Last things first…

I thought you were buying the batteries!

I thought you were buying the batteries!

The fall is a blessing to someone who writes a blog about food. After Labor Day, food-related holidays pop up, fast and furious, like wooden ducks at a carnival sharp shooter’s booth.

With Thanksgiving having just passed, we are at my unofficial halfway point of this shooting match, and the beginning of the holiday season. December always brings to mind George Jetson walking his dog Astro on the treadmill. There is so much to do, there are so many people to see, places to go, and yes, good food to eat, that by the time New Year’s Eve has ended we are like poor Mr. Jetson yelling, “Jane! Jane! Get me off this crazy thing!”

I love the holiday season, but I know my Kitchen Aid mixer will be marking off each December day on the calendar in anticipation of a well-earned January rest.

Even my usually sedate calendar is frothing with obligations. Among other things, I’m scheduled to bake cookies for a couple of parties (and, of course, for Santa,) and I have promised to bake a “Buche de Noel” (the holiday Yule log cake) for a Christmas party.

So why is it that my mind has already skipped ahead to Christmas morning breakfast? Does the anticipation of all the activity on my docket make me think I need to start off with a good breakfast?

Could be. But it makes me realize that every December volumes are written about holiday cookies, cocktail party finger foods, and jokes about how to prop open your garage door with Aunt Dottie’s fruitcake. Yet Christmas morn gets nary a word: are people merely grabbing fists-full of Cheerios and gulps of coffee between bouts of gift wrap decimation? I hope not, because breakfast is my favorite meal.

So in recognition of the fact that most people have other things beside breakfast on their minds in the early hours of December 25, I’m here to lobby on behalf of a proper holiday breakfast.

Even if you’ve spent Christmas Eve in a frenzy of gift wrapping and bicycle assembling I’m here to tell you that a special holiday breakfast is no sweat. If it is just the two of you then your motivation should be even more apparent: breakfast can be intoxicatingly romantic.

The concept is to use a bit of pre-planning and light advance work to make a home-made breakfast appear on the table with a fleet-footed magic that is not unlike Donner, Dasher, and Blitzen. Kids won’t notice, but your house full of adult guests will be suitably impressed, and perhaps even envious. They’ll wonder if you made a special deal with Santa to bring breakfast along with all the other sleigh-borne goodies.

When I think of a proper breakfast, my mind’s eye sees toasty waffles with a puffy interior, and a stack of fluffy pancakes to keep them company. But if there’s such a thing as a “mind’s nose” then that’s what Christmas morning breakfast should tickle: the smell of really good coffee brewing, maple syrup warming, and something good cooking. If you have any chance of getting the kids away from their new Wii (with the Water Sport Resort module—are you listening Santa?) and over to the breakfast table, this is it.

So (you ponder) what’s the problem here? Stock the freezer, and then Christmas morning fire up the toaster, you say? No sir (or ma’am): no frozen waffles for this blogging breakfast maven. The prepackaged mixes seem like the breakfast version of mystery meat to me, so I’ll pass on those as well. Who knows what some of that stuff is, and anyway, you often still have to use your own oil, eggs, and milk, so what’s the point?

The dirty little secret is that there’s no magic here. Simply make the pancake batter the night before. Are you worried that you’ll feel chained to the pancake griddle when you should be firing up that new digital HD Camcorder (hello? Santa?) to capture your loved ones laying waste to several tons of wrapping paper and ribbon? Don’t worry, because we’ll let your oven do all the work.

The waffles are only slightly more labor intensive, but for a good reason: these are yeast waffles. For my money, if you haven’t eaten yeast waffles you haven’t eaten waffles. Period. (It occurs to me that I may have crossed some kind of foodie line here. I mean, when you get snobby about waffles there’s no going back…but what can I say? They are airy, tangy, and crunchy. They’re really good.)

The pancake is based on the Dutch Baby or Dutch Skillet Pancake recipe that’s been around for years, which is a not too distant relative of popover or Yorkshire pudding batter. The recipe is very simple, and the result is actually somewhat lighter than regular pancakes. Here is where I’ve added the vanilla and cinnamon to scent the air and help you call everyone to the table.

Christmas Eve, when not a creature is stirring you can whisk together a very few basic ingredients, and stash them in the fridge. In the morning, pour the batter in a preheated skillet and then just pop it in a hot oven. Fifteen minutes later a puffy brown pancake appears, no elves required. Slice into wedges like you would a pizza, and it is ready for whatever you want to throw on top. Even though there are sautéed apples in the pancake my topping of choice is even more sautéed apples and a snowy dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Eggs? Fine. Bacon? Go for it.

The waffle batter is slightly more challenging in that the addition of yeast requires a bit of planning. But the good news is that the yeast-infused batter will also be sleeping in the refrigerator while Santa does his work. Christmas morning someone will need to be on waffle iron duty, but truth be told, cooking waffles in a waffle iron isn’t much harder than reheating frozen ones in a toaster: once they’re working you can walk away for a few minutes.

(Obviously both of these recipes are perfect year ‘round for any special breakfast, and the waffles are also incredible with fried chicken.)

Now that my furnace has been suitably stoked with a hearty breakfast—or the thought of one—I’m ready to plug in my happy little pre-lit tree (it spins!) and get moving on my holiday fun.

And Santa, if you’re reading this, I’ve been extra nice and I’m serious about that Wii.

Click here for my Dutch Apple Pancake recipe, and here for my Yeast Waffle recipe.

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