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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Waffles & Maple Syrup

When I was in the pulpit every Sunday, people would regularly tell me that they wouldn't be in church the following week.  I always appreciated the information, since it kept me from wondering if they were sick or if they had wandered away, disgruntled, because I had said something they didn't like in a sermon.  The point, though, is that most people -- even faithful, church-going people -- play hookey from church from time to time.

I did it this morning.

I didn't have a preaching gig anywhere and I figured that, after twenty years of church work, I had earned the right to blow off church, make some waffles and read the New York Times.  At least once.  Next week, I'll be back preaching at the First Congregational Church (UCC) of Bethel, CT, where I'm filling in between the settled pastor who retired and the interim, who doesn't arrive until March.

So, about the waffles:  Ten years ago, I bought Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which is probably my single favorite cookbook and is now out in a revised tenth anniversary edition.  Bittman's "Overnight Waffles" (recipe at bottom of this post) are yeasty and delicious and are my favorite waffle recipe, though I haven't made sourdough waffles, yet.  This morning, I pulled out all the stops and made the waffles, along with cinnamon bananas (Recipe: slice bananas, add cinnamon, serve on top of waffles.), sausage links and bacon (I had a half package left over from making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, so why not?).  I brewed up a pot of coffee, poured some OJ, cursed the fact that our waffle iron only makes two waffles at a time, and ladled in the first batch of batter.

As the waffles cooked, I pulled our quart bottle of maple syrup from the refrigerator and prepared to heat up the syrup.  (Real maple syrup, of course -- not that artificially flavored corn syrup crap marketed as "pancake syrup.") To my chagrin, I found that the bottle had only a dribble left in it.  I looked in the pantry to see if we had a bottle in reserve, but didn't see any.  I was approaching a psychological meltdown when Kimberly, using her super X-ray vision, peered w---a---y into the back of the cabinet and found a bottle that I had missed.

As the Queen of the Universe produced the miraculous bottle of life-giving syrup from the recesses of the cabinet, I thought back to when we had bought it, straight from the woman who had tapped the trees, at a farmers' market in Vermont when we had gone there on vacation a year and half ago .  It was "Grade B" rather than "Grade A" like most grocery stores carry, and I was excited to find it.  Contrary to what most folks would expect, the USDA grading system for maple syrup assigns the highest rating for the syrup that has the least maple flavor and color, a system that dates back to when maple syrup was used as a general purpose sweetener and people didn't want everything they used it in to taste like maple.

"Grade A Light Amber" is at the top of the list, followed by "Grade A Medium Amber" and "Grade A Dark Amber."  It isn't until position number four that "Grade B" designates the darkest and most maple-flavored syrup that is available to consumers.  "Grade C" is substandard for normal use and is only available to industrial producers of maple flavored products like bacon and flavored oatmeal.

This morning, as I bit into my "Grade B" maple syrup covered waffles, I was blown away by the flavor, which was much richer and much more intense than the dribble in the first bottle.  Now, I'm going to have to make sure that I always buy "Grade B" syrup, as I have come to the well-considered conclusion that Grade A is for sissies.

Maple Syrup from the pantry today.
  Grade A Dark Amber on left.  Grade B on right.
The darker color is matched by a much more intense taste.

Overnight Waffles
Makes 4 to 6 servings


  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use 1.5c all-purpose flour and .5c whole wheat flour.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (My mother's rule is "always double the vanilla."  Just sayin'.)
  • 2 eggs

1. Before going to bed, combined the dry ingredients, then stir in the milk, butter and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid and let stand overnight at room temperature.
2. Grease and preheat your waffle iron. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the batter. Beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them into the batter.
3. Ladle the batter into the waffle and waffle until light golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes depending on your waffle iron.

1 comment:

Paul Bryant-Smith said...

Just in case anyone is reading this after Autumn of 2015, the syrup grading system has changed. See