A family member was going through Nancy McMaster’s refrigerator over the holidays when she came across a jar of sourdough bread starter, all bubbly and yeasty like it’s supposed to be. “She thought it was awful and nearly threw it away,” McMaster recalled with a smile. “It was a near miss.”
McMaster is that adventurous sort of cook who’s always trying something new or a little different – and usually hitting the mark.
There was the time, for instance, she found herself seated next to an Italian grandmother at a wedding.
“She taught me how to make pasta while we were sitting there,” McMaster said.
Ever since, she’s made it for friends, family and members of her book club, whose meetings she admits are as much about food as literature.
“I’ll do butter and a fresh herb” on the pasta, she said. “Simple’s often best, the pasta is so good.”
Then there were the Belgian waffles served by a local food truck, sadly now out of business. “I was like ‘I miss those waffles.’” Not for long, though. She found a recipe online, procured the key ingredient – pearl sugar balls – and now qualifies as a Belgian waffle wizard.
McMaster, a Wichita native, works in rural physician outreach for Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa. She enjoys travel, wine and dining at Twelve, George’s and Lola’s when she’s not cooking herself.
Nancy McMaster suggests enjoying a glass of wine while the dough in this recipe rests. You can also hang the finished pasta on racks to dry, she said, “just so it looks like you worked really hard.”
1 cup flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ egg shell of water (about 1 to 2 tablespoons)
Place flour in bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in egg and water. Stir together mixture, then use your hands to form it into a ball. Add flour if too wet, water if too dry. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes before rolling out and cutting into desired shape. Allow pasta to dry at least one hour before cooking for best results.
These waffles, named for a city in Belgium, get their sweet crunch from pearl sugar balls, which stay intact even after cooking. Pearl sugar can be found at specialty stores such as The Spice Merchant or ordered online.
1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
1 ¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (about 1 cup), plus more for brushing
1 cup Belgian pearl sugar
In a bowl, whisk brown sugar and yeast into water. Let stand about 5 minutes or until foamy.
In a mixer bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast mixture. Mix for one minute or until shaggy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing about 20 seconds between each. Whisk in vanilla and 1 cup melted butter. Gradually mix until smooth; it will be thick and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Stir pearl sugar into batter. Cover again and let rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Stir batter to deflate. Preheat Belgian waffle maker and cook waffles according to manufacturer’s directions until golden and crisp, brushing waffle maker with butter as needed. Serve immediately or keep warm in oven until needed.