My own innovations are, admittedly, not earth-shattering. Using salted instead of unsalted butter makes for a more complex, beautiful relationship with sweet toppings, to my mind. Reasoning that it might make the waffles even lighter, I started sifting the flour (I also just find using a sifter really satisfying). The addition of bourbon may fall into the imperceptible/ritualistic category, but if you can add bourbon to something in life, why not?
A Belgian waffle maker, thicker than the old-school round ones, arguably allows these waffles to achieve their fullest, fluffiest beauty, though you really can’t go wrong.
When it comes to toppings, the French crêpe treatment of powdered sugar and lemon makes a respectfully restrained match for the World’s Best Waffles, letting their lush-but-light nature shine through. Along those lines, honey with squeezes of lime (which you’ll find pancakes topped with in Thailand) is another sweet-and-tart way to centerpiece the waffles’ richness, with the stickiness of the honey contrasting their airy texture.
Your favorite fruit would be grand, or just jam. There’s always Nutella.
And, of course, it’s hard to beat the classic maple syrup (with a little more butter; again, why not?). If you want to get fancy, Lightner swears by Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s barrel-aged maple syrup. Bacon crumbled over the top is never a bad idea.
Warning: If you make these waffles for houseguests, you may have a difficult time getting them to leave. Give them the recipe and, in my experience, they’ll thank you every time you see them, forever.
WORLD’S BEST WAFFLES
NOTE: Batter must be made 12 to 24 hours in advance
Makes about four 9-inch square waffles
1 3/4 cups whole milk
8 tablespoons butter (I like salted), cut into 8 pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of bourbon (optional, but do!)
1. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted, approximately 5 minutes. Let mixture cool until warm to the touch.
2. Meanwhile, sift flour into a large bowl, then whisk in sugar, salt, and instant yeast to combine. (Use a half-gallon or larger pitcher instead of a bowl, and later you can just pour the batter right onto the waffle iron, no ladle required.) Add the warm milk/butter mixture gradually, whisking until the batter is smooth.
3. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla, and bourbon until combined. Add egg mixture to the batter and whisk until well incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours.
4. Heat waffle iron. Get the waffle batter out of the refrigerator; it’ll be puffed up to about twice its original volume. Stir it to deflate/recombine.
5. Make waffles and enjoy their greatness! They’re best eaten while nice and hot, so distribute them as they’re done rather than standing on ceremony. Suggested toppings: butter and maple syrup; powdered sugar and lemon juice; honey and lime juice; Nutella; nothing at all.