Photos: Wendy Goodfriend, Video: Vic Chin and Peter Ruocco
Light and airy cornmeal waffles served with a tangy and sweet apple cider syrup
It may come as a surprise to many people, but I never fully intended to open a breakfast restaurant. Brown Sugar Kitchen is the result of a happy accident. My search for a restaurant space in a bustling financial or residential district was coming to a dead end and then I stumbled upon this soon to be vacant diner space in the middle of nowhere…nowhere being one of the last industrial frontiers in the Bay Area. Because of the desolate environment, a dinner operation didn’t make sense. However, I knew that there was a captive audience of artists and small business owners occupying lofts and warehouses in the area. I had to feed them.
Having grown up with parents from the South, breakfast has always been an important meal in my book. I think the tradition began hundreds of years ago when my early rising enslaved ancestors ate heartily before a long, hard day of work. Despite our challenging beginnings in this country, I’m proud to be from a heritage of people who knew how to improvise and create something out of nothing. And I feel that’s what I’ve done at Brown Sugar Kitchen.
Before I opened the restaurant, I was experimenting with a recipe inspired by Marion Cunningham’s yeast risen waffle. I added some cornmeal and made it more savory than sweet. I thought it would be the perfect foil to fried chicken as well. Like cornbread, but without the density. I opened the restaurant with one waffle maker as I suspected that the demand for chicken and waffles was a trendy novelty that would soon pass. Well, you know how that turned out! The apple cider syrup nods to my paternal grandmother in Virginia who always served fried apples for breakfast as a side dish to eggs, sausage, potatoes and biscuits. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Recipe: Cornmeal Waffles With Apple Cider Syrup
Makes 8-10 waffles, depending on size of waffle iron
- 2 teaspoons dry yeast
- ¾ cup/180 ml warm water
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups/720ml whole milk
- 1 cup/140 g cornmeal
- 2 cups/255 g all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup/170 g unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil for the waffle iron
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ cups/360 ml apple cider syrup (see recipe below)
- In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In another large bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and granulated sugar. Add the yeast mixture to the eggs and milk, then whisk in the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the melted butter until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
- Before making waffles, remove waffle batter from the refrigerator and stir in baking soda. Preheat waffle iron and brush lightly with vegetable oil. Cook waffles, following manufacturer’s instructions, until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Cooked waffles may be kept in a warm oven in single layer on a wire rack over a baking sheet to stay crisp. Serve with Apple Cider Syrup (recipe below) and BSK Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
Recipe: Apple Cider Syrup
Makes about 1½ cups/360 ml
- 1½ cups/300 g firmly packed brown sugar
- 1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups/960 ml apple cider
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ cup/115 g unsalted butter
In a large pot, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, cider, cinnamon, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until reduced to 1½ cups/360 ml, about 45 minutes. Discard the cinnamon and keep warm over very low heat. Optional: Use immersion blender to emulsify syrup for smooth consistency. (To make ahead, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.)