Saturday, July 06, 2013

Wafers, Oblaten, Oublies: Whatever Their Name, They're Delicious

A just-finished wafer.
It has been raining, and raining, and raining. It will continue to rain, rain, rain, for the largest part of another week. The last time I knew that the sun had shone brightly here was June 21, the day we left to visit family at the beach. By the morning of June 22, the thunder was crashing and water coming in torrents, and for all that trip, we made our beach outings and excursions between rains, and one time during a rain. That outing was spent entirely in the surf, where you could forget that anything was falling from the sky, since you were well and continuously splashed already.

It poured, on and off, the entire trip home to Kentucky. At one point, in North Carolina, bless their drenched hearts, my husband's phone made a series of high-pitched beeps, and it took us awhile to understand that it was his phone that was making the noise. He picked it up, to find a flash flood warning spread across the screen. He'd never seen one of those come in before. I've learned in the days since that NC has had more than its share of mudslides, pitched-over trees, washed-out roads, and floods.

Our state, so far, has just had plain, solid rain and a few downpours, and it has soaked into the soil, although a cast-iron manhole cover on Fontaine Road did burst up and wash down the street a few days ago, through the force of storm water trying to find a way out. It left a satisfactory pond with onlookers for about half an hour. I drove up to it, decided not to risk flooding my car, and took another route.

The ground is saturated now, and there is standing water in every low spot. This makes small boys happy, so we have two pairs of shoes under a fan in the basement, post-pond sloshing. If we get any more rain, we will join the misery of our neighboring states.

Where Are the Wafers?

You didn't read this far without wondering where in the Sam Hill the wafers come in. If you're a parent and suspecting, you're right, they came out of my need to occupy those two small boys. They've played reasonably happily for days, and every time there's been a glimmer of pale sun, or the rain isn't that wet, out we go, parents and children alike, to run and release pent-up energy. Hence the soaked shoes...

Anywhoo, I bethought myself of English biscuits, the barely sweetened, stamped type. If you keep up with Ivan Day's Food History Jottings, or the Ship's Bisket video from the 18th century bread series, courtesy Jas Townsend (such fun!), you'll have read about them. Have been wanting to try them out, and have some German gingerbread stamps, a gift from my sister in Wien, just begging to be used. Out came the computer to look up a useful recipe.

Selection of biscuits and wafers, from "Some
Regency Biscuits", in
Ivan Day's blog, Food History Jottings.
My boys saw the picture here, commented on the rolled wafers, and whoops! We took a sudden detour. Bye-bye biscuits, I have a wafer iron I've never used and those wafers sure look good. Today's the day! Now, off to find a recipe again.

After another short detour to watch (twice) a video about how Pirouline wafers are made in the factory, which the boys loved but made those wafers forever taste of factory to me -- a 100,000 made in an hour! -- we found the perfect recipe in Victoria Rumble's The Historic Foodie, another favorite blog of mine.

Wafers: Not Quite a Waffle offers us their history -- ladies in wimples and knights in armor munched them! -- and a solid, usable-sans-research-and-testing recipe.

Ivan Day offers recipes too, but he never "redacts" them to 21st century terms, saying in one post that the original recipes therein are quite clear. Sad to say, where I will search out filament silk and good linen thread for a garment, and spend hours handsewing a hem, and can fit in odd moments, cooking falls under the tyranny of tummies, tempers, and time, and in the company of family and their needs.

Therefore, thank you and bless you, practical Mrs. Rumble, because you have provided me with a recipe we can use right off the block, with joy and excitement. The tastes of centuries past were in our mouths today, and my my, were they delicious.  (Yes, yes, wafers are still made in small pockets here, and in Europe, but they're not everyday sorts of things for most of us anymore.)

Wafer-Making: Right on the Gas Flames!

Joy and excitement? But of course: these used to be cooked over embers, and today they were cooked over a bright-blue gas flame. Any small child is going to be excited about that, you know. Parents may gulp -- I did -- but we practice safety, and they followed the rules, and no accidents occurred, thank Heaven.

Victoria Rumble's recipe is not for a batter, but a dough. Better and better, no splats and splots, or dashes to the sink after being splashed with hot batter.

It mixes up easily, this dough, rests and gets chilly for 30 minutes, and is ready to go.

It's also easy to modify: the original was flavored with orange water and the zests of two oranges. Neither on hand, I used rosewater, a common flavoring in the past, and fresh-ground coriander, which is citrusy. It smelled realllly good. Rosy, said Christopher.

