A year ago, I bought an 18th century wafer Iron. It was a bit on the rusty, gooey side and needed a good cleaning and seasoning. The plans to get it in working order unfortunately fell by the wayside. However, it is now clean and has been seasoned by Allan, so it is time to try it out.
I looked at several receipts for wafers and came up with three different ones. I thought I’d start with the oldest and work forward in time to see how the different receipts compared. The first receipt was copied from a choice manuscript of Sir Theodore Mayerne, written in 1658, and includes “rare forms of sugar-works: according to the French mode, and English manner.”
The receipt follows.
Take Rose-water or other water, the whites of two eggs and beat them and your water, then put in flour, and make them thick as you would do butter for fritters, then season them with salt, and put in so much sugar as will make them sweet, and so cast them upon your irons being hot, and roule them up upon a little pin of wood; if they cleave to your irons, put in more sugar to your butter, for that will make them turn.
Being that this was a test of the newly seasoned iron I made a very small batch and I added orange flower water instead of rose water, a personal preference and not a huge change to the receipt. I put in enough flour so the batter was similar to a fritter batter mentioned in the receipt.
I put a trivet near the fire and shoveled hot coals under it. I rubbed the inside of the wafer iron with oil and placed it on the trivet to heat up. I waited about five minutes turning it twice.
Making wafers is a two-man job, so as Allan held the wafer iron open while I poured a spoonful of the batter in. Allan clamped down on the iron and put it on the trivet. Two things happened. I had put a bit too much batter in so it ran out the sides, and once the iron handles were let go, they instantly opened a bit. I grabbed a pot holder and clamped down hard.
Now as I sat on a stool before the fire warming myself to a point of doneness, I remembered that the handle should have a little fastener on the end to keep it shut. Well I’ll have to get Allan to make one for the end so I won’t have to sit there roasting.
So I sat by the fireplace turning the wafer iron over and over so both sides would get cooked. After three minutes I took the iron off the fire and put it on the plate for Allan to remove the wafer. He needed to scrape off the overflow first then I opened the iron and the wafer came off nicely. I took a tin cone and wrapped the wafer around it and we started the process all over again.
This time I did not put as much batter in for the second one. I also let it sit over the coals longer. The first one would not crisp up and stay curled around the tin form. We timed the second one to five minutes, which meant I had to sit there longer. Allan did run off and grab a large poster board and tried to shield me from the hearth fire; however, his hands began to get hot as the board warmed up and he bailed. But the five minutes seemed to be the magic number and the second wafer was great.
I went to put the last of the batter on the heated iron and found that it had gotten very thick so I added a bit of orange flower water to thin it out. It made a perfect wafer and baked over the fire for the allotted five minutes and came off the iron and rolled on the tin cone just as it should. Now I had to leave the room, and headed to the glassed-in porch to cool myself down. I gazed at the stars and saw the big dipper in the sky pouring its batter of star dust out among the universe, a lovely cold night. My red face began to return to a normal color.
Back in the house, I considered my experience of making wafers. The batter had made four wafers. The first one was not cooked and the others were fine. Each wafer had a bit of dark iron on them from the seasoning process. I think after the iron makes a few more wafers that will disappear. And no one would want to sit by the fire and hold a wafer iron for five minutes. An alteration to the wafer iron handle is a must.
Now the first wafer that was soft, so I went to set on the trivet to see if it would dry out and I dropped it in the fire. Allan and I tasted the second one. It was good; perhaps a bit too much sugar for our taste, however, it had a nice crunch. Allan said it would be much better filled with cream. Me, I’d dip it in dark chocolate.
So the first receipt gets thumbs up and so does the seasoning of the wafer iron. Stay tuned as I will again use the wafer iron with a receipt from Charles Carter’s cookery book, 1730, a very different batter than this.
“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”
Vincent van Gogh
If my neighbors were looking at me on the porch they might have seen steam rising from my head.