Grandma's Belgian Waffles

[Note: this post is running today as part of Food 52's column, Heirloom Recipes.]

The last time I shared a kitchen with my grandma, she was 92 and led the way, showing me how to make lady locks—a croissant-esque cookie stuffed with cream, the puff pastry for which she made from scratch (and with butter-flavored Crisco)—in the house where she’s lived for the past 54 years.
But at this year’s family vacation at a rented beach house along the North Carolina coast, Grandma barely set foot in the kitchen. It’s been two years since the lady locks. Grandma is 94, and though, still herself, she now travels with an oxygen tank and has slowed down considerably. In fact, I’ve never seen her (someone who once told me, “Installing tile yourself is really no big deal.”) more content to be waited on.

I like to complain that I come from a culture-less, tradition-lite family. We don’t have a special Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that must be recreated in its exactness every year. We’re a little Irish, a little Swedish, a little English, a little German, but we’re not enough of anything to speak a foreign language or even guess “lingonberry” in a game of charades (even if I had them saying berry and sounds like sling).

But the truth is we do have a few specific traditions. One: our annual beach vacation. And two: the eating of Grandma’s homemade waffles at some point during this gathering. As a kid, these beach waffles tasted like no other waffle I’d ever known. They smelled bready yet they were light and subtly sweet. I could eat them alone, straight off the waffle iron and did. Though most often, I topped them with sliced peaches and whipped cream.
The dough lived in a giant bowl that seemed to be permanently filled to the brim. When I got older, I realized that bready smell was the yeast and that Grandma’s dough never started at the brim but rose there overnight while we slept.

I hadn’t been able to make it to my family’s annual gathering the past two summers, so this one—which was set to be Grandma’s last with the family as she is giving up her home in Pittsburgh in order to move to Taos, New Mexico to live with my aunt and uncle—had to really count. I asked my mom to please pack her waffle iron and Grandma’s recipe.

When my husband and I arrived at the house, Mom got right down to business, wanting to plan out our weekly meals. “And when are we going to have Grandma’s waffles?” she asked.

We decided we would make the dough in the morning so that they’d be ready by lunchtime.
I started at 9:30. Doubling the recipe, I mixed the ingredients in the biggest bowl I could find in the sparsely stocked kitchen, while Mom sliced the fruit—cherries, strawberries and of course, peaches. All the while, Grandma watched The Cooking Channel across the way in the living room.

By noon, the dough had doubled in size, rising to the brim just like it was supposed to. But corralling a group of seven to eat lunch at relatively the same time when the sun is out and the beach is a block away isn’t easy. And as I stood and manned the waffle iron, producing golden duos of waffles, one after the other, I heard my brother, referring to me by my nickname, tell my step-dad that “Amy’s waffles” were ready.
I’m five months pregnant as I type this. In fact, while at the beach, my grandma gave me a check for one-hundred dollars with the words “expected child” written in shaky cursive as the memo. I don’t own a waffle iron, but maybe I should use Grandma’s gift to buy one. And maybe one day, my future son or daughter will refer to them as my waffles. But to me, they’ll always be Grandma’s.
Grandma’s Belgian Waffles
Makes 8-10 waffles

1 package dry active yeast
2 cups lukewarm milk
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar plus more for sprinkling over fruit
½ cup melted butter
3-4 peaches (or any fruit you like on top of your waffles)
1 cup heavy cream

Sprinkle yeast over warm milk. Stir to dissolve. Beat egg yolks and add to yeast mixture with vanilla. In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add to liquid ingredients. Stir in melted butter and combine thoroughly.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Carefully fold into batter. Let mixture stand in a warm place about 45 minutes or until it’s double in bulk.

Meanwhile slice your peaches and sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of sugar. Stir and let sit at room temperature until mixture gets nice and syrupy.

Whip the heavy cream until it reaches soft peaks. (Feel free to add a ½ teaspoon vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar while you’re whipping it.)

Cook waffles according to your waffle iron’s specifications. Top with fruit and whipped cream. Enjoy!
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Matthew said...

