My grandpa was a Navy cook in World War I and, when he got out, he opened up several restaurants in the San Joaquin Valley area where they lived. But being from a large German Mennonite family, my grandmother was no slouch in the kitchen either. Even still, as much as I remember eating well at every meal, what I remember most was Christmas morning breakfast, because that was when we had waffles with vanilla sauce.
Grandma would man the waffle maker with precision and enlist someone to help stir the vanilla sauce. I got to do it several times and it always felt like a special job to be the one in charge of watching to catch the moment when the thickening had reached its final point, flicking off the heat before it overcooked and the sauce broke but still being sure not to quit too soon and leave the aunts, uncles, and cousins whining about soupy vanilla sauce. We’d jostle around the table angling for more, everyone heaping the sauce onto the waffles, good-hearted teasing about whether waffles should be slightly uncooked in the center or crispy or somewhere in between. When the waffles were eaten and every last drip of sauce licked up, we’d settle in the living room for a church service to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that not everyone understands that a waffle is not something you dig out of a box, throw in the toaster, and then slather with butter and syrup. That will do in a pinch, but a waffle can be a thing of beauty if topped with the creamy goodness that is my grandmother’s vanilla sauce. Since it’s not a heavily guarded family secret (I double checked with my mom – we’re good), I thought I’d share the recipe. I encourage you to give it a try – I can almost guarantee you’ll never go back to butter and syrup.
2 Cups milk – heat in a saucepan on the stove, stirring to ensure it doesn’t stick, don’t let it boil.
½ Cup sugar
½ Cup milk
4 heaping Tablespoons flour
1 tsp vanilla
Mix the egg, sugar, milk, flour and vanilla in a bowl until combined. When the milk in the saucepan is hot (not scalding), whisk the egg mixture into the milk. Continue stirring on the stove until the sauce is thick and creamy. Don’t let it boil and don’t stop stirring!
Spoon (I recommend liberal spooning) over hot waffles and enjoy. Leftover sauce (ha!) can be frozen in ice cube trays covered with plastic wrap. Microwave a cube or two for 20 seconds and use for everyday waffle heaven.
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Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey