Brunch of Champions

Nicole Spiridakis Issue: Section:

Come over for brunch, Lupe says, and so I do, preferably after a run, preferably armed with blueberry muffins (half whole wheat pastry flour/half white flour) and a bottle of champagne.  Come over -- I'm making scrambled eggs and Lisa is bringing cheese and Ben will wash the dishes after and anyway it's Sunday, so we have to do something to while away the hours (and numb the pain) 'til going to work again.

So I do go, San Francisco flung before me like a flag shining in the sun. If it’s an especially nice day we’ll pack up the provisions (carefully cradling the sparkling wine in a blanket) and set off for the park. The bubbly is cracked, the coffee is savored, and it’s at this point that the food almost becomes superfluous (still, you want to be properly prepared). Dogs wander close, and I feed them baby carrots dipped in hummus; there’s hazy talk of going to the beach. Hours pass. There’s no place else to be.
Brunch is a lovely thing. It bridges the gap between early breakfast and lunch (give or take elevenses, which really is just pushing the envelope anyway). It’s meant to be lingered-over, usually on a lazy Sunday late morning, and is certainly meant to be decadent. Never mind cold cereal, lackluster toast, coffee gulped in a hurry – these mark the humdrum weekday. Brunch is for the glorious weekend, the day off, the champion eater in all of us.
Years ago, when I lived in DC, my friends and I kept up a regular brunch circuit. No matter how late the night before had gone, if we’d planned a brunch, then by god a brunch we’d have. Some mornings I’d very sleepily stir eggs for an asparagus and mushroom fritatta and sip desperately on my first cup of coffee while waiting for guests to arrive. Other mornings, if I’d taken a minute before going out the previous eve, I made waffles from a  Cook’s Illustrated recipe touted as The Best waffle recipe ever created. It was pretty darn good.
I’m not a big fan of sweet breakfast foods, for the most part. Breakfast is usually oatmeal or peanut butter on toast; sometimes a lone egg gets fried up in a bit of butter, paired with a slice of cheddar, and presented lovingly on a crisp piece of sourdough. I’ve often thought I’d do better with eating soup or savories for my first meal of the day, though mostly I go along with my basic standbys. Then again, brunch is special. Since it doesn’t occur every day -- and shouldn’t – we must savor it for its rarity. It deserves a treat. Plus, waffles are kind of the perfect brunch food: bready, slightly sweet, and substantial enough to sop up all those mimosas.
This recipe requires a bit of forethought, because it uses yeast, and needs a good 8 hours — overnight or longer — to rise in the fridge. But it uses just a few ingredients, and can be put together so quickly it’s not really extra effort but rather doing in advance to make the next morning’s morning go more easily, especially if you’ve had – err – a late night the night before (really, it’s true).
Probably because these are yeasted waffles — and perhaps also because of the butter — they are light and ethereal, never soggy. With some fruit and a generous (inappropriate?) pour of maple syrup, they satisfy even the pickiest bruncher. Smear some peanut butter onto leftovers if you have them and roll up into a pre-run snack, or flaunt convention by topping with ice cream for a post-dinner dessert — either way, you won’t be disappointed. Park sit not required.

Waffles, adapted from Marion Cunningham’s “Lost Recipes”
1/2 cup warm water, 1 package dry yeast, 2 cups milk, warmed, 1/2 cup butter, melted, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tsp. vanilla
Optional: ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom
1. Choose a large mixing bowl because the batter will double in bulk as it rises. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour and beat until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the waffle iron. Just before cooking the waffles, beat the eggs and baking soda into the batter. (The batter will be thin.) Pour ½ to ¾ cup batter into the waffle iron. Bake until waffles are crisp and golden brown. Extra batter will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 8.
Serve with fruit, maple syrup, and faux (or real?) sausage. Post-dinner, serve warm topped with chocolate or vanilla ice cream, with chocolate sauce if you’re so decadently inclined.

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