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A Less Processed Life: Waffles And Vanilla Sauce

Susan Bronson

Today we debut a new series with food writer Susan Bronson.  She keeps a blog called A Less Processed Life, and each month she’ll be sharing recipes and stories from her Northwoods Kitchen.  In honor of the holidays, today Bronson shares one of her time-tested holiday traditions…that stars a 70-year-old kitchen appliance.  

This time of year, there is a lot of cooking going on in my home. Whether I’m cooking for holiday get-togethers with colleagues, family or friends, baking for cookie exchanges, or preparing holiday feasts, my oven and stovetop definitely get a workout this time of year.

Some of my favorite food memories are associated with the Christmas holiday. As a child, my family’s kitchen counters would be covered with tins full of freshly-baked Christmas cookies, including English toffee bars topped with chocolate and chopped nuts, sugar cookies covered in way-too-many sprinkles, spritz cookies made with a temperamental cookie gun, and everyone’s favorite peanut butter blossoms. Some of the cookies were destined for our stomachs.  The rest were packaged up to be brought down with us on our annual winter break road trip from snowy Ohio to sunny Florida, where my mom’s snowbird parents spent the winter.

While I continue to carry on the family tradition of baking dozens of cookies every Christmas, if I had to pinpoint my favorite food memory associated with the holiday, it would center on a humble kitchen appliance and a treasured family recipe.

What might this appliance be? A waffle iron that my grandparents were given as a wedding present in 1943. My father inherited the waffle iron when he headed to college in the early 1960s.  Made by the Dominion Electrical Manufacturing Company in Mansfield, Ohio, the round waffle iron is a thing of Art Deco beauty. The silver chrome is just as shiny today as it was back in the 1940s when it was made.

Every year at Christmas, my family and I would hold our breaths as the waffle iron was plugged in, fearing that this would be the year that the waffle iron would stop working. But … here we are more than 70 years after it was made, and the waffle iron still works just as well as the day it left the factory.

For as long as I can remember, waffles have been on the breakfast menu on Christmas morning. It is a tradition continued by my dad from the Christmas mornings of his youth.

Making the batter for the waffles is a simple affair – for four servings, in a medium bowl, whisk together one and three-quarter cups all-purpose flour, two tablespoons granulated sugar, one tablespoon baking powder, and one-quarter teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together two eggs, one and three-quarter cups milk, one stick of melted butter, and one teaspoon vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined – the batter will be slightly lumpy. Then spoon the batter onto a warmed and lightly oiled waffle iron and cook until golden brown and crispy.

We are spoiled up here in the Northwoods with an abundance of sugar maple trees, and you can’t go wrong with the classic combination of hot-off-the-iron waffles and pure maple syrup.  However, in our family, Christmas morning breakfast wouldn’t be complete without the addition of my Grandma’s vanilla sauce. This aromatic sweet sauce is thick, rich, and full of vanilla flavor. To make the sauce, mix together two cups milk, one-half cup granulated sugar, and two tablespoons all-purpose flour in a medium saucepan.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, while stirring frequently. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue cooking until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in one teaspoon vanilla. Let the sauce cool slightly before serving.

Waffles with vanilla sauce, served alongside strips of crispy bacon and a citrus salad made from the oranges Santa left in each of our stockings – made for a filling and satisfying meal with my family after an early morning spent unwrapping presents around the Christmas tree. These days, while I might not always make it home to Ohio for the holidays, I always know that with the combination of a few simple ingredients, I can get a taste of our family Christmas wherever
I may be.

Find details for this and other recipes at Susan's blog, A Less Processed Life.  

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