There have been trains. Dozens of them. Overnight trains, long day trains, and underground trains that merely carry me across the city so I can get a cup of good coffee and a big ass salad. Trains with views of the most scenic countrysides, seats that needed recovered yesterday, and people who read literature (!!!) instead of people who stare blankly into their smartphones. These trains are keeping me sane, allowing me to relax and catch a breath of fresh air despite the fact that train air is thick and filled with exhales and perspiration from strangers I’ll never know.
To be honest, the underground trains I could do without. They tend to be overcrowded and stuffy, and after two elbows to the ribcage you start to think that maybe walking three miles across London doesn’t sound so bad, after all. But it’s the long trains that get me excited. The ones that transport my body from one country to another – places I never thought I’d have the opportunity to explore – and leave me there with no choice but to venture out into the world. For once in my life, I am undeterred by my clammy hands and skepticism surrounding whether or not people actually listen when I say Ich kann nicht essen milchprodukte!
We finally arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon, after spending two days in Belgium. In those two short days we visited eight chocolate shops, and I’m regretting my decision to not bring a pair of pants with a little extra wiggle room. Thom found no shortage of beer or Belgian waffles, but his pants fit just fine. Speaking of that handsome man, I am in love with him like never before. I wake up to his sleepy smile each morning and thank the winds for the unfortunate circumstances that led us to one another almost six years ago. Without him, my life would be filled with a lot less adventure. Without him, I would probably still be searching for happiness in material things and bottles of 99 bananas. He saved me. And sometimes I like to think that maybe I saved him, too. It feels good to be back in Paris together, encompassed by a love much more massive than the one we knew the last time we were here – a love more worn in and comfortable, like your favorite knit sweater.
Notes: If you’d prefer to not go the whole banana route, you can substitute applesauce or coconut yogurt. Or just leave it out and add three additional tablespoons of almond milk. I made the waffles sans banana mash and the consistency was pretty much the same. These waffles are meant to be enjoyed as dessert, not breakfast. If you would like to eat them as breakfast, I recommend omitting the sugar pearls because they make for a very sweet waffle. Yeast likes warmth (so does liquid coconut oil) so do NOT use milk straight from the fridge or you’ll run the risk of deactivating the yeast and/or hardening the coconut oil. If you can’t find pearl sugar, you can use coarsely chopped sugar cubes – although I highly recommend trying to get your hands on some Belgian pearl sugar
BANANA AND PEARL SUGAR BELGIAN WAFFLES
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, between 105-108˚F
2 cups white spelt flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 tbsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup finely mashed banana
1/2 cup almond milk, warmed
1 cup Belgian pearl sugar
Chocolate hazelnut sauce
3 oz good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp brown rice syrup
1-2 tbsp hazelnut liqueur
In a small bowl, stir together the water and yeast; sprinkle with a small pinch of sugar and set aside for 10-15 minutes, until foamy. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. When the yeast has proofed, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture, oil, vanilla extract, mashed banana, and almond milk. Whisk until combined then stir in the pearl sugar, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for two hours. Once it’s chilled, you can either cook the batter immideately or refrigerate it overnight for a more fermented flavor. Waffle batter can be stored in the fridge for up to two days.
To make the chocolate hazelnut sauce, melt the chocolate in a double boiler set over medium-high heat. Once melted, stir in the brown rice syrup and hazelnut liqueur (2 tablespoons for a stronger flavor). Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep for up to two weeks.
When you’re ready to cook the waffles, preheat a Belgian waffle iron and spray it with oil. Stir the batter (it shoud be more like dough at this point) and spoon 1/4 heaping cup of batter onto each sections of the iron and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. To keep waffles warm, place them on a baking sheet in a 200˚F oven.
Yield: 8-10 waffles