In Praise of Surface Area

That last post left my own personal, internal peanut gallery asking: why should I care about crispy waffle crusts? There’s more to a waffle than it’s exterior, isn’t there?

Actually no, there isn’t. Because a waffle is pretty much all surface. And God bless it for being so, for surfaces are where most of any cooked food’s flavor resides. Think about the crust of a good loaf of bread, or the delicious browned exterior of a steak. Both are a result of caramelization and/or Maillard reactions: heat-induced molecular demolition events that yield scores, even hundreds, of savory, caramelly, tangy, fruity, sweet, nutty, even floral flavor notes. Mouth watering browned surfaces are the reason we fight our own mothers for roast turkey skin and the cooked-on corners of cheesy casseroles. Well anyway I do.

Crusts are the reason cooks have sought to maximize the the ratio of delicious food exteriors to their comparatively bland interiors since the days of the campfire and the mastodon. The waffle may well be the ultimate realization of the all-surface cooked food dream.

How so? Well, think about what a waffle iron looks like. It could be flat on the inside like a tortilla press (only, you know, hot), but it isn’t. It’s got big, deep indentations in it, indentations that look suspiciously similar to these visual aides designed to show how surface areas increase as particles are segmented (a wonderfully handy thing, google image search). And while a waffle isn’t a cube, some of those big Belgian jobs certainly come close.

So you see, the serious cook simply must get exercised about the outside of a waffle, because a waffle is, almost totally, an oustide. Oh for the day I could taste a pastry that was entirely an outside. Hmm. Do you think Stephen Hawking bakes?

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