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Sunday brunch day: Cap off your winter weekends with comforting sourdough waffles

So many people think of sourdough as an all-American - or at least North American - phenomenon. Credit that to the fact that sourdough starters (wild yeast cultures regularly fed and nurtured to keep available for leavening bread) were mainstays not only of pioneering life but also among the miners who made sourdough the reliable daily bread in San Francisco during the 1849 California Gold Rush era; plus, other miners came to be known as "sourdoughs" during the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada during the late 1890s.

In reality, though, sourdough is much older and more global. For many centuries, all yeast-leavened bread was sourdough, stretching back to ancient Egypt and up to the widespread development of commercial yeasts in the early 20th century. Today, sourdough cultures are still nurtured in many traditional homes, and it's finding new enthusiasts among artisanal bakers and home bread makers alike.

When I first visited San Francisco many years ago, I was amused when I was asked if I ever had anything like their beloved sourdough bread. Of course I had, having grown up in Austria eating rustic sourdough. I love baking with sourdough starters myself and usually offer some form of sourdough bread in my restaurants.

So today, I would love to offer you a taste of sourdough to enjoy in your own kitchen. But I'll keep it simple with a recipe that provides the pleasures of real, tangy sourdough flavor without need for the mixing, kneading and rising traditional loaves require.

How is that possible? My sourdough waffles make it easy.

Waffles, like pancakes made from similar batters, are in fact a simple form of bread known as a quick bread, primarily leavened by the carbon dioxide gas released instantly when baking powder - one of the recipe's dry ingredients - comes in contact with the batter's liquid. But the recipe I share here gets extra lightness and flavor from a simply made sourdough starter.

Once your waffle batter is ready, use whatever regular or Belgian-style waffle iron you have, following the manufacturer's instructions. Cook them until deep golden-brown, and - straight to your kitchen - you'll experience your own Gold Rush!


Makes 5 8-inch (20-cm) waffles

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) sourdough starter for waffles (recipe follows)

1/2 cup (125 mL) nonfat milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Nonstick cooking spray

Fruit Syrup (recipe follows)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the starter, milk, melted butter, and egg. Stir well.

In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the starter mixture, and stir until well combined. Leave, covered, at warm room temperature until bubbles begin to form, about 30 minutes.

Heat a waffle iron and coat lightly but evenly with nonstick spray. Using a 4-ounce (125 mL) ladle, pour batter evenly into the waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve immediately with a drizzle of fruit syrup.


Makes about 4 cups (1 L)

3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour

2 cups (500 mL) nonfat milk

1 cup (250 mL) plain yogurt with live cultures

1 small potato, peeled and finely grated

In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave at warm room temperature until the batter begins to bubble and develops a somewhat pleasant sour smell, about 24 hours.

Transfer the starter to a covered container, and store in the refrigerator for at least three days before using.


Makes about 1 1/3 cups (335 mL)

1 cup (250 mL) pure maple syrup

1/3 cup (85 mL) small blueberries, sliced strawberries or other fresh fruit

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Put the syrup, fruit and orange zest in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup and fruit are warm, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.


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