I love the Internet.
I love it, of course, for its practical value. Email, weather forecasts, online banking, recipes, and all those news stories too wacky or frivolous to make it onto NPR, but that I want to know about anyway, are right at my fingertips.
And then there are the guilty pleasures, the things I could (and sometimes do) spend far too many hours doing: watching episodes of Family Guy, reading People.com, wistfully browsing Anthropologie's newest collections.
But the thing that I love the most, the thing that I truly miss when our Internet's down or I'm away from the computer for days? It's the thing that some people are the quickest to criticize and downplay about the Web: the community. Now, I don't spend my days chatting on Twitter or in forums, so I don't mean community in the same way that others are actively pursuing new friendships online, in lieu of strengthening their existing in-person relationships and fostering their local community ties. My community is much more virtual, more like a collection of resources and like-minded individuals sharing ideas and inspiration across the fiber networks. The blogs that I read regularly, the photos on Flickr that amaze and entice me, and the websites that I go to when I need unbiased, accurate information, all make the Internet an invaluable resource for me. I can honestly, genuinely say that my life is enhanced by them.
It is because of the Internet that I am the gluten-free baker that I am. I haven't come across many gluten-free cookbooks that really wowed me with their authority or all-purpose usefulness (there are some, but not enough). But the tips, tricks, and trial-and-error accounts that are generously peppered across the Web by other bakers and cooks trying to master this gluten-free thing? These have all been an enormous help as I've worked to become a better gluten-free baker. This spirit of sharing and working-togetherness, posting photos of recipe flops and cheering unlikely successes - it's like having a circle of dedicated gluten-free cooks as friends and collaborators!
This is not to say that I wouldn't love to have this type of community right here, in my actual social circle. But I know surprisingly few people who are celiac or gluten-intolerant, and none who are quite so passionate about food and recipe development as I am. So, for now, my online community challenges and sustains that side of myself, for which I am truly grateful.
I am also grateful for the unlikely, delicious ideas that these people, who are actually strangers to me, put in my head. I saw this picture last week, and immediately became enchanted with the idea of waffles of all sorts. I had never made waffle batter. My only gluten-free experiences with waffles have been of the freezer variety, which is to say, nothing to crow about. A waffle iron always seemed like one of those gadgets you'd get as a wedding present, and it would forever sit in the back of a cupboard, unused and ignored. (So Josh and I decided not to register for one, all those years ago.)
Why, why, why was I so close-minded about waffles? Don't I know better than to write off an entire category of food based on a couple of bad experiences? And why does it take just one photo (from a woman whose palate I trust, to be sure), to so completely change my mind that I can't stop thinking about waffles for days? I don't know, but I'm glad it happened when it did. Because three days later, I thrifted a Belgian waffle maker at my local Salvation Army, and yesterday we feasted on gluten-free yeast waffles, with local maple syrup and strawberry sauce made from last year's bounty.
My waffle expectations had gotten pretty high, fueled by the three days of fantasizing about them, and so that morning I mentally prepared myself to be let down, in case homemade waffles weren't quite the glory I had built them up to be. The batter smelled good, rich and yeasty, and they looked lovely coming out of the iron, but still I held my breath at that first bite. What would the texture be? Would they be gummy, or gritty, or dry? Would Josh politely request that I just stick to pancakes for my breakfast baking forays? Would the dog end up eating more of them than the kids would?
Nope, on all counts! They were the waffles of my dreams. Crisp on the outside, really moist and satiny-smooth on the inside, with a complex, nutty flavor that almost made me believe they could be healthy. (And gussied up with some savory ingredients, I think they really would be.) They were light and airy and perfect - the prettier, thinner, and more successful second cousins of the leaden, overly-sweet Belgian waffles I remember from my college days. I am now a total waffle convert. Short of running out of eggs or milk, I can think of nothing that will stop me from making these very frequently. And if my family objects? No problem - that means more for me!
Gluten-Free Yeast Waffles
adapted from King Arthur Flour
12 fluid ounces whole milk
3 ounces unsalted butter
2 Tbsp real maple syrup
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups Tara's gf pastry flour mix (at the end of this post)
1/4 cup gluten-free oat flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast
Heat the milk until it's very hot. Pour it into a large mixing bowl and add the butter, maple syrup, salt, and vanilla. Stir until the butter melts and the mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Add the eggs, flours, xanthan gum, and yeast. Stir to combine (it's fine if it's not completely smooth). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rest for one hour at room temperature. The mixture will begin to bubble. You can cook it now, but it's much better if you refrigerate it overnight (which is what I did).
Cook according to waffle maker instructions. (As mine didn't come with instructions, I heated the iron, brushed the top and bottom with some melted butter, then poured about 2/3 cup batter in the center and spread it gently toward the edges before I closed it. The waffles took about 3-4 minutes to cook. Easiest breakfast ever!)
Yields about five 7" Belgian waffles (which was perfect for our young, but hungry, family of four).