The Reserved Waffle.

The Buried Berry Waffle.

The Berry Lover waffle

The "I forgot to shake the Whipped Cream Canister" Waffle.

and the Nutella Nut Waffle...

Good Times....

Waffle Iron on Foodista

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spanakopeta - Popeye Would Be Proud

OK, This is gonna be a long one…. But I suppose it’s fitting… Since it’s the last Greek recipe of “Greek Week”… Don’t be sad though, I made a promise to make Baklava this weekend, so there will be at least 1 dessert coming up…

Spanakopeta, has got to be one of my favorite Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian Dishes. Obviously, I am not a vegetarian, in any way shape or form, just see a few of my other posts. Occasionally, however, I do not feel like eating meat, I know, it sounds kind of crazy to most omnivores out there. I can’t explain it, it just is… LOL

So tonight, as a send off for Greek Week, here is how I make Spanakopeta.

Oh, but before I begin... The filling can be made 24 hours in advance, BUT, it has to be left in 2 parts... The Egg/Feta must be kept separate from the Spinach/Herb/Onion mixture until right before you are ready to wrap it in phyllo. If you mix them together, lemon juice begins to denature the proteins in the eggs, thus causing water to seep from the eggs which turns the filling into soup (I learned that the hard way).


20 oz Fresh Spinach; Chopped
1/2 cup Green Onion; Chopped
1 Shallot; Minced
3 Garlic cloves; Finely Minced
Juice and Zest of 1/2 Large Lemon (if medium, use a whole Lemon)
1/4 cup Mint; Chopped
1/4 cup Italian Parsley; Chopped
1/4 cup Dill Weed; Chopped
8 oz Feta; Crumbled
3 Eggs
1 tsp Coriander
1/4 tsp Mace
Dash of Cinnamon
10 TB Unsalted Butter, Melted
3/4 LB Filo Pastry Sheets

In a big pot, boil about 8 cups of water (You won’t need much)
Rough chop spinach. (Yes, That is a Uber-Mega-Giganta-sized Mezzaluna - It's actually a pizza cutter, but it's great for stuff like this)

When water boils, add salt and the spinach and blanch for 2 minutes.

Remove with a skimmer and let cool.

Chop Green onion, Shallot, Garlic and zest and juice the Lemon.

Meanwhile, sauté green onion and shallot for 2 minutes, then add the garlic.

Remove from heat when onion/shallot/garlic are soft and add lemon juice and zest stirring to combine.

Add Mint, Parsley and Dill; stirring to combine.

Squeeze as much water form the spinach as possible, using cheesecloth if necessary. (I squeezed and extra cup of liquid out of it AFTER I had already drained it)

Add to the onion/shallot/garlic/lemon mixture and tear with a fork, to combine well.

In a separate bowl, mix crumbled Feta, Eggs, Coriander, Mace and Cinnamon till combined.

Add egg mixture to spinach and mix well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter and grab a pasty brush.

Brush a baking sheet lightly with melted butter.

Unroll Phyllo and cut into 3 equal strips with a pizza cutter. (usually about 4 1/2 inches wide)

Take one sheet and brush with butter, place another sheet on top of the first, and brush that one with butter as well. (When you fold it the butter on the second layer will be in contact with the un-buttered outside)

Place 2 1/2 TB of filling in the bottom.

and fold up the corner in a triangular fashion.

Continue folding into a triangle.

Brush butter on the ending flap and fold it over.

Place on buttered baking sheet with the left over flap (shown above) on the bottom. Then brush the top with a little more butter.

When finished with all the filling (should make about 12)

Brush them all with a little more butter.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Delicious served both Warm and/or Cold.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Gyro my Hero!!", said the Po' Boy

See, I told you. Just wait until tomorrow's "lamè de résistance" title.

The Gyro was my first "Greek Cuisina" experience, without even knowing it. Gyro makers abound in malls with their slowly turning spindles of pressed and formed meat, thinly shaved and served on flat bread with copious amounts of Tzatziki, Red Onion, Tomato and Feta.

The first time I had one, I was in smitten, and had no idea what culinary course my love of the Gyro would eventually take me on. But in all honesty, what is available in the Mega-Malls and/or "Shopping Towns", across America, is a mere penumbral shadow of what can be achieved by the home cook. (most of them are only 20% lamb)

Take it from me, the only thing better than a homemade Gyro is 2 homemade Gyros; and a stomach big enough to hold both of them, of course. It really is surprisingly simple to make a great gyro at home.

There are mixes available in the store, but most of these contain fillers, at which point you are really making a Greek meatloaf. I urge you to try this at home, it is actually very simple, throw everything in to the food processor, bake and press. Granted, gyro meat is base on the "doner kebab" of Turkey and requires roasting on a vertical spit, but this is the next best thing, and it still tastes better than the Mega-Mall. I read a blog where a guy built a vertical spit, but I wont be trying that until spring or summer...

The process I am currently using is "a la Alton Brown". I use to form a tube, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and and chill, then spit on my Farberware Open Hearth Rotisserie... But my motor burnt out. It was a DARK day.... So I took my queue from Alton and now press with a couple of bricks to get the proper density to the meat.

Before I slip into my actual recipe, I would like to talk about meat. I already mentioned that most commercially produced Gyro meat is 80% beef or even more. Personally, I think the best combination is Goat and Lamb in equal parts. The Cheven (goat) meat has more body and gives you a firm toothiness while the lamb lends a tender velvety mouth feel from the lanolin in the fat. Seriously, it's THAT good... But since I don't know anyone raising cheven in Southern California, I have used beef here, as I usually end up doing. True, you can use all lamb, but I find that to be a little TOO velvety.

OK, I am done babbling at you now.


1 Red onion; Chopped
1 lb ground Lamb
1 lb ground Beef (85/15)
2 TB Garlic; finely Minced
3 TB Fresh Oregano or Marjoram; Chopped (1TB Dried)
3 TB Fresh Thyme; Light Chopped (1 TB Dried)
2 TB Fresh Mint; Chopped (2 tsp Dried)
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 TB Fresh Dill Weed; Chopped (2 tsp Dried)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Mace
1/8 tsp Clove
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Plain Pita
Red Onion; sliced

Tomatoes; sliced
Greek Feta (Usually made with Sheep or Goat Milk; Not Cow milk)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a food processor with the blade attachment, process onion until fine, move to a tea towel or cheese cloth, gather the ends and squeeze out as much onion juice as possible.

Then return the onion to the processor,

along with the Lamb, Beef, garlic, marjoram, thyme, mint, lemon zest, dill weed, cinnamon, mace, clove, salt and pepper. (Basically everything)

Process this into a kind of paste.

Press the mixture into a loaf pan with wet fingers .

Bake in a water bath for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 min. (Temp should be about 170 degrees).

Prepare your weight... Take to heavy bricks and wrap in foil.

When Gyro loaf reaches 170 degrees, remove from the oven and pour off any residual liquid fat.
Place pan on a stable surface and cover the surface with a double layer of foil,

then place your brick or cast iron bacon press with pantry cans placed on to compress the meat while it rests for about 20 minutes (The internal temp should climb to about 175).

Remove weight, turn out the meat “loaf” onto a cutting board, slice thinly,

Brown lightly in a skillet over medium heat with just a little olive oil for a little extra crispiness.

Then combine with tzatziki, tomato, red onion, and feta on plain pita (not pocket pita).