Whenever I go home to Minnesota to visit my family, there's one thing that I always request: Grandma's overnight yeasted waffles. To me, these are the quintessential waffles and all others are held to their standard. They're crispy on the outside and tender in the middles, but they're also a touch chewy from the overnight rise with yeast. That same yeast and long rise also give these waffles an unmatchable flavor, particularly when paired with a drizzle of Wisconsin maple syrup or homemade apple butter. Everyone has their favorite waffle recipe — here is mine.
Cross-country moves with minimal belongings and small city apartments meant that I've never quite been able to justify having my own waffle maker. For years, I gorged myself on all the syrup-filled pockets and crispy edges I could manage while at home and then had to subsist solely on memories the rest of the year. Our family waffle maker must be at least 25 years old at this point, but it still flips out waffles just as golden and crunchy today as it did when I was a kid.
Then this past fall, I found myself the proud owner of a brand new waffle maker. I hardly had it out of the box before I was on the phone with my mom for the waffle recipe. She did me one better and sent me a scanned image of Grandma's recipe card along with all the handwritten notes she and my dad had scrawled on the back of the card over the years. Twenty-four hours later, I had waffles. Glorious, crispy-edged, syrup-drenched waffles. I was in heaven.
This recipe is unlike many other Saturday morning waffle recipes in that it starts the night before. You add some yeast to the batter and let it slowly rise on the counter overnight. Be sure to use your biggest mixing bowl — this batter can double or even triple by the time you wake up the next morning! The slow overnight rise makes waffles with a subtle sweet yeasty flavor and a more substantial texture than waffles made with baking soda alone. My family recipe was also made without any sugar, but I've found that adding a few spoonfuls is a nice weekend treat — try it both ways and see which one you like best.
I think that my mother worries that now that I have my own waffle maker, I no longer have a reason to make my semi-annual trek back home. But she doesn't need to fret — everyone knows that waffles at Mom's table are always the best.
Overnight Yeasted Waffles
Makes about 16 Belgian-style waffle squares or 32 standard waffle squares; recipe can be halved
Note: Use a very large mixing bowl to make this recipe as the batter can double or even triple as it rises.
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 cups whole or 2% milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the yeast and the water in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a few minutes. Stir to make sure the yeast dissolves into the water. Melt the butter over low heat or in the microwave. Combine the butter with the milk, salt, and sugar (if using). Test with your finger to make sure the mixture has cooled to luke warm, then stir it into the dissolved yeast mixture. Add the flour and stir until a thick, shaggy dough is formed and there is no more visible flour.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter overnight. The batter will double or triple in bulk as it rises.
The next morning, beat the eggs together and add them to the batter along with the baking soda. Using a whisk or hand blender, beat the eggs and baking soda into the batter until completely combined.
Make the waffles according to your waffle maker's instructions, cooking until the waffles are golden-brown. Cooking time will vary with your waffle maker, but it is typically 4 to 6 minutes.
Waffles are best if served immediately, but re-heat well in the toaster. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to a week. Leftover waffles can also be frozen for up to 3 months and toasted straight out of the freezer.
- This recipe can be halved for smaller breakfast gatherings. Divide all the ingredients equally in half and make the recipe as usual.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)