apple cider waffles with bourbon cinnamon apples

There's an orchard not far from where I grew up in Cincinnati. I think it took us about 20-25 minutes to get there. Every fall, we would load into the car and drive over to pick apples and buy cider and apple butter. They had established their own apple crosses which were absolutely delicious, and you could only find at this specific orchard.

At first, my whole family would go. My older sisters and my dad would join in and we would go apple picking- sometimes we went blueberry picking at this farm as well. Eventually, as life moved forward, my sisters left for college, and it usually ended up being my mom and I, heading out to the orchard.

I would beg her to take me, to go with me to get the cider and the apples. There was no comparable cider anywhere else, and I've never had any since. In the last few years, the orchard stopped producing- they didn't sell it, they just decided to close their business. I'm sure all those apples are going somewhere but they aren't available to the public anymore. To describe my disappointment when I found out they had closed is like describing a nostalgia for something that never actually existed.

Mom would always make mulled cider for me, either with breakfast before school or after dinner- I think the reason I love these waffles so much is they have a similar flavor profile. Subtle nutmeg and cinnamon with the richness of the apples, topped with a buttery cider syrup and bourbon-laced cinnamon apples. If you're looking for fall in a mouthful, this is pretty close.

You could of course omit the bourbon, and I would recommend doing so unless you have a top shelf bourbon in your pantry. I usually have some Blanton's on hand- I use it more for cooking, than for drinking, to be honest- but the last time we went to the liquor store, they were *gasp* out of Blanton's so I bought the Knob Creek Smoked Maple bourbon. It's very good, but it doesn't hold a candle to my favorite. The goal in adding the bourbon is just additional depth of flavor, so if you use a cheap liquor that doesn't stand well on it's own, it will be too harsh and sharp.

I have a few secrets to tell you about these waffles. 1. You can make the batter the night before. You could even make the WAFFLES the night before and freeze them. 2. You can make the syrup up to three days ahead. 3. You can make the sauteed apples the night before and just throw 'em in the skillet to reheat before serving. 

So what? So this is a bit of a complicated breakfast- you could absolutely impress guests by having everything done the night before, warming each pre-made plate in the oven, and actually sitting down to eat your waffles with them. Truth. They'll think you're a breakfast goddess. I would know, because those words have actually been used in the past to describe these waffles.

There's a few more secrets, but this is already a big block of text, so I'll share them in the photo section. There will be a quiz later.

Ready? Here's how it's done:

First, make the sauteed apples. Peel three apples (I only used one, as this was just for boyfriend and I, and if I ate these every day, I think I couldn't make it to my workouts in the morning due to butter consumption) and dice them up into fairly small bites, I cut the apple away from the core in four pieces, then cut the pieces into slices, then cut the slices into little rectangles.

Once you've got everybody all chopped up, toss 'em in a skillet. For each apple you use, you'll want to add 1 T sugar and 1/2 t cinnamon. 

Stir them up with the sugar and cinnamon, then cook them over medium heat for about ten minutes. Once they have softened slightly and started to brown, add the bourbon. I would never use more than 2 teaspoons, no matter how many apples you use.

Stir and cook them about a minute more, then set aside (off the heat) and work on the cider syrup.

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a small-medium saucepan.

Whisk them together really well, to prevent any lumps of cornstarch when you add the cider.

Pour the cider into the well combined mixture, then whisk it again until everything is smooth. Turn on the heat to medium and cook for about ten minutes, until the sauce boils and starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set aside, covered. Try not to eat it all with a spoon. It will be tempting. I believe in you.

Okay! Now it's waffle time! Here we go.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. This includes cornstarch and freshly grated nutmeg. The cornstarch is the secret to really crisp, light waffles. The freshly grated nutmeg is intensely spicy and pungent, a whole different spice than the ground nutmeg you get in the store. If all you have it ground nutmeg, that's okay. Only use 1 teaspoon.

Once you've gotten the dry ingredients all whisked together, set aside. Separate the eggs. This is the other secret: fluffy waffles come from beaten egg whites. It's an extra step, but I promise it's worth it. You can skip this step, but your waffles will be heavier.

Beat the whites to soft peaks. If they are too stiff, they won't be able to fold into the batter. 

Add the cider, oil, and egg yolks to the dry mixture.

Whisk everything together very well. A good indicator of how fresh your baking soda is- how bubbly is your batter? It should be pretty bubbly.

Now, gently plop half of the beaten egg whites on top of your batter. Fold from underneath with a spatula, lifting gently up and over the whites, until they're mostly incorporated. Whisking at this point is completely counter productive.

It's okay if there are small lumps of egg white in your batter.

Make sure your waffle maker is heated and very well greased, then cook according to your manufacturer's instructions. 

Top your waffles with the sautéed apples and the apple cider syrup, finishing with a big ol' pat of butter. Love. Here's the recipes: