In the depth of winter, whether it is snowy or icy, it is always a bit of slow-going getting our household underway in the mornings. Always a first step is to start the water kettle for coffee, often doing this in the glow of headlamps in a dark kitchen if the generator isn't turned on yet. Even after thirty years of marriage and with many modern conveniences creeping into our backcountry lives, my husband insists on coffee being made the old-fashioned way by grinding beans at last minute and pouring hot water over the grounds through a filter.
When Carl and I were young, we lived in a log house along the Yentna River where we had just one main woodstove right in the center of our living room. Besides the option of standing directly in front of the open kitchen oven, it was the warmest spot in the house on those early January mornings. We would set our chairs around the stove, balancing that perfect spot between socks just warmed or too hot and steaming. We would line our coffee cups along the wings of the stove and solve world problems until first light. Life hasn't changed all that much for us but now we have two diesel stoves that burn consistent heat in two rooms of the lodge and two wood-burning stoves in two additional rooms. So, now there are several choices of warm and cozy gathering areas in the morning. It just isn't the same as those days when we all huddled around that one simple stove -- humans, dogs, cats, everyone.
I loved that old woodstove. It had a soapstone top surface that was made for cooking. Someone gave me a small cast iron waffle maker from Denmark that didn't require any electricity. We would fill it with batter, lay it onto the soapstone, and flip it over after a few minutes. We would peel off a hot waffle, smother it with warmed maple syrup and butter, and pass it to the next person in the circle around the woodstove, almost an indoor version of campfire cooking. Now, that handy Danish waffle iron hangs in the kitchen as a relic from the past, barely ever used. But, we still enjoy waffles on cold and dark winter mornings.
Waffles benefit from a gentle hand. Just fold the ingredients together without over-stirring. In our recipe below, the eggs and buttermilk work best together if they are at room temperature. If you have the time, whip the egg whites and fold them in to create a lighter, fluffy version. Of course, there are many flavors that can be added to waffle batter and lots of toppings to try, but in our version this week, we added bacon, Cheddar and sharp green apple to the batter. We topped our waffles with simple sautéed apple compote. We made a mountain of waffles while photographing this recipe, and they all disappeared immediately (always a good sign).
Recipe: Bacon Cheddar and Apple Waffles
Combine the flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Add in the eggs and buttermilk. To liquefy the honey a bit, add the honey to the butter as you melt it and combine both into the waffle batter. Fold in the cheese, bacon and apple bits.
Commercial waffle makers vary in style and instructions. Pour the recommended amount of batter into a prepared waffle iron (I usually lightly butter even a nonstick waffle iron) and cook for recommended length of time (usually no more than five minutes).
Makes 6-10 waffles, depending on your waffle maker.
Kirsten Dixon is an award-winning chef who has cooked and lived the past 30 years in the backcountry of Alaska. To learn more about her, visit www.kirstendixon.com.