Yesterday I wrote about the Norwegian pancakes, so in the spirit of the momentum and the season, I would like to continue with a post about our very special waffles, appropriately heart shaped and perfect for Valentine’s Day! National Waffles Day is not until August 24th, and Scandinavians celebrate Waffle day on March 23rd, but in Norway, waffles are served on a dare I say, almost a daily basis. Norwegians love their waffles regardless of the occasion. We don’t eat them for breakfast (we prefer savory, not sweet foods in the morning ), we devour them as dessert, as a snack with our afternoon coffee, and waffles is considered a necessity when inviting people over. A special waffle iron is required to achieve the shape, luckily this is now widely available in the U.S. at a reasonable price of around $40-50.
There is a very special connection between our waffles and the church, more specifically churches labeled Norwegian”seamen’s churches” (Sjømannskirken) , with locations all over the world. The seamen’s church was founded in 1878, and the first church was established right here in NYC. The church was originally a home away from home for many Norwegian sailors manning ships that carried goods and passengers around the world. Today, it is also a home for students, au pairs and visiting business men on long or short visits. Many Norwegians choose to get married there, and the Royal family will be sure to make an apperance while traveling. It is also a cultural center with exhibits and performances of artists from Scandinavia, and there is a weekly sermon on Sundays. A small little convenience shop is available, where Norwegians can buy food from their homeland:
I read somewhere that the Norwegian waffles signify “the taste of homesickness”. In the early years while I was still a “newbie” to living overseas, it was incredibly comforting to be able to stop by the church (in my instance in midtown Manhattan), where I could meet other Norwegians, speak Norwegian, read Norwegian newspapers, attend mass or… most importantly; get a free serving of Norwegian waffles with my coffee! The seamen’s church have served waffles to Norwegians abroad for over 150 years! Waffles go back all the way to the Middle Ages when it was served in convents. Initially, breads without yeast were made for communion, and these breads were so tasty, they were made into “Apostle cakes” for special occasions. These cakes may have been the predecessors to waffles!
Waffles were made way before the stove was invented, by using the long shafted “irons” that you could place above fire.
The waffles were made up of leftovers, including milk that had gone sour (hence why we today use “kefir” or buttermilk). While today we see recipes using fresh /whole milk, this is a relatively modern trend. Leftover porridge, sauces, water, different kinds of flours and oatmeal were also used in the original waffles. Today, we add sugar, spices and butter , as we can afford to make them more luxurious. Regardless, I think the old fashioned waffles were just as tasty, as they represented the love and care of the homemakers, who aimed to make the most delicious food for their guests.
Traditionally we serve waffles with strawberry jam and a dollop of sour cream (yum!) or butter and the Norwegian brown cheese “gjetost” (Heavenly)…but I suspect they will taste delicious regardless of what you feel like topping them with!
Below I’ve included my special recipe for ‘vafler’ – make this for your honey tomorrow and I guarantee you will get a star in your book! Or, treat yourself if you are on your own – that is what Valentine’s Day is about: LOVE. Love yourself, and show love for others!
Happy Valentine’s Day!!
400 grams (7 oz) sugar
1 lb all purpose flour
1 quart buttermilk or kefir
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 tsp cardamom
250 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat your waffle iron.
Whisk the egg and sugar to light and frothy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla sugar (or add the vanilla extract, if using – to the egg and sugar mixture) and cardamom. Add in the flour and buttermilk interchangeably until a smooth batter. Add in the melted butter. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Right before getting ready to bake the waffles, fold in the sour cream. Place a small circle of batter in the middle of your waffle iron and cook according to your waffle iron’s instructions. Serve with your favorite condiment – don’t forget the coffee!!