Celebrate Waffle Day

A Swedish colleague happened to mention that her birthday, March
25, is also Waffle Day in Sweden.
I consider myself worldly and in-the-know, but I had never heard
of this. I had to find out more.
A Swedish colleague happened to mention that her birthday, March 25, is also Waffle Day in Sweden.

I consider myself worldly and in-the-know, but I had never heard of this. I had to find out more. Plus, I am most partial to a well-made waffle, so this seemed like a good time to broaden my horizons.

Apparently, the tradition in Sweden is linked to the passing of the equinox and the celebration of March 25 as the first day of Spring. Even though the temperatures in Sweden may still be below freezing, the days are beginning to be longer than the nights.

In times past, Swedish country people would put aside indoor winter tasks such as wood cutting, spinning and weaving to prepare for spring planting. And their menu would begin to include spring foods such as “frasvafflor” or crisp waffles.

At first I thought “frasvafflor” were considered a spring food because the chickens would have started laying again, and they could include eggs. However, the Swedish recipes don’t include eggs, so it must be the lingonberries or cloudberries traditionally served with them.

The tradition is also linked to the feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus. This traditionally falls on March 25, nine months before the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The Annunciation is also called Our Lady’s Day, or “Varfrudagen” in Swedish, which sounds a lot like “Vaffeldagen,” or Waffle Day.

Most of us are familiar with ordinary waffles as a lazy morning breakfast dish, when we serve them with bacon and maple syrup.

And we’ve also encountered Belgian waffles, which are served for brunch or dessert with whipped cream and berries.

Swedish waffles are more like the Belgian version, and are usually served as an afternoon treat or dessert rather than breakfast.

Here are recipes for all three: basic waffles, Belgian waffles and a Swedish version, so you can have your own Waffle-Off and see which you like best.

First, a note on waffle irons. The ones available at most discount stores cost under $30, and do a fine job. A non-stick finish is probably a good idea. The butter or oil, and eggs in some recipes, not only make the waffles crisp but help keep them from sticking.

It can be hard to know when the waffles are done, and if you peek too soon the waffle will tear and possibly stick. My experience has taught me the following:

1. Give the waffle iron plenty of time to warm up before you pour in the first waffle. On most irons, you set the degree of darkness you want and a light goes out when it’s ready.

2. Be prepared to spoil the first one. Think of it as priming the pump or firing a test shot, and you won’t be as anxious.

3. The reliable key to when the waffle is done is not when the iron’s light goes out, but when steam stops emerging from it. Watch carefully while your test waffle bakes, and you’ll see. Then you can calibrate the darkness and the timing for even better results on the rest of them.

For all versions, heat your regular oven to 200 degrees F and set a rack inside. As the waffles are baked, lay each one on the rack in a single layer to keep them warm while you cook the rest.

Basic waffles

(adapted from the 1997 version of The Joy of Cooking)

makes 12 6-inch waffles

This recipe is adaptable: you can use as little as 4 tablespoons or as much as 16 tablespoons of butter. You can also add more eggs and reduce the milk for even richer, lighter waffles. One-half cup of raisins, ripe banana chunks, nuts, crumbled bacon or berries can be added after the wet and dry ingredients are mixed.

1 3/4 cup flour

1 T. baking powder

1 T. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 large eggs, well beaten

8 T. butter, melted

1 1/2 cup milk

Step 1: Preheat the waffle iron

Step 2: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Step 3: Whisk together the eggs, butter and milk in a second bowl.

Step 4: Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir briefly. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Err on the side of undermixing.

Step 5: Spoon 1/2 cup batter onto the hot iron and spread it within 1/4 inch of the edges with a spoon.

Step 6: Close the lid and bake until steam stops emerging. Keep warm as above or serve immediately.

Belgian waffles

(adapted from the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking)

12 6-inch waffles

This is a yeast batter so you will need to allow a good hour and a half before you want to serve: around 20 minutes preparation and an hour for the batter to rise.

To start the yeast:

1 envelope (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm (105 to 115 degree F) milk

Step 1: Mix the yeast into the warm milk until the yeast is dissolved.

Step 2: Let stand about 5 minutes.

For the batter:

3 large eggs, separated

2 3/4 cups lukewarm milk

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 t. vanilla

4 cups flour

Step 1: Mix the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the milk and the butter in a large bowl.

Step 2: Add the yeast mixture and the sugar, salt and vanilla

Step 3: Add the flour, about 1/3 at a time, alternating with the rest of the milk.

Step 4: Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into the batter.

Step 5: Bake and keep warm as above.

Frasvafflor (Swedish Crisp Waffles)

(from Emma Olsson)

about 10 waffles

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup water

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

3 T. butter, melted and cooled

Step 1: Stir together flour, water and salt.

Step 2: Let rest at room temperature for about an hour.

Step 3: Add the butter and mix well.

Step 4: Whip the cream and fold into the batter.

Step 5: Bake and keep warm as above.

Step 6: For a Swedish presentation, serve with more whipped cream, perhaps with some blueberries stirred in, or with lingonberry jam (available at Ikea in East Palo Alto or most Nob Hill markets).

Special thanks to my friend and colleague Emma Olsson for sharing her customs and recipes.

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