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When cheese meets waffles, food craze ensues

Doritos reinvented as popovers are perhaps the strangest food mash-up posted over the past year to this blog.

Then along came chaffles, aka cheese waffles. If you’ve never heard the term, these apparently are beloved of both gluten-free eaters and ketogenic dieters. But the chaffle’s appeal goes far beyond restrictive eating regimens. Just go to Instagram, where there are 31,000 posts under #chaffle and another 17,000 under the plural hashtag.

When you step back from the social media melee and really consider the chaffle, however, it’s not all that strange. It resembles frico, a classic Italian snack of crisped cheese, basically just shredded Parmesan sprinkled on a hot cooking surface or clumped into little piles on a sheet pan and baked in a hot oven.

Because I love frico, I shelved my skepticism and purchased the single specialty ingredient needed to make chaffles. OK, make that two ingredients. I decided at my local grocer’s bulk section that I could spring for both almond flour and coconut flour to test which version I preferred in the following recipe. It was an investment of just a few dollars.

And because I didn’t have mozzarella on hand, I figured I’d test this recipe from the Chicago Tribune with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses. Both worked beautifully, and I got a spicy chaffle out of the deal by using pepper Jack. Also, I detected no discernable difference between the performance of almond flour and coconut flour, making this a question of personal preference.

Lacking a mini waffle maker (Dash is the brand referenced with the recipe), I simply used my standard waffle maker, which produced one chaffle from all the batter. If you want more than one chaffle, multiply the quantities listed here accordingly.

For anyone who thinks there’s no way a chaffle could constitute a healthy breakfast, it’s not as indulgent as one would think. I checked the fat content in this recipe against Betty Crocker’s “Big Red Cookbook” waffle recipe made with eggs, milk and vegetable oil. When adjusted for the difference in serving size, a chaffle has about 20 percent less fat than a Betty Crocker waffle. A chaffle also has about 100 fewer calories, about twice the protein and about 15 percent of a waffle’s carbohydrates.

Above all, chaffles are delicious! And they couldn’t be easier to make. Whereas measuring half a dozen ingredients to mix up waffle and pancake batter seems like too much hassle on busy mornings, chaffles are no more time-consuming than making cheesy scrambled eggs, just cooked in a waffle iron instead of a skillet.

The recipe also sounds like a fun canvas for my everything-bagel seasoning. Or nutritional yeast. Or tomato-cheese powder from the Doritos-Style Popovers recipe in this blog’s previous post. Or the powdered ranch dressing mix also suggested for the popovers.

If you need more serving suggestions — think mini pizzas or chicken and, ahem, chaffles — search #chaffle on Instagram.

Basic Chaffle Recipe

1 large egg

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, plus additional for sprinkling on the iron

1 tablespoon almond flour OR 1 teaspoon coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Heat a mini waffle maker. In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork until it is well blended (as for scrambled eggs). Stir in the cheese, almond or coconut flour and baking powder until well blended.

For extra crispness, scatter a little mozzarella over waffle iron’s bottom surface. Let it melt for a moment, then spread approximately half batter onto bottom surface. Top with a few sprinkles of extra mozzarella, if you like.

Close waffle iron and allow chaffle to bake until it stops steaming. Lift lid — if it offers any resistance, cook a few moments longer — and transfer finished chaffle to a paper-towel lined plate to cool.

Repeat with remaining batter, using mozzarella sprinkles before and after adding batter, if you like.

Makes 2 chaffles.

Tribune News Service photo