Today, blogger, writer, and fellow Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge baker Cheryl Tan is celebrating the launch of her new book, A Tiger in the Kitchen, by inviting fellow bloggers and cooks to write about a favorite family recipe.
As those who love to cook know, it’s hard to beat the excitement and challenge of mastering a new, exotic recipe. We scour shops and websites for special ingredients and hard-to-find equipment, get variations on recipes from books and blogs, lurk on forums to see what others have already learned. We test and tweak a recipe, subjecting our families to endless variations on the same theme, trying to get it “right” (some of you may remember my year of trying to make the canelés I craved).
That kind of cooking is great fun. It’s a hobby (and sometimes becomes a career). It takes hours and days and maybe months just to get the one dish figured out. And when you conquer that recipe, you feel a real sense of satisfaction — and probably a little bit tired — and then you wonder:
Okay, well, now, what’s to eat?
Enter the humble family recipe. The one you grew up with. The one you know in your bones. The one you take for granted and take for comfort. The one that, if you do have a printed copy (which is probably hand-written, scribbled quickly on notebook paper while your mother dictated it over the phone), is so splattered and smudged, you can barely read it anyway.
That’s my grandmother Pearl’s waffle recipe.
It’s about as basic as it gets, and yet… Pearl loved to entertain in a high style. A master of gilding the lily, she never did anything simply. As I child, I didn’t much like anything she cooked because she always tinkered with her recipes to add just one more ingredient that would send it over the edge from perfect to overdone and “doilied”. She could ruin a basic, delicious oatmeal cookie by adding dried fruits soaked in brandy. She never seemed to understand why my sister and I, having earlier excitedly announced that we LOVED such-and-such food, would turn our noses up at the kid-unfriendly version she set before us.
But some things she did right, and one of those things was waffles. Her recipe has no exotic ingredients, but, as always, she went the extra mile and made it different by whipping the egg whites and then folding them into the batter. This one extra step makes the crispiest, fluffiest waffles I’ve ever had.
When Cheryl posed the idea of posting a family recipe, I knew right away that this was the recipe to choose because it’s not just the recipe that makes this a family recipe, it’s the tools I use to make it — things owned by my family and my husband’s: the special egg (or cream) whipping tool belonged to my husband’s maternal grandmother; the little frying pan I always use to melt the butter belonged to my maternal grandfather’s mother; and the little electric waffle iron that makes only two waffles at a time is one of those things my husband and I bought together years ago.
When I use the whipper and the frying pan, I always think of the women who held them before, and I wonder what they cooked for their families with them, and I imagine them beside me, making breakfast for my little family on a snowy Sunday morning.
And even though my other grandmother, Martha, doesn’t contribute directly to this recipe, I think of her, too. Because she’s the one who taught me about the glory of a waffle-and-ice-cream sandwich, eaten at dusk on a summer evening, while sitting on blue plastic chairs, on the front veranda of her Toronto home.
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups milk
2 eggs, separated
4 Tablespoons butter
- Melt butter. Put aside to cool.
- Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
- In a separate bowl, combine milk and egg yolks.
- Quickly stir in flour mixture.
- Add melted butter.
- Beat egg whites into peaks.
- Fold egg whites into batter.
- Cook on waffle iron (I cook them at the highest setting to get the deep brown color and crisp texture).
- Eat straight from the iron, before anyone else has a chance to get their hands on it. If you must be civilized and sit down to eat, drizzle first with real maple syrup.
Note: These waffles freeze and reheat well. After cooking them, allow them to cool fully, then put in freezer bags and put in the freezer. Warm them in a toaster or toaster oven.
To see Cheryl’s family recipe and see links to other family recipe posts, visit her blog. Congratulations, Cheryl!
Now… what is your favorite family recipe? Post a link in the comments here or on Cheryl’s blog. Share the family recipe love!