Cheese can be a source of comfort, particularly if it’s gooey and melted, and eaten with some sort of carbohydrate-heavy delivery system. There are many ways to melt cheese, but none are as fun as waffling, and I think everyone could use a little fun (and comfort) right about now.
A waffle iron melts, but it also crisps, forming a frico-like outer layer or—in the case of brie and other similar cheeses—tempering the rind’s earthier, funkier flavours with a bit of browning. Also, it’s a kind of calming process: there’s a soothing sizzle, followed by a delightfully savoury aroma, and finally, a satisfying criss-cross pattern that whispers “you did it, champ, you accomplished something.” (I’m doing a great job socially distancing; I love it, actually.)
But not all cheese waffles well. I waffled nine (9) different cheeses and, as you would expect, low-moisture specimens did the best. Mozzarella, Oaxaca, and feta were all weepy, greasy disasters, but brie, paneer, halloumi, bread cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and cheese curds performed admirably.
For rind cheeses such as brie, it’s important to pick something that stays fairly firm at room temperature (so, not one of those French guys that weeps dramatically and completely loses his composure the moment you remove him from the fridge). It’s also helpful to chill the cheese beforehand, as you want to melt the brie while you brown the rind, but not melt it so completely that it spills all over the waffle iron. Waffled brie is similar to baked brie, except that waffled brie has convenient little waffled dimples for honey to pool in, which is a pretty major improvement.
Paneer, halloumi, and bread cheese are delightfully squeaky cheeses that keep it together for as long as you need them to, forming gorgeous crusts that are as dark as you desire without melting all over the place. This was expected, as they also do very well on a grill. These waffled cheeses are great in tacos.
Curds are a little different. At first you think they’re going to go the way of mozzarella, and grease out all over the place, and there is some initial grease. But then things settle down, and a crust forms on the outside of the melted, flattened curds, creating a chewier, stretchier sorta frico that’s kind of like a fried curd, only not breaded. It’s a very nice snack.
Parmesan makes a great coating for waffled mashed potatoes, but you can throw a few crumbly chunks straight into your waffle maker for a thicc piece of frico. The longer you waffle it, the crispier it will get, but it can be fun to live the centre sort of soft and stretchy.
For all of these cheeses, a medium heat works best. Just cut them into pieces or planks, set them inside the waffle maker, and waffle until they are melted and browned to your liking. It goes pretty fast—less than a minute in some cases, so keep an eye on it and don’t wander off. Once your cheese is waffled, eat it immediately. It’s best fresh, and you deserve the best right now.