I miss vacation and these waffles xoxo

Judi C. said...

I read this post and paused over the picture of your grandmother, a waffle-sized lump in my throat. My grandma was 97 when she died and I just didn't appreciate her enough when she was with us. Thanks for such a lovely post.

Tim said...

I love how much your grandma uses irons to cook food. xo

Sara in America said...

Amelia! This is so beautiful. The "expected child" memo brought on a teary smile for me. By the way, I'm curious to know what necessitated acting out lingonberry in charades?!

ann mccaskey said...

Your mom is a clone of your Grandma, the former Miss Ruth Sullivan. I can't wait to try these waffles!

Amina said...

Beautiful—both the waffles and the story!

Kara said...

Cryyyyying over here. So beautiful. Thanks, Amelia. Great pic of Grandma, Matt!

mj said...

crying here too!! your grandma reminds me of mine (except for mine had a neat freak nature)...grandma's, cherish them! my waffle iron is my grandma's old one and makes me think of her each time I use it, you should definitely buy one with that money :) and I should definitely try this recipe!

Elliott Shaffner said...


You got me with this one.


F for Food

kelly said...

beautiful post!

Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said...

I just loved this post. So beautiful and gorgeous photos. Its wonderful you have this memory and a tradition to pass on down for generations to come. Congratulations on your pregnancy too!

Sarah said...

"expected child" - hits the gut. hope your grandma has a safe move!

m'lissa said...

I fell in love with your Grandma when I watched your "lady locks" video. So…what did Grandma think of the waffles?

janice said...

Charming post Amelia!
Hope you are feeling fine at month 5.

Future: I picture you and Matt pulverizing waffles and fruit in a food processor for Baby's early soft food!

(I've got to try these using some whole wheat flour.)

Katayoun said...

Tears in my eyes. Beautiful post.

canalcook said...

What a lovely post and a great recipe. We loved my granny's cooking growing up. We begged my mum to get recipes and recreate it, but she stopped when she realised the secret ingredient to every dish (savoury and sweet) was more sugar than a human being should consume..

Amelia Morris said...

hahahhaaa. it's true though!

Amelia Morris said...

good question! It was kind of a silly impromptu game we played waiting to leave for dinner one night. I forget exactly how I got lingonberry... just good luck I guess? :)

Amelia Morris said...

Thanks for all the kind words, everyone! xoxo

Michelle Dehaven said...

So lovely. That last picture made my heart hurt a little. Thanks for posting this and always.

Anonymous said...

OK, honestly this just put a tear in my eye... Thank you, Amelia.

Kara said...

Just had to come back for another peek at Grandma. Love that pic!

kaitlyn sage said...

What a sweet post. Thanks, Amelia!

Shelley said...

I like that "still herself."

That's what we need to let older people know that we see.

Alex said...

Gorgeous. My perfect weekend would include 3 - 4 hours of Bon Appetempt reading. I could so easily fall down the Bon Appetempt rabbit hole, losing myself in your archives of brilliant writing, gorgeous photos, and hilarious, unpredictable videos <3

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your Grandma's waffle recipe. I intend to try this as soon as I am the proud owner of a waffle iron (soon i hope). My mother is 89 and still going strong like your grandma. : )

lcryan01 said...

This post made me tear up, my grandmother has been a strong influence in my love for cooking and I could relate.

Ashley @ Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine said...

I love when recipes have sweet stories attached. And these waffles look like a lovely legacy :)

Julia said...

This is the cutest post, I want to cry! I have so many of my grandma's recipes too - now they have passed they are even more dear to me.
I can't wait to try your Grandma's waffle recipe - guaranteed that little bump of yours will cherish that recipe too.

Trisha said...

Such a lovely story!! xx

Deborah Boschert said...

Take a picture of the check for the baby book. You'll have an image of that expressive handwriting and eventually your son or daughter will look through the baby book and wonder what we used checks for back in 2013.

Dianne said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Whether your grandmother is with you or not, she is always with you (and us readers) when you make these waffles -- what a tribute and what a way to pay it forward. xoxo