Ellen Clifford
November 29, 2014 8:00 am

Imagine that you could hop through your television (or laptop or tablet) screen into the world of, say, The Food Network or some such cooking channel. Imagine that was your job. Would you learn to cook? Hang out with Anthony Bourdain and see where he takes you next? Or just sit back and let Lidia Bastianich feed you? As Editor-in-Chief of Food and Wine magazine, these were the kind of options available to Dana Cowin.

When culling the talents of a fleet of amazing chefs is your job, you don’t have to cook well to eat well. Cowin was secretly a terrible cook, and hid this shame for years before changing her ways. She realized she had the best tutors in the world at her disposal, and she decided to take advantage of that. And then, naturally, she wrote a book. Mastering My Mistakes In the Kitchen was the result of her quest to perfect her cooking technique.

Mastering My Mistakes In the Kitchen is like a who’s who of chef superstars. Each recipe has a little story behind it, usually about what Cowin did to mess it up. Each recipe also has a chef behind it, and is packed full of that chef’s tips. You get the collective wisdom of Tom Colicchio, Ming Tsaid, Yotem Ottolenghi, Mario Batali, Suzanne Goin. . .the list goes on.

You also get some philosophy on how learning to cook is like learning to live. Learning that one is not good at focusing on the task at hand is not something one wants to learn during a botched lobster execution. Having to take few, ahem, stabs at it taught Cowin how to zone in. Learning to face her fears was slightly less traumatic. Making caramel was something that Cowin always ran from but she bucked up, and was deliciously rewarded for doing what scared her.

While creating the dish I’m about to share with you, Cowin learned that sometimes it is the little details that make all the difference. In her case, that little detail was taking the time to whip the egg whites before adding them to the batter. For me, the little difference I noticed was the use of cornstarch in the batter. I chose these waffles because A) I am obsessed with waffles, B) I had never seen a waffle recipe using corn starch, C) waffled kale is no substitute for carbs, and D) the accompanying compote sounded so autumnal —the most perfect dish to be serving with your elegant post-Thanksgiving breakfast.

The chef sharing his tips on waffles is Tyler Florence. Or as we in the know say “T-Flo.” And who doesn’t love a chef with a chill name like that? T-Flo has some good tips for us such as the best waffle iron to use (electric cast-iron Belgian-style), timing (don’t check the waffle for doneness too early or you’ll have a mess) and cleaning (DON’T scrub the iron with metal utensils). Without much further ado, I bring you WAFFLES:

Waffles with Apple Maple Compote adapted from Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen by Dana Cowin with Julia Turshen

For Waffles:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups of buttermilk OR my substitution of 1 cup buttermilk and 2 cups H2O
  • 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

For compote:

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 apples (Pink Ladies are a current fave but Cowin also recommends Honeycrisp or Gala)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (get the real stuff, trust)

To make the waffles:

Turn your oven to 200 degrees if you are going to want to keep them warm. Unless your waffle iron heats up super-fast you may want to get it heating, too.

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl. If you’re using buttermilk powder, stir that in here too. Then whisk in the buttermilk (or water if you are using powder), vegetable oil, egg yolks and vanilla. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold firm peaks but are still glossy—if they start to look dry you’ve beaten too much. Fold them into the rest of the batter just until blended. Don’t over-mix!

Use some oil or a cooking spray and grease the waffle iron lightly. How much batter you use per waffle will vary depending on your iron, so follow the instructions. If you want to keep ’em warm in the oven, lay the waffles in a single layer on a baking tray until they are all done.

For the compote:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the apples and sprinkle in the cinnamon. cook and stir until softened and starting to caramelize, ten-ish minutes. Pour in the syrup and cook until the apples are glazed, around five minutes.

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