When you live as far out in the country as we do, one of the ways of making sense of your surroundings is by learning the common names of plants. Redbud, white oak, pokeweed, mountain mint....
My mother is one of those domestic goddess types. In addition to having a full-time job, she raised three girls (and is still raising the youngest of the three of us), cooked breakfast and dinner almost every day, kept a clean house, and has been an active member of her church for as long as I can remember.
There are lots of meals I have fond memories of. My mother is an incredible cook, and an adventurous one at that. But one meal that sticks in my mind, perhaps because of its regularity, is Sunday breakfast. Every Sunday, my mother makes either pancakes or waffles. They're simple, reliable recipes that she varies by adding seasonal fruit and nuts or, for the kids, chocolate chips. I suppose there's nothing too special about it, but I can't eat a waffle or a pancake without thinking about my mother. It's my madeleine.
And, as with many memorable childhood foods, I have never been able to recreate my mother's waffle. Hers are crisp on the outside--to the point that they actually crunch when you bite into one--and tender on the inside. For some reason, whether it's my waffle iron or my recipe, my waffles never have that crunch. I've tried a healthy dozen waffle recipes (forgive the oxymoron) to no avail.
At this point, I've decided to acknowledge the fact that I will never be able to recreate her waffles, and that's okay. I can just add "Mom's Waffles" to my list of halcyon childhood memories. However, that doesn't change the fact that a girl needs waffles every now and then, whether or not they're the same ones she had as a child.
The Joy of Cooking is, as always, the first place to look when you need to find a staple recipe, and it's got waffles covered. It took five minutes of reading to learn that waffles differ from pancakes principally in that they contain a healthy dose of butter or oil for the purpose of achieving a crisp texture. Waffles with a higher percentage of butter will attain greater crispness.
However, of the waffle recipes in the book, the one that stood out to me was the Bacon Cornmeal Waffle. It stood out even more so because I had a jar of brandied peaches calling my name from its humble perch on the pantry shelf. Peaches and cornmeal are a divine pair, and I couldn't imagine that adding bacon and brandy to the mix could be a bad thing.
Of course, the branded peaches were a stroke of luck. I made a batch of brandied figs and had some leftover liquid. There happened to be two rapidly softening peaches on my counter, so I sliced them and stuck them in the brandy syrup for a couple days before using them with these waffles.
In lieu of telling you to actually make brandied peaches, I would advise a simpler approach. Cut up some peaches and toss them in a bowl with a smidgen of sugar and a few tablespoons of brandy or bourbon. Let them sit for a few minutes before serving them.
Make the brandied peaches first. In a medium bowl, combine:
2 ripe peaches, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons brandy or bourbon
Let the peaches set for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the bacon. In a skillet over medium heat, cook 5 slices of bacon until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 200˚F. Preheat your waffle iron and make the waffle batter. Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Whisk together in another bowl:
2 cups buttermilk
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Crumble the bacon. Pour enough batter onto the griddle of your waffle iron to cover about 2/3 of its surface--on my waffle iron it takes a healthy half cup of batter per waffle. Sprinkle each waffle with crumbled bacon and cook until golden brown and crisp. Keep the cooked waffles warm in the preheated oven while you cook the others. Serve warm with the peaches.