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Michigan Grids

Michigan Grids
Dried cherries from Michigan, now available in supermarkets and specialty stores across the country, are fast becoming a favored ingredient in both sweet and savory preparations. The fruit is great with chicken and game, a good addition to almost anything made with chocolate, an ideal foil for rich custards, and marvelous in these lightly orange-scented waffles. The batter has a little oatmeal and cottage cheese in it—just enough to give it a nice "chew"—and a subtle blend of vanilla, almond and orange extracts plus orange zest—unusual combinations that give the waffles layers of flavor and an irresistibly alluring aroma. While these waffles are easy enough to be made often, they're special enough to serve to company.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup packed plump, moist dried cherries
  • Two 3-by-1-inch strips orange zest (white
      pith removed), finely diced or chopped
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp. orange extract
  • Melted butter and maple syrup for serving

Directions:

If the cherries are not moist and plump, place them in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let the cherries steep for a minute, then drain, turn out onto a paper towel and pat dry. Mix them with the orange zest and set aside.

Preheat a waffle iron. If you want to hold the waffles until serving time, preheat an oven to 200°F.

Melt the butter; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, cinnamon and sugar. In a large bowl, beat together the cottage cheese and egg until well blended. Don't worry if the batter is lumpy or some curds of cottage cheese remain; it will be fine when it bakes. Gradually add the milk while continuing to beat. Beat in the vanilla, almond and orange extracts. Pour the dry ingredients over the cottage cheese mixture and, using a rubber spatula, stir to combine. Fold in the cherries and zest, and then the melted butter.

Lightly butter or spray the grids of the waffle iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out a generous 1/2 cup of batter (or a little more than the manufacturer's instructions suggest) onto the hot iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to spread the batter evenly over the grids. Close the lid and bake until pale golden and set. Serve the waffles immediately or keep them, in a single layer, on a rack in the preheated oven while you make the rest.

Serving: These waffles can be served on warm plates with nothing more than a little melted butter and pure maple syrup poured over them. They're also delicious paired with orange marmalade or cherry conserve, cottage cheese, yogurt or some smoked meats—wonderful combinations with the sweet-tart cherries.
Makes about four 6 1/2-inch round waffles.
Adapted from Waffles from Morning to Midnight, by Dorie Greenspan (Weldon Owen, 2001).