Most people seek out symbolic or iconic knickknacks to commemorate their travels, but as one might expect, I’m not like most people. Rather, I go out in search of memorable edibles. A trip to the farmer’s market just a few blocks down the street, glowing from a bright but brittle winter sunlight, still has a shocking array of exotic, ripe, gorgeous produce, the likes of which can’t even be found in mainstream markets at home. For the first time in my life, I understood the hype around persimmons, which I wouldn’t have even bothered with if not for the generous samples offered by smiling vendors. Clearly, they know what the good stuff is, so you should take and eat whatever odd fruit they hand you.
Blisteringly hot chestnuts, cracked open with thinly gloved hands in nighttime Christmas markets are likewise an uncommonly good treat. Standing around with locals drinking gluhwein and laughing freely, tossing shells into the combination trashcans/tables, you can’t help but feel a bit of holiday cheer. Even that misshapen glass, filled with mint tea that’s approximately half sugar by weight, provides comfort when said gloves prove too thin to lock out the sub-freezing temperatures. Add in some willing and patient cohorts for company, and those will forever be some of my favorite moments in Germany.
That’s not to say that all of my souvenirs are of the intangible sort. Far from it- This compulsive impulse-shopper was in vegan heaven upon visiting the nearby bio (organic) market, immaculate but well-stocked with exotic natural treats. A poorly packed jar of shiitake streich just barely missed the plane, sadly being tossed after discovery, but less liquid goods like two carefully covered packs of stroopwafles made it through. A treat first introduced to me in the Netherlands over a year ago, it’s not a native German delicacy, but they have a damn good selection of accidentally vegan options. Packages that reassure “ohne milch” and “ohne ei” (without milk, without eggs) are a good place to start, but also be on the lookout for “honig” (honey) which is a common flavoring.
Still, questionably smuggled, accidentally vegan snack packs of 6 wafels only last so long around me, and I didn’t wait long before scheming up how to fill the void when all that remains are those empty wrappers.
Made on a pizzelle maker, the biggest road block in this recipe is simply acquiring the proper equipment. After that, the cookie batter is just a pour-and-stir affair, ready to turn into crisp wafels with just a minute or two on the hot iron. The very same recipe could just as easily be used to make ice cream cones, too; immediately roll up the hot but still pliable wafers around a cone-shaped form, and let cool to a firm, crunchy consistency.
It’s all about the stroop, or syrup, for the finished cookie sandwich, though. A chewy, sticky filling of buttery caramel is what glues the whole treat together, and makes it so utterly irresistible. Once cool, it will set up into a soft but still malleable texture, creating an addictive contrast between easily shattering cookie exterior and toothsome, sweet interior. One bite, and you’ll understand why it’s worthwhile to smuggle them across borders should you ever come across those illustrious vegan versions.
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Whole Flax Seeds, Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch Ground Cinnamon
6 Tablespoons Margarine, Melted
2/3 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
3 Tablespoons Golden Syrup or Maple Syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Begin heating you your pizzelle maker first, because the batter comes together very fast. Set out a wire rack to accommodate the finished wafers while you’re at it.
Sift together the flour, sugar, ground flax, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl, whisking lightly to combine. Mix the margarine, water, and vanilla briefly in a second container before pouring into the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to bring the batter together without any lumps.
Very lightly grease each side of the pizzelle iron. I like to use a small cookie scoop to ensure even sizes of all of my wafer cookies, but you can also just measure out about 2 – 3 teaspoons of batter per wafel. Try placing it slightly off-center on the iron, just above the middle, because the action of smushing the top iron down tends to spread it outwards. After securing the lid (usually there’s a latch, which I recommend employing for the thinnest, most even wafers) bake for about 30 – 60 seconds, until golden brown. Quickly pry the cookies loose with a thin metal spatula and transfer to your wire rack. Though floppy at first, they will continue to crisp up as they cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Once you have all of the cookies ready and waiting, you can move on to the filling. In a saucepan, stir together and boil the brown sugar, margarine, syrup, and cinnamon, until them mixture reaches the soft ball stage (234-240 degrees.) Immediately remove from the heat and waste no time in filling your wafers.
To assemble, spread 1 – 2 teaspoons of the warm caramel syrup over one of the crisp wafer cookies, and top with a second. Be somewhat sparing, as a little bit covers much more than you’d expect, and it tends to squish out the sides if you over-fill. Let cool completely before enjoying.
Makes Approximately 20 – 24 Wafers; 10 – 12 Finished Stroopwafels