Life happens in phases. They can be marked by jobs, boyfriends, schools, hair colors, diets — anything and everything. I was recently reflecting on my own phases, and noticed that no matter how chaotic or calm, easy or hard, routine or ridiculous a time in my life was, there was always a constant. I could chronologically organize my phases according to what I was baking.
There was the Pie Phase. I had just gotten married and we were the 2nd floor residents of a duplex on Long Island. I worked from home and made apple pies on a weekly basis. I felt accomplished, having created such a simple routine. Each time I pulled that steaming, buttery, fruit-filled delight from the oven, I was somehow more grown up.
Then came the Cake Phase. I’d been watching a lot of Food Network and fell in love with the idea of complex, multi-layered, decorated cakes. I was raised on boxes of Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines, so it was time to shatter the store-bought mix mold. My first foray into from-scratch cake baking happened with a big, moist, heavily frosted Hummingbird. It was time consuming and impressive. I felt courageous — easing my way into true adulthood with my tiny family, steady job and fancy Hummingbird cake.
Reality hit with my Cupcake Phase. Dave and I had relocated almost halfway across the country to Kentucky. This was the first time in my life I wasn’t living on the east coast. Homesickness struck hard, and I found my retreat in the kitchen. I wasn’t patient enough for pie, and definitely not motivated or confident enough for fancy cake. I needed something simple…something easy and nostalgic. Cupcakes. I must have made 30 different kinds in my first 6 months down south.
Things got easier as I adapted to the bluegrass state, and with my new sense of self came the Cookie Phase. I was feeling more experienced. I’d been through a few things at that point — hard things — things I didn’t see coming, and I wanted to create something new. I’d always idolized the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies my great grandmother used to make. She didn’t leave a recipe, so if I was going to try them, I’d have to figure it out myself. I was up for the challenge! I made those cookies more times than I can count, and I’m pretty sure I nailed it.
The Bread Phase was a good one. I discovered the beauty of slow living. I had come to appreciate that time yields the most valuable lessons, and the most delicious bread. Armed with the heaviest cookbook I own (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice), I devoted myself to the craft of yeasted dough. Proof, mix, knead, rise, pound, rise, bake. I’ll admit, this was probably the shortest of my phases, but for a brief (yet precious) time, I was committed. I even managed to turn out some pretty decent loaves!
After the intensity of the Bread Phase, my pendulum swung back to simple. Enter the Pancake Phase. At that point I was living where I am now in Lexington — a little city about an hour north of the Kentucky town where we originally settled. It was here that I started to find my groove. Sarah and I had launched the blog, I was routinely sharing bits of my life through illustration and photography, and I had really come to crave time around the table with loved ones. Sometimes a fast recipe is necessary in order to sneak in a really good table session. Morning gatherings over breakfast were my favorite, so I gravitated heavily towards pancakes. This became a weekend ritual for a while, and I loved it.
Which brings me to where I am now. The Waffle Phase. It honestly doesn’t feel much different from the Pancake Phase. I saw a stack of gorgeous waffles on Pinterest one day and sparks flew. Within minutes, I was on Amazon ordering my first [and what I now believe to be] holy grail waffle maker. I’m excited. My goal is to create health(ier) waffles that rival the legendary Pancake House waffles of my childhood in both flavor and texture. I don’t have a retrospective on this phase yet. What I do know is that baking has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, and looking back on the last 5 years, I’ve learned that this passion has consistently spoken to both who I was at the time and what I was going through. I guess that’s what passions are for. They’re like a beautiful friend that expresses yourself for you when you don’t know what to say or how to say it. It’s not until later that you get to understand the meaning of it all. For now, I’ll enjoy my waffles.
Do you have any loves or passions that have helped you understand yourself and your phases better? I would love to hear what they are! And what’s your favorite breakfast of all time? Do tell!
Pumpkin Spice Belgian Waffles + Toasted Pecans [with gluten and dairy-free substitutions]
Yields about 12 square waffles in my favorite Calphalon waffle maker!
For The Pecans
1 cup of raw pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes, or until you can smell the pecans roasting. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Now make the waffles!
For The Waffles
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or 1 cup gluten free flour mix + 1/4 cup tapioca flour, see *notes below to make your own mix!)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (or coconut palm sugar)
3 tbsp. cornstarch (if using gluten free flour, don’t add cornstarch!)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (or 3/4 cup almond milk if you’re)
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 tbsp. butter, melted (or 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce)
*NOTE: to make a batch of gluten free flour (ideal for waffles and biscuits!), weigh out and thoroughly whisk together the following ingredients: 216g gluten free oat flour, 220g white rice flour, 10g cornstarch, 224g tapioca starch and 6g psyllium husk (or 6 tsp. xanthan gum)
*ALSO! When I make the GF/DF version of these waffles, I adjust my waffle maker to the darkest setting, and when the timer beeps I cook them for an additional 2-4 minutes until the waffles are crisp and cooked through!
Lightly oil your waffle iron and set it to the desired temperature.
Add all dry ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly.
Beat together eggs, milk and pumpkin puree, then add the melted butter and whisk to combine.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined.
Pour the batter into your waffle iron and follow the manufacturer’s instructions! I use a 1/3 cup measure to scoop my batter into each square in the Calphalon iron, which yields these adorable, rough edged Belgian waffles.
Top your waffles with toasted pecans and enjoy with a drizzle of pure maple syrup and some hot coffee!