Whole Wheat Berry Waffles
I love mornings, I love breakfast, and I love to bake. Generally this means that the first thing I do is reach for a bag of flour, but over the past few years, as I’ve tried to eat more and more whole foods, I’ve been on a hunt for a good recipe starting with whole wheat berries rather than a refined and enriched flour. I don’t own a grain mill, and haven’t been able to invest in one, so wanted to find a recipe where I could soak the whole grains and then blend them into a batter, and still enjoy eating the end product. Starting with a whole grain is fresher and means all the nutrients nature intended to be eaten are still in the batter. By soaking the grain and then lightly fermenting the batter you can improve the digestibility and, most importantly, the flavor is so much better!
Over the past year, many well known chefs my age have been having their first babies (Fanny Gerson of DOUGH and La Newyorkina, David Chang of Momofuku, and my friend Ben Daitz of the Num Pang shops). I stopped cooking full time a few days before my eldest was born 15 years ago, and as I’ve watched the cute baby photos from all these commercially successful chefs explode over social media, I’ve been reflecting on the joy and skills that I have learned as I turned much of my cooking from professional restaurants and catering, in towards my family and community. These waffles are a perfect example of the endless experimenting and merging of techniques and recipes that cooking at home has allowed me to have.
I started with a whole spelt pancake recipe from the book Nourishing Traditions, and also these amazing raised waffles from Smitten Kitchen, plus my all time favorite pancake/waffle recipe from a country dinner, I found in an old magazine that has been my go-to recipe for decades. The merging of bits and pieces from each of these recipes, plus a no-measure ciabatta bread recipe I sometimes make, landed me with the recipe below. I decided to use water as the liquid for these pancakes to make them dairy free, but using milk or yogurt in the batter for the overnight fermentation will add a wonderful sourness, which so delicious, so definitely use that if you can eat dairy. If you do use milk or yogurt, then only ferment on the counter overnight or for around 12 hours.
In all honestly, the best batch of these so far was the very first one, where nothing was measured and the berries soaked for 2 days because I kept not having time to get to them, and then the batter fermented for 36 hours because it took me that long to make time to cook the waffles amidst work, kids, community..and all the responsibilities of life… Since that first glorious batch I have tried a number of lengths of time for the soaking and swapped out ingredients to find the best possible version. To tell you the truth, they were all good, and I know fo sho, that most of y’all are not gonna plan four days ahead to make waffles…so no worries, do the short version…but if you do get inspired on a Wednesday night to make waffles for the weekend.. then feel free to do the longer soak and ferment…and enjoy the extra deliciousness as your reward.
Wheat Berry Overnight Waffles
Makes 7-8 waffles
1 cup whole wheat berries
1 1/4 cups water (or milk, kefir, or yogurt thinned with water or milk)
1 teaspoon yeast
4 Tablespoons butter, melted (or neutral oil)
3 Tablespoons sugar (or other sweetener)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
NOTE: One way to coordinate making this batter is to place the wheat berries to soak in the morning, blend the batter in the evening, and ferment overnight. As mentioned above, a longer soak for the wheat berries is great if you have the time.
Place wheat berries in a bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Soak for at least 8 hours, and not more than 36 hours - if soaking this long, change the water part way through.
Drain wheat berries and place in a blender with 1 and 1/4 cups water (or milk, kefir or thinned yogurt). Blend until very smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 10 to 36 hours. The flavor will improve the longer the batter ferments. If using dairy don’t ferment much longer than 12 hours.
After fermenting, stir in the remaining ingredients: eggs, sugar, salt, melted butter, spices, and baking powder. Cook in a hot buttered waffle iron. In my waffle iron, I cooked them for twice as long as my flour based batter, (this is important!) so they are crispy on the outside and and tender on the inside. This was key to their wonderful flavor.