There are some dishes that are worth all the extra steps, because every hand-crafted detail comes across in each flavorful bite. This one takes waffles to a new level, for brunch or even dessert. Everything from the yeasted waffles to the Tawny Port and balsamic reduction syrup are a from-scratch construction of deliciousness. Roasting strawberries concentrates their flavor, which pairs nicely in a syrup with the aged richness of balsamic vinegar and the deep sweetness from the Port. A mascarpone whipped cream adds a little tartness and luxury piled atop crispy, golden waffles, whose developed batter has an added level of flavor thanks to the yeasting process. The berries, syrup and whipped cream can be made a day ahead, as can the waffles, so when you’re ready to serve, all you have to do is warm the berry syrup and waffles, and pile everything as high as you wish before serving.
Roasted Strawberries in a Port Balsamic Syrup (makes a little over 1 cup)
1 pint of fresh strawberries (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon sugar
1.5 cups Tawny Port
¼cup balsamic vinegar
¼cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To roast the strawberries, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. De-stem the berries and slice in half. Toss lightly in a bowl with the tablespoon of sugar, and spread evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (to keep the berries from sticking). Place the tray of berries in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or just until the berries are starting to caramelize and shrink. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a small pot over a burner set to medium-high heat, add the Port and balsamic vinegar, and let it come to a gentle boil. Let it go for 20-25 minutes, until it’s reduced by about a quarter and starts to thicken. Lower the heat to medium, add the sugars and salt, and stir until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Take the roasted strawberries and their juice, and gently combine with the Port/balsamic syrup. Toss lightly, being careful not to break up the berries. Serve atop waffles or refrigerate in a sealed container for later use.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened at room temperature
¼cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Using a handheld or stand mixer, use the whisk attachment to start whipping the cold heavy cream and powdered sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks are just starting to form, and then gradually add in the mascarpone cheese, letting it slowly incorporate, and the vanilla extract. The final texture should be like a soft, whipped cream cheese. Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Yeasted Waffles (serves 4-6)
2 cups milk, with additional ½cup in reserve to loosen batter
2 ¾cups all purpose flour
½cup warm water
1 stick unsalted butter
1 ½tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 ¼teaspoons dry yeast)
½teaspoon vanilla extract
¼teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast to the ½cup of warm water. Let it sit for a few minutes until you start to see bubbles form, a sign that the yeast is activating.
Place a small pot over medium heat and bring 2 cups of milk to a simmer, but not boiling. Add the butter and mix until fully melted. Add sugar and salt. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm.
Combine the milk/butter/sugar/salt mixture with the yeast and water, stirring to combine. Carefully whisk in the flour and mix until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap. If you’re going to make the waffles that day, allow it to sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until the batter has doubled in volume. If you’re making the batter a day ahead, place in the refrigerator overnight, where it will do a slow-proof.
If the batter has sat overnight in the refrigerator, allow it to get to room temperature first. Preheat your waffle iron. Take the room-temperature batter and whisk in two eggs, vanilla extract, and the baking soda. If the batter feels too thick, like the consistency of sticky oatmeal, add a little more milk to loosen. It should be thick, but easily pourable.
Make the waffles according to your iron’s directions. You can serve the waffles immediately or let them cool completely, place in a sealed plastic bag, and refrigerate or freeze for later use.