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Rice Waffles with Honey Butter

Time: About 10 to 15 minutes to make the batter, plus overnight to rise it; 5 minutes to make the honey butter; 5 minutes or so to cook each waffle.

A waffle is a good-looking specimen, far sexier than the dowdy pancake. It has a crisp, Prussian countenance, and a lean muscular build. Looks beautiful in powdered sugar, too, and when it's lounging on a plate with butter pooling in its dimples, well, who can resist? The thing is, any waffle looks good, whether it's popping out of a toaster or being drawn from a smoking hot iron. But it's what's inside that counts. You'll have to trust us when we tell you the waffle you're looking at is going to be the best waffle you've ever tasted.

Those of you familiar with Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book may already know that yeasted waffles are pure poetry compared with baking powder waffles' prose. The magic lies in yeast's effects on flavor, and we don't mean the flavor and aroma of the yeast itself. We mean the flavors cast off by the yeast as it chews its way into the flour's sugars and starches.

What and how much a flour offers the yeast to nosh on contributes to flavor, too. We say this a lot, but regular off-the-shelf flour doesn't bring much to the party. Pure starch, that's all it is, and that's why it can sit around in a bag for years. Yeast, on the other hand, is mad for Thirteen Colony Rice Waffle Flour. One teaspoon and the batter virtually levitates out of the bowl. Cast in the centuries-deep Carolina tradition—where there were as many recipes for rice waffles as plantations where they were served—this flour is a custom blend of fine soft wheat and Carolina Gold rice flour. (Rice waffles is the historic designation for this food, by the way, whether comprised of rice flour or whole rice). As irresistible as this flour is to yeast, so will these waffles be to you. Their crisply thin carapace yields to a moist, baked center with flavors of faint light cream and caramel, and the teasing scent of honeysuckle and champagne. All that, and they are ridiculously easy to make.

Equipment Mise en Place
For the waffles, you will need a large and a medium mixing bowl, a whisk, a medium saucepan, a wooden spoon, a ladle, and a waffle iron.

For the honey butter, you will need a hand or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and a rubber spatula.

for the waffles:
16 ounces (about 3 ½ cups) 13 Colony Rice Waffle Flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter
2 ¼ cups (18 ounces) whole milk, plus an additional 2 tablespoons if needed later on
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the honey butter:
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted European style butter, softened
3 ounces (about ¼ cup) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon Cognac
Pinch salt

1. Make the waffle batter: Turn the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon sugar for savory waffles, or 2 tablespoons sugar for sweet waffles. Whisk to lighten the flour mixture. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk them lightly.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping the browning milk solids on the bottom of the pot to make sure they color evenly, until the butter is the color of a filbert in the shell and the kitchen smells miraculous, about 8 minutes.

3. Pull the pan off the heat and pour the milk into the butter. Ladle some of the warm milk mixture into the beaten eggs and whisk to warm them. Add another ladleful, whisk, and pour the egg mixture into the milk and butter in the saucepan. Whisk again to combine. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface and let stand for 5 minutes.

4. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk lightly. Stir in the vanilla (you may skip the vanilla if you are making savory waffles.) Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, the batter will have risen significantly and be dimpled with tiny fermentation bubbles. Stir the batter down with a ladle. It should be thick, but still distinctly fluid. (If the batter appears sluggishly thick, add up to 2 tablespoons additional cold milk one tablespoon at a time, stirring gently after each addition.) Note: the tiny flecks in the batter are milk solids that browned with the butter.

5. Whip up the honey butter: Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the honey in a slow, steady stream. Continue to beat to incorporate the honey, about 1 minute more, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla or Cognac and salt. Set aside.

6. Cook the waffles: Heat the waffle iron on the desired setting. When it's ready, ladle in some batter, and cook until done. (The amount of batter you use will depend on the dimensions of your particular waffle iron. )Remove and serve immediately with honey butter or one of the toppings mentioned in Baking Notes. (If you're the one on the waffle iron, don't plan on sitting down until the batter is gone.) A light dusting of powdered sugar is recommended for visual appeal.

Makes 6 thick Belgian or 12 to 15 regular waffles (depending on depth of waffle iron)

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