Buttermilk Waffles with Bacon and Caramelized Pears

Elizabeth’s Melting Pot column was supposed to run last Friday, but I took a spontaneous day off…sometimes one just has to do that. Anyway, enjoy this wonderful recipe. I’m planning on making it with some veggie bacon. 😉 xoxo – jen

melting pot adventures in food

Not long ago, while on vacation with my husband and son, our car blew a belt while driving north on a steep stretch of Highway 101. As luck would have it, the belt flew off about 25 feet from the nearest area where we could pull safely pull off of the road. In an even more incredible stroke of luck, the side of the road where we pulled off was located at the end of a driveway that led to the house of the town sheriff. Unbelievably, the sheriff was just getting home when our car decided to lay down and die, so after we called a tow truck to take our car to the nearest repair shop, the sheriff’s girlfriend drove me and my son to town in her childseat-friendly SUV. When we were dropped off at the repair shop by this incredibly nice woman (who also offered to secure us a discount at the nearest motel if our car was deemed unfixable for the foreseeable future), we discovered that the shop sat right next door to a coffeehouse and used bookstore. For the next hour and a half, while the car was being fixed, my husband, son, and I sat in the coffeehouse and drank hot chocolate and fruit smoothies, nibbled on some bagels, and read books. It was the greatest vacation-within-a-vacation I’ve ever had, and it was the unexpected result of something that could have turned out to be an absolute disaster. Granted, much of our good fortune was dictated by the supremely generous and kind nature of the fantastic people of Gold Beach, Oregon, but we are also keenly aware of the fact that, had we decided to declare our car troubles a completely traumatic and awful act of universal bad luck, the rest of our vacation would have been an unparalleled exercise in dramatic self-pity.

I won’t say that the tale of our unexpected car trouble has permanently changed my outlook on life (because when I think about the time I went to lunch on my birthday and, after an hour of waiting, was told that my food order never existed, I still get sort of bummed out and prickly), but it has certainly made me pause while pondering the fate of my reactions to things. Did your car break down while in the midst of an all-day drive? Walk around a used bookstore and drink a delicious mango and raspberry smoothie. Did you forget to bring the beach toys on your short beach vacation? Forgo the plastic pail and shovel and spend some time exploring tide pools and learning how to climb gigantic rocks. Did you bite into a pear that is hard, tart, and totally unripe? Slice that sucker up and transform it into something else.

Better yet, combine that pear with a saute pan and a sprinkling of sugar, introduce it to the savory crispness of bacon, and nestle it all within the pockets of a crisp, buttery waffle. Displeasing accident, meet pleasant surprise. In an unheralded act of food MacGyver-ism, you have now turned something unexpected and unwelcome into something you will want to revisit again and again.

Buttermilk Waffles with Bacon and Caramelized Pears

Waffle recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Don’t have any buttermilk? In the spirit of this recipe, be adaptable and make your own. The most common function of buttermilk in modern recipes is to provide an acidic counterpart to an ingredient like baking soda, giving baked goods and many breakfast staples (waffles, pancakes) more rise. You can, with equal effect, turn regular milk into buttermilk by adding one tablespoon of white vinegar to every cup of milk required in a recipe (letting the mixture sit for a few minutes until it thickens up a bit). Obviously, this is not a good substitution for a recipe that calls for buttermilk to be used as a dressing or the base of an ice cream, but for baked goods it provides a fantastic, and undetectable, substitution.

Waffle Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups of buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, separated
pinch of cream of tarter (optional)

  1. Heat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and egg yolks together. In another medium bowl, whip the egg whites and, if using, cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on high speed until the whites form stiff peaks.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well, and gently whisk together until just incorporated with a few lumps remaining (do not over mix). Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the whipped whites until just combined with a few streaks.
  4. Cook the waffles in the waffle iron until golden brown, transferring the waffles to the prepared wire rack and setting them in the oven to keep warm.

Bacon and Caramelized Pears:

12 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (we use turkey bacon, and it is delicious)
2 medium pears, cored and sliced thin
1/2 to 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

  1. Saute the bacon in a large pan until it has become crisp and much of the fat has rendered off. Set cooked bacon aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Wipe clean the pan in which the bacon was cooked, and, in the same pan, melt the butter over low heat. If your pears are very hard and unripe, use the full tablespoon of butter; if your pears are juicy and soft, use the smaller amount. Add the pears to the melted butter, and stir to combine. Sprinkle the pears with the sugar, using the larger amount of sugar for less ripe pears, the smaller amount for more ripe pears. Add the cinnamon and stir to combine. Saute over medium low heat until pears and sugar begin to caramelize together and the pears have softened. The amount of time this takes will, again, depend on the ripeness of your pears. Ripe pears should take around 5 minutes, unripe pears will take 10-15 minutes.
  3. Assemble each waffle by adding sauteed pears, then topping with a sprinkling of bacon. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of maple syrup over each assembled waffle. Depending on the size of your waffle maker, this recipe will make 6-8 servings.

–  Elizabeth Miller blogs at Savory Salty Sweet and writes the Melting Pot bimonthly column. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.

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