Li’l Sebastian-Shaped Waffles with Salted Dulce de Leche and Scotch Whipped Cream
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 20 minutes Resting Time: 1 hour Cook Time: 30 minutes
“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” If you are a fan of TV’s Parks and Recreation, as I am (or was, now that the series has concluded), you will recognize these words from Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope. Waffles are the food Leslie loves most in the world. If you haven’t been a regular viewer, you may find what follows a little complicated. In which case, you have my permission to skip straight to my excellent recipe.
This horse-shaped waffle is my parting love-meal for Parks and Recreation. I agree with Adam Scott’s character, Ben Wyatt; I also don’t get the big deal about Li’l Sebastian, the miniature horse that was the town mascot—but I definitely do get the big deal about Parks and Recreation. These are yeast waffles, but if you love your recipe for a baking powder-style waffle, go for it. I will miss you, Parks and Recreation. While I rewatch the last season of the show, I’ll be making these for my crew.
As to the decorations, you can get as crazy as you want in your personal homage. Add a dab of natural green food coloring to the icing and pipe some “grass” (maybe wheatgrass, for Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger) on the big waffle that serves as the base for my replica of the show’s favorite little horse. The Scotch in the whipped cream is for Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, perhaps the manliest man of Indiana man-dom. The dulce de leche is salted, a tribute to Leslie Knope’s salty-sweet invention, Sal-Gar, but if you prefer, serve it naked—it’s delicious all-sweet, (like products from the infamous Sweetums). This recipe makes enough to invite April and Andy to the table right from the start.
In decorating the plate, I left the dulce de leche intentionally a bit ruffled and fluffled to look less refined. Li’l Sebastian, the show’s miniature mascot, was a “magnificent beast,” after all.
5 cups (600 grams) cake flour
½ cup (102 grams) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (¼-ounce) packet active dry yeast (see Kitchen Tips)
1 cup warm water (about 100°F)
4 large eggs
2 cups lukewarm milk (about 100°F)
2 sticks (1cup/227 grams/16 tablespoons) salted cultured or European-style butter, melted
4 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salted Dulce de Leche:
1 teaspoon kosher salt (see Kitchen Tips)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, or more as necessary
Scotch Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons best-quality Scotch whiskey, Lagavulin preferred (see Kitchen Tips)
- Make the waffles: In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, 6 tablespoons of the brown sugar, and the salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a kneading hook attachment, combine the yeast, warm water, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and mix gently to blend. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble. Add the flour mixture, eggs, milk, butter, vanilla bean paste, and nutmeg (in that order, so the yeast isn’t touching the salt, eggs, or butter directly at first) and mix at low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 12 hours. (It will double in volume.)
- When you are ready to make the waffles, allow the batter to come to room temperature while you preheat the waffle iron. Scoop or spoon the batter into the waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat to make a total of 12 waffles.
- To serve as Li’l Sebastian waffles: Cut the center of 6 of the waffles with a horse-shaped cookie cutter. (You can use any cookie cutter shape; you are not limited to horses).
- Make the dulce de leche: In a small mixing bowl combine the dulce de leche and a little of the salt and whisk well to fully combine. Taste and adjust the salt to your liking.
- Make the icing: Combine the cream and ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and and stir well until fully combined, smooth and somewhat stiff; add more confectioner’s sugar as necessary (the humidity and age of the sugar will determine the amount). Scoop the icing mixture into a piping squeeze bottle or pastry bag fitted with a number 4 tip and set aside.
- With a small offset spatula, coat 1 horse-shaped waffle with dulce de leche. Decorate with the icing (making a mane, tail, eyes, and bridle and/or whatever other flourishes you like) and repeat with the remaining 5 horse-shaped waffles. Leave 6 waffles intact.
- Make the whipped cream: Pour the chilled cream into the chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or if you are using a handheld mixer or whisk, into a large bowl, and whisk until just fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and Scotch and whisk until the mixture holds soft peaks.
- To serve: Place 1 large waffle on a warm plate. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Lean the horse in the whipped cream. Repeat with the remaining horses and waffles and serve immediately.
- Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it and get it started eating and bubbling, but if the water is too warm (more than 110°F), you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.The water for your yeast mixture should be between 85° and 100°F.
- You can use a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste instead of the Scotch to avoid sending tipsy toddlers to preschool or anyone else just starting off to their day out into the world.
- If you want to make a more elegant small horse, triple the icing recipe and add food colorings to make it brown; use the waffle ridges as the edging, and use the icing and flooding technique described here. The flooding method creates a firm, uber-sweet waffle, but it creates a super-professional look.
- If you are tempted to use regular fine-grained salt, you’ll have to reduce the quantity, as the kosher salt has larger grains and will produce a less salty result.