Maple sugaring season is wrapping up in the Northeast in the next few weeks, and by all accounts it's been a pretty good year for syrup.
All those warm days followed by cool nights earlier this month have helped the sap in maple trees to flow.
In Emlenton, Venango County, Old State Farms expects to produce some 1,000 gallons of its maple artisan syrup when operations wrap up in early April, says owner Joseph Burkett. It will be bottled throughout the year, and some will be barrel-aged in used Wigle Whiskey barrels for a richer, more complex and smoky flavor.
All this got me thinking: Maybe it's time to have some waffles for dinner.
Not just ordinary waffles, but tender buttermilk ones that stand in for bread in a ham and cheese sandwich. The waffles get a drizzle of pure maple syrup on top and a slather of maple butter inside.
I used a mini waffle maker for perfect sandwich-sized waffles. The recipe calls for thinly sliced ham and baby Swiss cheese, but Gruyere, Jarlsberg or even cheddar can be used.
Waffles tend to soften if you don't eat them immediately, so for a crispy sandwich, stick the waffles in the toaster for a minute or so before composing it. For a more melty sandwich, wrap it in foil and bake in a 350-degree oven until the cheese has melted, around 10 minutes.
HAM AND CHEESE WAFFLE SANDWICHES
For maple butter
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
For buttermilk waffles
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Generous pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
For sandwich filling
6 ounces thinly sliced ham, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced baby Swiss, Gruyere or Jarlsberg cheese, divided
Pure maple syrup, for serving
Preheat the waffle iron.
Make maple butter: Combine the butter and maple syrup in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer or by hand until well blended and fluffy. Set aside.
Make waffle batter: In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and a large pinch of salt. Make a well in the center and add beaten egg, buttermilk and oil or melted butter. Using a rubber spatula, mix the wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated. It should be smooth but not overrmixed.
Spray heated waffle iron with a light coat of cooking spray (before the FIRST batch only).
Pour scant 1/4 cup of batter into the waffle iron and cook until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. (When the steam stops coming out of the iron, waffles should be done.) Repeat with remaining batter. (You should get 8 waffles.)
To keep waffles crisp, transfer them to a 250-degree oven after you pull them out of the iron. You also can crisp them up in a toaster.
Compose sandwiches: Spread maple butter on one side of each of the 4 waffles and place them on plate. Divide ham and cheese and place on top of each waffle. Cover with second waffle.
Drizzle maple syrup on top of each sandwich and serve immediately with a knife and fork.
— Gretchen McKay
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