Because of all the trouble, mess and time spent to make them, waffles aren't something that are whipped up daily in the home kitchen. Some people might settle for the frozen ready-made ones, but the fragrant aroma and wholesomeness of freshly made waffles are unbeatable. For those who are considering making waffles from scratch, even as a weekend treat, an investment in a fine waffle maker may be worthwhile.
In recent years the interest in Belgian waffles has been rekindled, and these crisp, fluffy golden breads are enjoyed even more when served with fresh berries and drenched in syrup. In spite of the great number of new electric Belgian waffle irons that have squeezed into the market, the old-fashioned stove-top waffler remains a favorite, according to Judy Warfield, assistant store manager at Cookin' Stuff in Palos Verdes.
One machine that has been around for years and still doing quite well, she says, is the Belgian Waffler ($39.95) from Nordic Ware. The antique-looking product makes light, high-volume waffles, which in fact can be made faster than with an electric waffle iron. Made of heavy cast aluminum, it has a non-stick interior that makes deep indentations in the waffles. The long, sturdy handles stay cool and allow for a good grip. Baking waffles on top of the stove may be more difficult to time, so to avoid guesswork and ensure even baking, Nordic Ware provides two temperature gauges located at the base of the handle.
Aiming for those who prefer to go the faster route, Nordic Ware introduced the first microwave waffler last fall. Called the MicroWaffler ($32), the unit looks and works like a conventional waffle iron. "Making waffles the conventional way is too time consuming, but this product allows you to make them any day of the week," says Kathy Hempel, marketing communications manager at Nordic Ware in Minneapolis. "It takes about the same time to cook as it takes to heat a cup of coffee."
Dishwasher safe, the product has an exterior made of GEMstone, a material that's exclusive to the company. Its non-stick interior surfaces are made for rapid heating and browning on both sides of the waffle. The MicroWaffler has to be preheated for three minutes before batter (which can be any standard recipe) can be poured into it. It takes 1 1/2 minutes on HIGH (100%) to cook a golden brown waffle. The MicroWaffler will produce one big waffle, seven by 4 3/4 inches, or two small ones, each 3 1/2 by 4 3/4 inches. Additional waffles do not require preheating but may each take two minutes longer to cook.
Tefal added extra working features to its new Belgian waffle maker ($79.99). Manufactured in France, the attractive white enamel and black-trimmed appliance also is a griddle and sandwich maker, made possible by the use of interchangeable nonstick plates. "It's nice to offer something with uniqueness," says Walter Nachtigall, vice president, marketing and sales of Tefal Appliance Co. in Fairfield, N.J. "It offers the flexibility of popping up the waffle plate into a grill so you can make French toast, eggs, bacon, minute steak."
When the hinged grill doors are shut, the appliance makes hot, golden-browned sandwiches that can be filled with almost anything--cheese, meats and chicken, peanut butter, etc. Nachtigall claimed that the product is also favored by brown baggers who take it to lunchrooms so they can have hot sandwiches instead of cold meals for lunch.
VillaWare, manufacturer of classic Italian kitchenware (the company separated from Vitantonio two years ago), makes a Belgian Waffler Professional Model ($59.95 for regular surface and $65 with non-stick, abuse-resistant coating) that produces extra-thick (1 1/2-inch), jumbo waffles with deep pockets. Easy to use, VillaWare's chrome waffle iron bakes two Belgian waffles every 90 seconds. Improved from a classic Vitantonio waffle baker, the Vitantonio brothers designed an iron with stay cool, long handles and deeper spill-troughs to avoid messy spills. The product also features an indicator light and heat-control thermostat.
Another VillaWare baking iron that is particularly popular with Italians is the Prima Pizzelle Baker (same pricing and non-stick option as waffle irons), which makes two five-inch, extra-thin pizzelles every 30 seconds. For extra-crisp pizzelle cookies, the appliance channels steam away from the batter with its safety steam-guard channels that also direct steam away from handles and hands. The product creates the regular pizzelle pattern as well as the pretty Italian flori, or intricate floral cookie pattern. Also available is the Quattro Pizzelle Baker that makes four (3 1/2-inch) pizzelles every 15 seconds. Wonderful for ice cream sandwiches or rolled mini-cones, the petite pizzelles have four different designs.
The Nordic Ware Stovetop Belgian Waffler is available at Cookin' Stuff. The Nordic Ware MicroWaffler is available at The Broadway, Fedco and Thrifty.
The Tefal Belgian Waffler and Griddle is available at Bullock's, Adray Mart, Cook's Corner (Glendale) and Lee's Home Appliance (Garden Grove).
The VillaWare waffle and pizzelle bakers are available at Cookin' Stuff and selected Cook's Corner outlets.