Frozen WafflesBy amy • • Mar 8th, 2009 • Category: Columns, Frozen Foods, Sweets
In the Southern United States they’re the sweet half of chicken ‘n waffles; in the Netherlands they’re known as stroopwaffels; in Hong Kong, they go by the name of gai daan jai. In Shelf Life’s household, we call them guilty pleasures. Because really, a waffle – especially a frozen waffle is essentially a delivery system for all kinds of sugar or fat or both. We can’t work up too many claims for them on health grounds, and neither can we make a case for their budgetary value (plain old toast is cheaper). But Shelf Life did discover something noteworthy about this doughy, crosshatched treat. Waffles have a secret life, as an alternative to bread. In exactly the same way that long-lost spouses or children keep turning up in Coronation Street, waffles pop up as the lesser-known siblings of sandwiches.
One of this week’s judges, Carolyn Chua of Chatelaine Magazine, says, ‘There are lots of ways you can make waffles work as a sandwich, especially an open-faced sandwich. A good place to start is with cheese. I’d grate some Gorgonzola cheese on a waffle, stick it in the toaster oven, and then top with a garnish. The same with meat; if you combine waffles with, say, pate de foie gras, you have something interesting. And waffles are always kid-friendly, so if you have trouble getting them to eat certain foods or they’re just tired of ordinary sandwiches, try waffles. Kids also love dips, and waffles would be good with perhaps a yogurt dip.’
Shelf Life loves the idea of pate and waffles, a perfectly timely combination of upscale and down-market foods, call it recession swank. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what the future holds for formerly rich people: mix ‘n match cuisine. One item from the glitzy era offset by one item from the grocery selection at Walmart. Chilled Yarmouth lobster served with Sunny D. Roast loin of venison nestled in Tater Tots. “It’s not delivery, it’s Delissio”, as they now say at 24 Sussex. Waiter! A bottle of Cristal and some Cheez Shapes please!
Wondering if the Rice Krispie Squares will go with the pan-seared duck breast are this week’s expert judges: Carolyn Lim Chua, Assistant Food Editor, Chatelaine Magazine; Erin Dowse, owner of the Old York Bar And Grill; and Victoria Zielinski, proprietrix of Custom Cakes Culinary Productions, all in Toronto. Space limitations prevent us from evaluating every brand in a given category; entries reflect the luck of the draw. Items are blind taste tested and awarded between zero and five stars.
Carolyn: This one is strangely bent out of shape. It’s on the thin side, and the recessed parts are shallow. It smells doughy and uncooked and tastes of salt and vegetable oil. Brand One reminds me of not-very-good thin crust pizza dough.
Erin: It’s the ghetto waffle! It’s really yellow, kinda twisted, and tastes like salt. Brand one is low rent, it would make me drink wine and watch ‘Intervention’. Yes, it’s true; the kids are barely asleep and Mom can hardly wait to eat trash snacks and watch sketchy TV.
Victoria: I’m thinking Costco. I’m getting a strong whiff of doughy yeast, and it tastes slightly lardy and oily. Brand One is flat and thin and doesn’t have any life to it, it adds up to a sort of vacuum, like a black hole of waffles.
Brand One Total SIX AND A HALF STARS ******1/2
365 Whole Foods
Carolyn: It tastes bland, there are no high notes, and the texture is dry and resistant, making it hard to tear apart. It also appears as if someone fell asleep at the quality controls, it doesn’t look quite right.
Erin: I’m getting an undercooked thing in the middle, and some dryness around the edges. It’s super-bland, isn’t it? And tough. This is a trick waffle. It’s clearly something else posing as a waffle, and I’m not going to fall for it.
Victoria: I’m mystified as well, it’s like something made for an extreme diet. Brand Two has a mottled appearance, and you’ve got to really chew it. It doesn’t have sweetness or saltiness, just a really strange grainy taste.
Brand Two Total FOUR STARS ****
Carolyn: This is better. Brand Three doesn’t have that frozen look – actually it could almost be made from scratch. It’s soft and pliable without being bready. I can’t stop eating this. It has zero aroma, but makes up for it by being pretty and tasty. Ice cream and berries would be a good start.
Erin: I really like this one, it’s the best so far. It doesn’t look all that fantastic, to me they all resemble Frisbees, and tend to taste like them, but it delivers the waffle thing. Crispy on the outside, chewy everywhere else. I can recommend this with the syrup and the cinnamon honey spread.
Victoria: It really is better than the others, mainly because it gets all the balances right. Texture-wise you have a little crunch mixed with a bit of softness, and for flavour you have sweetness right there with the sodium. I think you could come up with something with Brand Three, I’d try some crazy combinations.
Brand Three Total THIRTEEN STARS *************
Carolyn: It smells toasty, and it’s got a deep grid pattern. Brand Two looks like a vegetarian tortilla base, and tastes a bit like whole wheat bread. But it’s not too sweet, and it would probably make an excellent platform for anything you want to put on it, sweet or savoury.
Erin: I would fall for Brand Four: the whole-wheat colour would make me think it’s good for me. It totally offers the illusion of healthiness, even if it doesn’t give actual good-for-youness. It tastes better than I thought it would; I’m still eating it even though it’s cooled a bit.
Victoria: Nice texture, it’s tender and crisp at the same time. And I agree that for a so-called healthy snack Brand Four looks and tastes better than average. It’s like baked brown bread crust, with a doughy aroma. It might make a good mini-pizza. But with a lot of help.
Brand Four Total TEN AND HALF STARS**********1/2
Results: Compliments Home Style was voted the best all-around waffle, running circles around the lowest scoring brand, 365 Whole Foods. As for the other two: Van’s home-style was voted tasty but expensive, and, after some discussion, we were forced to Leggo the Eggo.
Off The Menu: Question: What’s the difference between a Belgian waffle and a waffle? Answer: These days, little more than marketing. Just as Canadians don’t eat Canadian bacon, Brits don’t make English muffins, and chop suey was probably invented in the United States, North American style ‘Belgian waffles’ are a misnomer. It was a tricky term to begin with, and has since lost the plot entirely. Manufacturers seem to be using the phrase to indicate “classier than the normal ones”. Note to product makers: they’re frozen waffles – there is no classy, and like the guy with the (Belgian) accent says, save your money.