The current up surge of interest In waffles and waffle making machines belies the fact that people have been making waffles for over seven hundred years. In fact, some people claim that the technique originated with the Ancient Greeks.
Originally known as a waffle iron, a waffle maker basically consists of two metal plates hinged at one end, with a handle at the other which would enable the closed plates to be put on or in a heat source. Within the plates would be placed the ingredients for cooking. The first versions of waffle irons appeared in about 1350 in and around Germany in Western Europe. The cast iron plates used had decorative patterns worked into their inner surfaces which then became imprinted on the surface of the finished waffle. Indeed, some of these old plates have been found with the criss-cross pattern we know today. The heat source would have been an open fire or brazier.
In the early 1600's waffles were introduced in to North America with the arrival of Dutch Pilgrims. Interest was further reinforced later by Thomas Jefferson who brought his own waffle iron back from France and introduced waffles to American society.
The first American patent for a waffle iron was issued in New York to Cornelius Swarthout in the year 1869 and was designed to sit on top of a wood or gas fired stove. It therefore had to be manually turned during baking to ensure both sides received equal heat.
It wasn't until the early 1900's the first electric prototype was developed and in 1911 the General Electric Company announced the first electric waffle iron for public sale. Within the next twenty years interest had grown enough to make the electric waffle iron a standard kitchen appliance in any reasonably well-off household.
By the 1950's with the rise of supermarkets and oven-ready packaged food becoming generally available, it was possible to buy frozen waffles, thus making them available even if you didn't have a waffle maker.
The spread of waffles in the United States was mirrored in Europe, although the traditional European version was thicker with a more fluffy texture under the crispy skin. So it was that the Belgian waffle was introduced by way of the 1964 World Fair in New York and immediately became popular alongside the classic American waffle. The following video illustrates very well the features of a modern Belgian waffle maker:
All today's electric waffle makers are designed with modern monitoring and control features for oven temperature, baking time, 'ready' and 'complete' indicators and even digital displays that monitor status throughout the baking process. Even the housewife is not forgotten, with the use of non-stick plates and stainless steel cases to ensure ease of cleaning after use.
So next time you enjoy a breakfast waffle or two, just think and be grateful for how far the waffle maker has come in those seven hundred years.
For further information on modern waffle maker machines visit this link.