Overnight Sourdough Waffles

I started making sourdough pancakes a couple weekends ago when a sudden craving for waffles hijacked my brain. Since the pancakes were already a work in progress, I flipped through a few cookbooks to see if it was possible to transition the ingredients. Nancy Silverton's "Overnight Sourdough Waffles" in Breads from the La Brea Bakery called for 9 ounces of ripe starter which happened to be the exact amount I had already prepared. The food moons were aligned.

These waffles are so satisfying. Buttery yet crisp with the perfect structure to handle a healthy drizzle of syrup. The nutty sweetness of the whole grains and slight acidity from the sourdough starter lend a wonderful depth of flavor. I was jonesing to make them again the following weekend so I could dial in the ratios and timing.

In terms of adjustments, I swapped out most of the white flour for home-milled Tehachapi Grain Project Sonora (see "Floury Thoughts" below) and increased the hydration accordingly. Detailed instructions and temperature notes are included in the post. If you don't have a sourdough starter, my post How to Build and Maintain a Sourdough Starter can help. If you're worried about the maintenance involved with a starter, check out Dave Miller's Sourdough Starter Maintenance which reduces feedings and minimizes waste. The joy of food pet ownership can be yours.

Floury Thoughts

I don't use whole wheat because it's healthy though the nutritional benefits are appreciated. I substitute quality whole grains in as many recipes as possible for the same reason that I prefer peaches and tomatoes from the farmers market over the grocery store. They're just more delicious.

I'm not disparaging roller-milled flour since it has a place in the pantry, but cooking traditions (American at least) seem to have lost their way when it comes to treating flour like a flavor contributor and not just a vehicle or binding agent. Examples of food that taste exponentially better with whole grains include pasta, brownies, pie dough, waffles, pancakes, quick breads of all kinds, cookies, biscuits, sourdough...there are many more. I would wager you won't want to make pancakes or waffles with 100% white flour again after using a quality whole grain like Sonora. Also, the "I don't like whole wheat" folks in your household will never know. On the contrary, they'll high five you for being the master of breakfast.

When buying whole wheat, consider the ingredient in the same way you would consider a tomato. Is it fresh? Is it a delicious variety? Has it been handled (or milled) properly? All of these factors matter. Low quality or old wheat flour doesn't taste great so look at the source, the expiration or mill date, and learn about the flavor profile. A few of the places I source flour from are listed under "Farmers | Artisans".

    Original vs. Adapted

    Flour

    As mentioned above, I swapped out much of the white flour for home-milled Tehachapi Grain Project Sonora. Why not go all in with the whole wheat? I've found that whole grains can sometimes add a chewier texture where crispness may be desired. Though I enjoyed the 100% Sonora waffles (my first attempt at this recipe), I opted to add a small percentage of Organic Beehive All-Purpose back into the dry ingredients. The sourdough starter also has some all-purpose flour in it.

    Refrigeration

    The recipe in Breads from the La Brea Bakery calls for leaving the batter out at room temperature overnight. With a high percentage of whole grains at 100%+ inoculation, I felt the mixture would be too active to sit out that long. Inoculation is the ratio of sourdough starter to fresh flour. My starter typically doubles in 2-3 hours at that inoculation. I refrigerate the batter overnight and bookend that cold nap with a room-temperature resting period on Day 1 and Day 2.

    Milk, Baking Soda, Vanilla

    I increased the milk by 2 ounces to account for the whole grains, increased the baking soda by 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon, and added 1/8 teaspoon Penzeys double-strength vanilla. Minor tweaks that rolled over from my sourdough pancake recipe.

    Egg Whites

    I whipped the egg whites and then folded them into the batter shortly before baking the waffles. This is a technique picked up from Cook's Illustrated that helps lighten the texture.

    Recipe Tips

    Temperature

    As a sourdough bread geek, I tend to measure all the things all the time. A sourdough starter is different from leavening powders and dried yeast in that it has a shorter lifespan and a more specific peak. I felt it was important to keep track of the temperatures and time since the batter is quite cold coming out of the refrigerator. The applicable notes are included under "Instructions".

    Overmixing

    Don't overmix the batter. Unlike with sourdough bread, gluten development isn't what you need for this recipe.

    Tools

    Farmers | Artisans

    I make an effort to source my food from California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the folks who contributed to this dish.

    Ingredients (Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery - 4 Servings)

    Day 1

    • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
    • 9 ounces ripe 50% all-purpose/50% Sonora whole grain starter at 100% hydration
    • 10 ounces 2% milk Note: You can use whole milk if that's what you have though the extra fat may weigh down an already rich waffle.
    • 5 ounces whole grain Sonora Note: See "Farmers | Artisans" above.
    • 1 ounce Central Milling Organic Beehive Note: Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose flour is a fine substitute.
    • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon flake-style salt

    Day 2

    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/8 teaspoon Penzeys double-strength vanilla
    • Syrup Note: I've been enjoying Crown Royal "Dark Color" lately.

    Instructions

    Day 1 - 11:00 P.M.

    • Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
    • Combine the ripe sourdough starter and milk, stir to combine. Stir a few times more to distribute and dissolve the starter. This may take several minutes.
    • Sift together the flours, sugars, and salt, breaking up any brown sugar bits. Dump any bran flakes and salt back into the flour mixture and whisk to combine.
    • Add the cooled butter to the bowl with the dissolved starter and stir to combine.
    • In two additions, whisk the flour mixture into the milk mixture. Stop stirring as soon as there isn't any dry flour so as to avoid overmixing.
    • Cover the bowl tightly with plastic and leave out at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. Note: I put a tiny hole in the plastic with the tip of the paring knife so the starter could "breathe". No idea if this is necessary.
    • Refrigerate overnight.

    Day 2 - 8:00 A.M.

    • Remove the batter from the refrigerator.
    • Fill a deep sauté pan with warm water (around 95 degrees) and place the bowl with the batter directly in the pan. Note: I also turn the oven light on since that creates a cozy space for the batter to warm up.
    • After 45 minutes, the temperature of the batter will be around 70°F.
    • Let the batter sit in a warm spot for another hour and 15 minutes. Note: After an additional hour, my batter measured 74°F. It has been relatively warm the last few weeks.
    • Separate 2 eggs, placing the egg yolks in one small bowl and the whites in a bowl where they can be whipped.
    • Gently whisk the baking soda and vanilla into the egg yolks to distribute.
    • Preheat the waffle iron. Note: The All-Clad waffle maker setting for this recipe is about 3.75.
    • Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
    • Very gently stir the egg yolk mixture into the batter with a whisk, taking care to not whisk too forcefully.
    • Gently stir the whipped egg whites into the batter. Note: I tried folding the whipped egg whites in with a spatula but found that the batter was too thick to do this effectively. The whisk works better, just take care to not overmix and deflate the batter.
    • For the All-Clad waffle maker, I add a heaping 1/3 cup of batter to each square. The consistency of the batter is such that it plops instead of pours out of the measuring cup. "Thick and elastic" is how Nancy describes it.
    • Bake for 4-5 minutes until golden brown.
    • Serve immediately or briefly keep warm on a wire rack in a 200°F oven.

    Storage

    I always freeze leftover pancakes and waffles. The texture isn't the same but they still taste delicious. I'm pretty lazy with reheating and use the microwave's defrost setting. I suspect there are ways to crisp the waffles up again but haven't bothered since I just eat them like a piece of bread.

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