My iron dates, I guess, to the 1920s or 30s. I base this only on the brightly painted red wooden grips on the handles, the very classicizing Greek lyre pattern in the stamp (so 20s -- they did classical as well as Deco), and the aluminum of the iron itself. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

All we did was to grease it well, heat it a few minutes on top of the stove's gas flame, open it, and put in a roll of dough. A roll, because this is not a round iron, as so many are. Then, let it toast inside the iron.

A roll of wafer dough on the iron, ready to toast.

At first, it took about two minutes to toast a wafer, with a flip about halfway through, but as the iron heated up, it toasted wafers in about a minute.
Boys just love to squish the dough flat in the iron, and hold it over the heat. It's very elemental. I love to carry the iron to the cooling rack, flip the iron open and upside down, and watch the wafer slide out, pale fawn colored and oh! so fragrant. For awhile afterwards, the entire house, upstairs and downstairs, was just barely scented with the delicate odor of baked butter and flour, vanilla and rose. Entrancing, elegant, hunger-making!

Wafers, ready to nibble. The wafer's color on each side depends on how long it's toasted.
And beautiful. Try one of these, crisp, not heavily sweet, fragrant, with tea, coffee, whipped cream, or a glass of wine.

If you have or can find a wafer iron, do try making them. If it will sit flat, an iron could be used on an electric stove, and if it's steel, even a magnetic stove, and of course, there's the grill or hibachi or open fire. I suspect you could even use a tortilla press, although that might be a bit bulky, and there are no crispy ups-and-downs from the stamped pattern on a wafer made that way.

By the way, if you're planning an historically inspired tea, dinner or collation, variations of these little treats are appropriate from the Middle Ages right on through the present. I just may serve these at our next Georgian or Regency tea.

Before I Leave You...

Proof that it didn't rain at the beach the entire time, anyway. Here we all are on the Southport Ferry, heading in a stiff breeze towards that little town and some good homemade ice cream. Note the sunshine!

Happy munching!


Kleidung um 1800 said...

It's like I can almost smell the wafers...nomnomnom!!!
How delicious! And rosewater is such an amazing ingredient to the dough.
My mom usually makes very thin wafers from batter, which are called 'Eiserhoernchen'. She can bake them so thin, you can almost read through them...and as soon as they are taken out of the wafer iron (it's an old round one, but already electric), she rolls them to cones (like ice-cream cones). Wafers are wonderful for all senses :)
...and now I'm hungry!

Sarah Jane said...

Oh Natalie! I wasn't hungry when I began reading this post, but after seeing your photos of these exquisite wafers I am now very much longing to taste one. They look and sound absolutely delicious!

I will have to keep my eyes open for wafer presses when we are out and about in the antique malls we frequent. I think my boys would enjoy making these, too.

Fascinating history! I love your last photo. Your boys are getting big and are so handsome. I'm glad you had a good vacation despite the rain! (we've had our share of it here, too.)

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Sarah Jane,

Good morning! Wafer irons turn up every so often. Ours was in an antique mall, so I am betting you might have good luck too. We found that they're very tasty with just small splotches of whipped cream on the top, studded with blueberries :)

May the sun shine for you, too! We had a rainbow last evening, even though it's raining again this morning.

The boys are really big: you're right...just like yours! Little weeds, they are.

Sabine, your mother makes 'Eiserhoernchen'? Any chance you could share the recipe? It would be super to try a wafer recipe from batter, and the idea of practically seeing through one fascinates me. They must be so delicate!

Hugs to you both, and now off to make beds and prepare for church,


MrsC (Maryanne) said...

So lovely to see the whole famly, you all look thoroughly, windsweptly, happy!
And so interesting about the waffles, they look delicious. things like that made fresh are ambrosia compred with packaged ones, non? :) xo

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Mrs. C.,
Windsweptly happy? Indeed! A gorgeous day, and windy enough the boys going near the stairs to the deck made me nervous they might be blown off, so I'd collar them and pull them to relative safety.

We dream of that vacation to my dad and stepmother's all year long, and then it slides past so happily, so rapidly, leaving happy memories that feed us until the next trip.

Mais oui, food made fresh is a world away from packaged things, and these, oh these. Easy on the eyes, easy on the palate, easy on the calorie count, relatively speaking.

Very best, and wondering how you fare with the new shop, and hoping you are warm and toasty,


lahbluebonnet said...

Those look so good! Love the family picture!

Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Laurie,

They ARE good, and if you can get hold of a little wafer maker or iron, they are so worth playing with!

Yes, we love that family photo, too. May be our Christmas picture.

Very best,