Desperately Seeking Crispy Gluten-Free Waffles

Waffles. Belgian waffles. Crisp. Hot. With melted butter and warm maple syrup.

Sunday brunch is just one of the regular food happenings at my mother's house, and it's all about the waffles.

But going gluten-free meant waffle changes for me.

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Brunch is always happy chaos. My husband and I walk over from our house across the street after he returns from a pick-up basketball game he attends religiously. My son might roll in from his dorm at Arizona State University. My sister will be shepherding frenetic dogs. Vicky, the ceramic artist, might stroll over from her nearby house and studio. Billy, the high school teacher who lives next door, might drop in with his dogs, creating more barking and more shepherding. Also, any additional friends or relatives in a 10-mile radius might show up.

Over the years, Mom has served everything from French toast to eggs Benedict to huevos rancheros. But the favorite, and now the standard, is waffles, sometimes homemade, sometimes a mix "enhanced" with buckwheat, blueberry, chocolate chips or sourdough.

The waffles became such a ritual that one Christmas we gave her the top-of-the-line, industrial-strength Belgian waffle iron from Williams-Sonoma, which makes the waffles even taller and crisper with deeper holes for butter and syrup, or fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Crisp seems to be one of the things that's hardest to come by without gluten, and after I was diagnosed, I was plunged into waffle envy while the rest of the crowd soared on in their crispy nirvana. My sweet mother began preparing two bowls of waffle batter, one with gluten and one without. And because of the risk of cross-contamination, she bought a second, smaller, less-expensive waffle iron and set it next to the Williams-Sonoma behemoth on the counter.

Sadly, the waffles come out soft, more like pancakes with a grid squished into them. Don't get me wrong, they tasted good, and I like pancakes. But you can't call them waffles, and if it comes down to it, I prefer the crisp.

And so, I continued to seek a great gluten-free waffle.

Recently, I tried JP Pancakes in Scottsdale. They have several waffle options, and for an additional fee, they will make them with gluten-free batter. I chose a nutty version, and they tasted good, but there was no crunch. And with a side of bacon and a cup of coffee, the bill was nearly $16, which seemed kind of steep.

So I went by Williams-Sonoma and invested in a two-square All-Clad Belgian Waffle Makers, painful at $180. But hey, I figure that after the 11th waffle I'll be even. Back home, I stirred up a batch of Gluten Free Dreams Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix and plopped some into the beautiful silver machine. What came out was the crispiest, yummiest, most heavenly waffle I've had in two years. It's all about the heat, baby.

And next Sunday, my "junior" waffle iron will sit next to the big one on my mother's counter, and I'll be in nirvana with the rest of the guests.

But I don't always want to stay home. Let me know if you've found a good, crispy gluten-free waffle anywhere nearby.

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