Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teff Waffle Saga: Part 1

This is a long, leisurely post which has no pictures.  I do not recall why I didn't take pictures.  I probably forgot.  This is a long boring story to which there will be at least one more part, so reader beware: you may get bored.  Not everyone is captivated by whole grains, a fact which I frequently choose to ignore in conversations, but luckily for you, you have control over whether you have to read this story.  Choose wisely.


I recently tried teff, which I have read about on various lists of whole grains and their properties, as a porridge for breakfast, using the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill package it came in. The almost chocolate-y, almost molasses-y flavor of the teff mixed so well with the unsalted butter and ground cloves that the recipe called for.

The other day I went to Barnes & Noble to look through a brand new book about baking with whole grain flours (Good to the Grain), which they sadly did not have. I perused the cookbook section so as not to have made a trip for nothing, and came across Whole Grains Every Day Every Way by Lorna Sass. This is a book I had my eye on a while ago, but somehow, for some reason, I totally forgot about it. I sat down right in the middle of the aisle and flipped through the first section, which details exactly what to do with any grain you may come across. She tried several different methods of cooking each grain and recommends the best one. There are helpful charts everywhere. If you want to know every detail, like which will freeze well and which won't, this is the book for you. Having the right information is what will make you able to incorporate whole grains into your diet, and this book will give you everything you need to actually make them delicious.

The book has a few pictures, all together in a special section of colored photos, rather than pairing them with each recipe. This doesn't bother me, because the variety of photos includes what you need to make sure you're working with the right ingredients. There is a full spread of all the different grains, showing you what they look like so you can use the right ones.

On the very last page of this photo section I saw the most beautiful sight: teff waffles. The deep chocolate color is very different from the waffles you usually see, and I stopped right there and almost drooled all over the photo. I could not wait to make these waffles.

Later that evening I purchased the book from Amazon (along with the other book I had been looking for) and it arrived in less than 24 hours, despite my expecting 2-day shipping to mean it would arrive in 2 days. Naturally I read the thing cover to cover, but not surprisingly, the teff waffles were still first on my list. I made them the very next morning.

One of the most interesting parts of this recipe is grinding your own teff flour. You can buy it, but teff is so tiny that it's practically flour already. The recipe gives you instructions on how to grind it yourself and how much to use to get the right amount of flour. Since teff is so delicious in its whole grain form in the porridge, why bother buying flour?

First I toasted my grains, then let them cool a bit, then ground them using my coffee grinder (which is never used for coffee anyway). I have never done this before, so when I was mixing the batter I discovered that I hadn't done too great a job grinding them and there were still whole grains left in the flour. Since teff is so tiny, this didn't matter much in the finished product, aside from giving it an interesting texture with a pleasant little crunch to it. I used my standard substitute of 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp vinegar (or lemon juice) for buttermilk, but I really wanted to try actual buttermilk in my next batch.

Because teff does not contain gluten, the waffles are very fragile and can fall apart fairly easily. After I had started actually making them on the waffle iron and already encountered this problem, I read this helpful nugget of information at the very end of the recipe. I solved the problem (for the most part) by using a fork to lift and sliding a spatula underneath. Later, when I was telling my sister about the whole endeavor, she suggested spraying the waffle iron with cooking spray, which I had not thought of because I thought it was nonstick. I also wanted to try swapping out a bit of the teff flour for whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour to see if that would give it enough gluten to stick together. It probably wasn't helpful that I was pouring on far too much batter. There was batter all over the counter and the outside of the waffle maker by the time I was done because I couldn't get the portions right with the ladle.

The recipe says it will make four 6-inch waffles, but I have a smaller waffle maker and ended up with about 8 or 10 waffles of a smaller size. We had a few left over, so I stacked them in a deep plastic container with sheets of wax paper cut to fit between them. I reheated them in the toaster oven for a snack later, then for breakfast the next day, and they were all gone.

What better time than now to make another batch, while my mistakes from the first round were still fresh in my mind? I toasted and ground the next batch of teff flour so that I would have it ready for the next time I was able to make the waffles. I decided that with this second batch, I would aim to perfect the existing recipe rather than make any alterations.

I made them after dinner the next day, using real (but reduced fat) buttermilk and my freshly ground flour, this time more flour than grains. When I poured the buttermilk into the other liquid ingredients, I immediately noticed a difference and resolved to use real buttermilk for recipes like this going forward. I mixed the wet ingredients into my flour mixture and my batter was an absolutely perfect consistency. I used my large scoop (from Pampered Chef) and dropped one full scoop the batter onto the hot waffle iron. When the first waffles were ready, one was stuck to the top half of the waffle maker and I remembered that I should grease the pan. At the same time I noticed that I had put too little batter on the waffle iron, so I used my grapeseed oil spray and an extra 1/2 scoop of batter for the next batch.

They came out great! They still had the slight crunchy texture that I had liked in the first batch, but I knew there were far fewer grains left this time. Using the scoop, the waffles came out just the right size. We ate the first two - the one that had fallen apart, and its nubby-edged friend. I was able to make nine more from the batter I had, so I stacked them in threes in a plastic bag separated by wax paper and put them in the fridge (and later the freezer).

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I will be attempting to adjust the recipe to make the waffles not fall apart.