Why chefs and diners have fallen back in love with jaffles
Tapping into the collective nostalgia of diners around Australia, chefs are getting creative with their jaffle fillings, and are reaping the rewards.
“On a Sunday night, mum would be fed up cooking for us. I’m the youngest of four boys, so every Sunday we had to fend for ourselves. The old jaffle iron was used quite a lot.”
Tony Twitchett, executive chef at Melbourne’s Taxi Kitchen, certainly isn’t on his own. Jaffles are one of those dishes that almost everyone has fond memories of, and it’s this nostalgia that’s driving their renewed popularity on menus around the country.
After being tested as a pop-up in April, Taxi Riverside launched as a permanent venture in June, offering a far more casual, on-the-go concept than its older sibling, where by far the most popular items on the menu are the jaffles.
“I didn’t really go with the old, traditional flavours. We’ve got a candied pork jaffle; a smoked mussels and green chilli jaffle, which is really cool, but the slow cooked lamb with truffled pecorino is probably the best seller,” Twitchett told Hospitality.
“Don’t get me wrong, we still have the classic ham and cheese jaffle, but we’ve also got a jamon and manchego one.”
Taxi Riverside has both classic and creative jaffle flavours
Open for lunch and dinner, Taxi Riverside pumps out about 80 jaffles a day, with the most expensive costing just $9.
“They’re easy to prepare, and simple to get out of the kitchen,” Twitchett said. “And if you don’t go crazy with the ingredients – if you’re not using truffled pecorino or anything like that – you can actually make a good profit.”
It’s just a matter of keeping your eye on the costs and ensuring your menu has a few easy money makers in the mix.
“We do the costs and we always make money out of them,” Twitchett added. “You have to have the winning ones in there, like the kids toastie and the ham and cheese. They keep you in front of the game when you look at the bigger picture.”
Daisy Milkbar's jaffle menu is all about reinterpreting classics
Co-owner of Daisy’s Milkbar in Sydney’s Petersham, Jessica Barnes agrees that while jaffles might seem like a no-brainer, a lot of thought needs to be put into what you’re charging.
“People are only willing to spend a certain amount. I choose ingredients knowing that I can keep the jaffle as a cheaper menu option. People don’t understand that it could have really expensive ingredients in it, they just think ‘Why would I pay more than this amount for a jaffle?’ So I never have one for more than $8. If we’re experimenting with a new jaffle and it looks like it’s going to be more than that, it’s not worth it. We just don’t do it,” she said.
Familiarity is key
Like Twitchett, Barnes puts jaffles’ growing popularity down to their familiarity.
“We put jaffles on the menu because we have an Australian milk bar theme, and they just fit in with the whole vision of the caf. But I have noticed – in the last couple of months especially – they’re popping up in a lot more places,” she said.
“I think it’s about nostalgia, for sure. They’re something that most people would have had growing up as a kid, and they’re just such a comforting, cosey snack.”
At Daisy’s, the jaffle menu toes the line between familiarity and creativity. While the more inventive fillings intrigue customers, the reason jaffles are experiencing such a resurgence is because people are craving flavours they’re well acquainted with, Barnes said.
You have to be very conscious of what you're charging for your jaffles, said Tony Twitchett.
“We try to do modern interpretations of family favourites. One of the classic fillings would be baked beans, so our one is a house-made baked beans with cheese and oregano. And then the other one that’s always on the menu is the mac ‘n’ cheese, pulled pork and barbecue sauce jaffle.
“We have a special jaffle as well. The one at the moment is a Hawaiian pizza jaffle, so it’s pineapple, ham, pizza sauce and cheese … We’ve also done a poutine jaffle, so it was cheese and chips with a gravy dipping sauce, and people loved that one.”
Rules for getting it right
As much as consumers are willing to try – and in some instances prefer – seeded breads or other alternatives like sourdough and rye, they just don’t lend themselves to the sort of jaffle we all know and love, said Stefan Blee, owner of Project 41 in Queensland’s Bowen Hills.
“You can obviously play around with different styles of bread, but we find just good old sliced white bread works better than anything. It gets nice and crisp on the outside and soaks up the butter well, and just complements whatever you’re putting in it because it’s not overtaking any of the flavours. It’s a nice blank canvas to work with.”
Nothing beats sliced white bread when making jaffles, said Project 41's Stefan Blee
The news is all bad for those following a gluten-free diet, however.
“I can’t for the life of me find a gluten-free bread that will stand up to a jaffle. We can do a toasted sandwich in a press, but jaffles just don’t work. It’s funny, we can send people to the moon, but we can’t come up with a replacement for gluten-free bread. Most of it is too small, and it’s too small because they can’t find a stretching agent that will hold the bread together like gluten,” Blee said. “And because it doesn’t have gluten in it, it’s usually made with a combination of rice flour, corn flour and flours that don’t really hold together so well, so the jaffle just tends to fall apart after you cook it.”
The only other thing to keep in mind when making jaffles, Blee said, is the filling’s consistency. Other than that, all bets are off.
“The jaffle is great because really, it’s limitless in regards to what you can do with it. You’re only limited by the consistency of the food you’re putting inside it. We’ve seen Dan Hong down at Ms G’s (in Sydney) putting a green curry chicken jaffle on his menu and it’s been one of the more popular bar items. I used to frequent a bar down in Melbourne that had a braised goat jaffle. You can go to town with them, as long as the consistency of the food is not too runny or too dry. Other than that, you’re not really limited by anything.”