Last Christmas I was gifted a wonderfully dog-eared and loved copy of The Joy of Cooking from 1936. The pages, delicate as pressed flowers, are filled with treasures from the previous owner—cooking notes written in delicate cursive script, tiny strips of newspaper recipes taped onto the margins, enormous fold-out newspaper articles on roasting a whole turkey or making the best sugar cookies, and, my favorite, specific care instructions for what were obviously very special cooking tools purchased by the cookbook’s owner (egg poacher, Household Institute sauce pans).
As an avid appreciator of old cookbooks, I am always eager to see what long-forgotten dishes I might be able to ogle and puzzle over while flipping through a collection of aging recipes. You can imagine my delight upon receiving this cookbook, I am sure, but then imagine my shock at discovering how surprisingly tame its recipes happened to be. There are no instructions on how to make roasted raccoon or squirrel stew, no vague recollections of having once made some biscuits that are then passed off as an actual recipe. Sure, this book boasts some truly horrifying recipes for things like a dip made out of mayonnaise, chopped pecans, olives, and hard boiled eggs, but that’s not so much culturally interesting as it is just plain revolting. For the most part, the recipes in this edition (the fourth edition of the legendary tome) are actually quite charming, and often times even tantalizing. When idling flipping through the book after I had first opened it, the pages, as if by magic, opened straight away to the breakfast section and, front and center, there before me sat a recipe for gingerbread waffles that seemed to be calling out my name. Sensing danger, I quickly closed the book, abruptly silencing the siren song of the waffles.
Why so hasty to retreat from the waffles? Because, not so long ago, I stopped eating maple syrup (or, as spelled in the 1936 edition of The Joy of Cooking, sirup). This act was not so much a calculated decision, but more of a realization that whenever I ate something that was drenched in syrup, there soon followed a nearly immediate need to lie down and take a nap. While I can confess to liking naps as much as the next person, it is not always convenient to fall into a near coma shortly after the start of the day. In an effort to keep myself from doing a Rip Van Winkle impersonation after every weekend breakfast, in lieu of maple syrup I began to top my waffles, french toast, or pancakes with yogurt, sometimes lemon yogurt if I am feeling frisky. Though this trick of mine works exceptionally well with standard, buttery waffles, would the magic be lost on a waffle with a completely different flavor? As luck would have it, no. These gingerbread waffles, so warm and spicy, pair up wonderfully with lemon yogurt, so much so that it almost seems as though they were made to go together. Syrup danger averted!
Even if I was still able to handle a nice long pour of maple syrup, I doubt I’d get the bottle near these waffles. The dark spices might play well with the syrup, but when paired with a scoop of cool lemon yogurt, everything really seems to come together in a more interesting and contrasting way. Also, because I am now apparently one of those people, I drastically reduced the sugar in these waffles, but you’d never be able to tell with their comforting scent of molasses and brown sugar. These waffles are a treat of the best sort, the type to start your day off right, sans fear of extended napping (unless, of course, your plans for the day already include a generous nap allowance, in which case I salute you and also, can I come over?).
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1936
As a former copyeditor, it behooves me to point out that I refer to this book as “The Joy of Cooking” here, but it other posts reference it as simply “Joy of Cooking.” This is because, in later editions, the book drops the “The” from the title, and I would be betraying the persnickety editor in me if I chose to add “The” to the title on my own accord. Is anyone actually reading this explanation? Because I am slightly embarrassed (okay, not really, which is, itself, slightly embarrassing) to be writing it, though that has apparently not stopped me from actually forging on with it.
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/3 cup (roughly 5 ½ tablespoons) melted butter
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, molasses, milk, and melted butter, and beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just to combine. Add the egg whites to this mixture, gently folding until the whites are incorporated and the batter is light and airy.
Pour batter onto a greased, heated waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron’s instructions. Makes 6-8 waffles, depending on how large your waffle iron is, and how much batter each waffle will necessitate.
Top with lemon yogurt.