This Week's Adventure

Waffles and banana bread – two old favorites

Wednesday night, Husband and I had King Arthur Flour’s classic buttermilk waffles for supper. And last night, I made banana bread, a family favorite, for dessert.

Both were pretty darn good. I’m not sure either recipe is the best iteration I’ve had, but I will happily eat them again.

I received my waffle iron as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law. Husband and I have enjoyed it ever since. I’ve made King Arthur’s sourdough waffles (a recipe that’s in The Baker’s Companion, actually) before, with good results. These ones had as good a flavor, but they were, sadly, a little floppy. If I wanted floppy waffles, I could just make pancakes with less fuss. I like mine crispy.

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While most reviews for the buttermilk waffles recipe are positive, one commenter on the KAF site said their waffles turned out dense and not crispy. KAF replied, saying one reason that can happen is from using too much flour. I measure out my flour by weight with my much-loved kitchen scale, so I don’t think that was the problem for me.

In the recipe, they said either pastry flour or all-purpose can work, creating slightly different textures. I used whole wheat pastry flour, since I’ve seen it recommended in another recipe. I think it contributed to the flavor, but maybe it did something to the texture. Or maybe my iron doesn’t get hot enough; it takes about four minutes on near max heat for a waffle to get golden. Is that normal, or am I super impatient? (I am super impatient.)

In any case, the waffles were both simple and tasty with strawberries.

Then, last night, banana bread. I usually make the version in my 1973 copy of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. Interestingly, that one’s made with the biscuit method, where shortening is cut into the flour before the liquid ingredients, including the banana mash, are added.

The KAF recipe, like the waffles above, was made with the muffin method. I did pretty good about not overmixing, I think (though it’s still a constant temptation). The liquid was also added in two installments–banana mash, eggs, sugar, and oil together, and then buttermilk after the above had been mixed into the dry ingredients, which were sifted.

I’ve actually only sifted my dry ingredients once before, when I was baking with my sister-in-law. She had a can sifter with a rotating mix mechanism. To me, it’s always seemed like a silly step–can it really be that different from whisking the ingredients together?

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Bottom left, making sure my bananas are in the recommended weight range. Bottom right, using a flexible cutting mat to pour the whisked dry ingredients through the sifter. Surprisingly, I did not make a giant mess. Top, the dry and liquid ingredients, sans buttermilk, before being mixed. Sifting may only be an occasional necessity, but I like the fluffy mountain it makes.

After looking into it, it appears that there is a slight but noticeable difference in texture. So, as instructed in the recipe, I whisked the dry ingredients together (apparently the more efficient method for actually mixing everything evenly), then sifted them. I used a strainer-type sifter I only recently bought because I knew I would need to sift things over my long-term baking adventure.

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This banana bread is very pretty. More liquidous than other batters I’ve made, the resulting loaf rises high (thanks to the power of acidic buttermilk or yogurt, plus baking soda) and has a lovely, even texture and golden color. It’s also quite tasty, though the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg I think makes the banana flavor less noticeable. Other recipes I’ve used don’t include the spices. I think I like a stronger banana flavor, but this loaf wins on texture. Maybe sifting isn’t so silly after all.

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