If you live on the East End, your summer calendar doesn’t vary from year to year. Just as surely as June brings a bumper crop of sweet local strawberries, it also delivers weekend visitors who enjoy Sunday brunch. Because I like to sleep as much as my guests do, I have a few make-ahead recipes that take just a few minutes to get on the table.
Overnight yeasted waffles, served with roasted strawberries, is one of the best.
Local strawberries make a brief appearance on Long Island from mid-June to mid-July. The best berries are on the small side, shiny, firm, and deep red. Unlike supermarket berries, which have been bred to ripen while traveling across countries and continents, local berries are picked when ready to eat and won’t last long once you get them home. Buy berries that are small (indicating that they haven’t been pumped up by fertilizers), ruby red throughout, fragrant and slightly yielding. Once you get them home, don’t refrigerate them. They should be eaten within a day or two of purchase, before they start to over-ripen on your countertop.
Local strawberries are delicious eaten out of hand, but roasting them briefly concentrates their flavor and sweetness. Ten minutes in a very hot oven will do the trick. An added benefit to roasting berries is the dessert sauce created when the bubbling juices mix with a little bit of sugar and vanilla. If you’d like to vary the flavor of your sauce, substitute a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar or Grand Marnier for the vanilla. You don’t have to use your roasted berries on waffles exclusively. They are also good as an ice cream topping, with granola and yogurt, or on top of slices of country bread that have been toasted and slathered with ricotta or cream cheese.
Waffles raised with yeast are not just convenient. They are lighter, crispier and tastier than waffles raised with a chemical leavening agent. (The baking soda in this recipe is there mostly to help with browning; yeast provides a powerful lift.) Make sure you mix your batter in a bowl big enough to allow it to double in volume without spilling onto the refrigerator shelves. And aim to cover no more than 60 percent of the waffle iron’s surface area with batter. Too much batter will result either in dense waffles or an explosion of molten batter onto the countertop.
If you and your houseguests aren’t morning people, you might serve these waffles for dessert. Simply mix the dough whenever you wake up, let it sit on the counter for a few hours or in the refrigerator all day, and then cook the waffles while you are doing the dinner dishes. Replace the yogurt with vanilla ice cream and enjoy while the fireflies are out.
OVERNIGHT YEASTED WAFFLES WITH ROASTED STRAWBERRIES AND YOGURT
For the waffles:
1⁄4 cup warm water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 cup milk
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1⁄2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
For the strawberries:
1 quart small ripe fresh strawberries, stemmed
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Make the waffle batter: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the water and yeast. Whisk in the butter, milk, salt and sugar. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour until a rough dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2. In the morning, preheat the waffle maker. Stir the egg and baking soda into the dough until well incorporated. Cook the waffles according to your waffle maker’s instructions, greasing the grids with nonstick cooking spray if your iron isn’t of the nonstick variety, until golden brown.
3. Roast the strawberries: While the waffle maker is heating, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small baking dish, toss the berries with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Roast the strawberries until they are soft and their juices are bubbling, about 10 minutes.
4. Arrange the cooked waffles on plates. Top with yogurt and then some strawberries and their juices. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings