I’ve experimented with sourdough bread off and on for about the last six years, but only enough in the last year or so to get consistent, repeatable, results. Or enough to REALLY understand what I’m doing and why.
And that bothers me.
I’m a bread lover, a serious baker, and a bit of a foodie. I bake often, I currently make a basic crusty sourdough loaf at least once a week, occasionally a more flavorful artisan loaf as well, and we usually have homemade rolls (many varieties), biscuits, breadsticks, muffins, etc several times during the week. We grew up making everything from scratch and– not to sound conceited, but– I’m a dang good baker. When it comes to using commercial yeast and baking powder that is. I still haven’t quite gotten to know the sourdough process well enough to completely wean myself off of commercial products. However, I’ve decided it’s time to truly master sourdough for more than just bread loaves– Pitas, biscuits, pancakes, desserts, etc if it’s made of flour I’m going to try it in sourdough! If you search the internet you’ll find tons of sourdough recipes, enough that I really shouldn’t feel the need to put one out there. There’s a hitch though, almost all of them claim to be sourdough…. but still use yeast or baking powder as well as starter. Which, I would definitely NOT call sourdough– they are entirely dependent on the other leavening agents and the starter is a bit of an afterthought in order to add some flavor. Think about it this way, commercial yeast and baking powder were both invented in the mid 1800s, how were things made prior to that? They were certainly still making biscuits, bread, muffins, etc before that! In my pursuit of good sourdough recipes I’m also trying to find ones that are traditional and don’t depend on modern leavening agents. Strictly sourdough.
Waffles are my first foray into figuring out good, consistent recipes/techniques for bread products OTHER than my weekly loaf. Why waffles? If you have to ask that I don’t know if I can help you…. You either understand or you don’t. It’s a waffle for crying out loud! Pretty much the ideal breakfast food of all mankind! Mmmm, just thinking about them makes me happy….. But alas, there was another reason for it.
My wife. She loves waffles. It’s a toss-up whether waffles or pancakes are her favorite breakfast. That’s probably explanation enough. Unfortunately, she’s semi-gluten intolerant (gluten sensitive?) which means that while I’m a bread lover, it isn’t quite the nirvana for her that it is for me when I start baking. However, among other health benefits I’ve also read that sourdough products are easier to digest because the culture breaks down some of the wheat/gluten for you. And she definitely has an easier time eating my homemade bread than she does store bought stuff– she can’t eat grocery store bread at all, but she usually does alright with homemade bread products (they do randomly cause issues still, she’ll eat them fine for 2 months and then not be able to for awhile again. Really odd.). Heck, I figured we might as well test it and see if she has an easier time eating sourdough waffles compared to normal ones though.
So we’ve been eating waffles frequently…. VERY frequently. To the point that we may not want waffles for a few months (we’ll see how long that actually lasts). I’ve made six different waffle recipes in the last two weeks, which doesn’t sound like a lot but that means we’ve essentially had waffles every other day for two weeks. And we were experimenting with them less consistently before that too. But it payed off! I finally have a go-to sourdough waffle recipe that I know I like and can get consistent results with. Hopefully you like it as well!
In my mind the ideal waffle is crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, dark, buttery, flavorful. And if we are going to make sourdough ones I want to have just a hint of a sour tang to them. Some people want their sourdough to taste just like normal ones, that’s fine and has it’s place, but if I make sourdough, I want it to have a sour flavor. We sampled many recipes and always had some sort of Goldilocks reason for not liking them. Didn’t quite get crisp enough, too sweet, too much vanilla, too many spices, too dense, not enough of a sour tang, the list goes on and on. And don’t get me wrong, I liked most of them, I just don’t feel like a standard recipe should be sweet (I eat them for breakfast, not dessert), or heavily spiced. I’ll do that as a variation if I get bored of basic waffles, but you need a good base recipe to start with. Not surprisingly, the recipe we settled on is a sourdough variation of the baking powder waffles my family has been making for decades.
A note on my starter: I keep mine in the fridge and don’t feed it very frequently. In fact, I usually only ever feed it the day before I bake with it and a little right before I put it back in the fridge. And maybe a few days worth of frequent feeds to get it really active if it starts to not perform very well. That was one of the things that turned me off from using sourdough before, I was trying to feed it everyday and it was too much of a hassle to maintain. That, and most sourdough people tell you to toss a portion of your starter every time you feed it, which seemed like a colossal waste to me. At any rate, I take mine out the morning before I want to cook with it, pour the alcohol off the top, scoop off the darker starter on top where it has been in contact with the alcohol, and feed it a goodly amount. Then I let it raise all day and take out however much I need to use that night. Then I’ll feed it a little more and toss it back in the fridge until next time. Easy peasy. I keep my starter roughly the consistency of pancake/waffle batter already. If yours is thicker or thinner you’re going to need to adjust the amount of milk or water you use for this recipe.
½ cup active sourdough starter
3 cups whole wheat flour (I don’t bake with white flour… if you do you may have to experiment with this recipe a little. White flour as a generalization takes less water and a little more salt then wheat.)
2 ¾ cups water or milk
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp. salt
½ cup oil
1 Tbl. honey/brown sugar
The night before I make waffles I combine starter, water/milk and flour in a bowl, cover and let sit overnight (10-12 hours) and allow the culture do its thing. The next morning, it should be nice and bubbly with a definite sour aroma. At this point I crack the eggs and put the whites in a separate bowl. Use egg beaters or a hand whisk to beat them until stiff. I’ve never had success with a blender for some reason but if you’re like me you will want to test that for yourself if you don’t have egg beaters. I have to use a hand whisk as I haven’t owned beaters in years. . . This takes a moment. At any rate, once your egg whites are stiff, combine everything else in a separate bowl and whisk together. Add this and the egg whites to your batter and fold it in. Don’t over stir. Cook fairly dark– that’s one thing I noticed about sourdough, it needs a little extra time to ensure it’s cooked all the way through. Serve with your favorite toppings (we usually do homemade yogurt and fresh fruit or jam. Molasses is also a favorite at our house– just a drizzle–and on special occasions we substitute real whipped cream for yogurt). Enjoy that bite of heaven! This recipe makes about 9 eight inch round waffles….. And they freeze great!
While the above recipe was our favorite, this recipe
(https://breadtopia.com/sourdough-waffles-and-pancakes/) from Breadtopia was the runner up. It makes a very good, flavorful, crisp yet fluffy waffle. And for good reason. . . do you see how much butter is in it?? Mmmmm. Delicious. But I can’t justify using that much butter in a waffle recipe for normal occasions. Especially a recipe that small since I would have to double it for our family (I eat a lot). Butter is too expensive for me to do that. But I provide it here in case you want to try it out!