Guest Blog: Gregoire Michaud
At first, I was like you. I freaked out seeing the massive cast iron tool thinking how painful and gruesome it would have been to be punished with it. That was until my brother Sebastien opened the gigantic press to reveal a beautiful and very impressive iron carving dating no younger than 1759. Wow!
This must have been one of the earlier bricelet, or wafer irons that were ever introduced in our part of Switzerland. The actual iron was my sister-in-law family’s property for hundreds of years -253 years to be precise. By the abandoned look it had, I could tell the iron has been sitting in a corner for a very (very) long time; my best guess is since around 1910 when the first electrical wafer iron were manufactured.
When I saw it all rusty and dusty in my brother’s hand, my eyes widened and although I had no clue how to handle this super heavy piece of equipment, I couldn’t wait to give it a go. We tried some classic dough only to find out that we needed to adjust it a bit with some extra flour and eggs. The iron has a different pressure and heat level compared to the existing weak electrical machines. Once we nailed the recipe down, the fire was just right to start baking, or so we thought.
The iron takes a while to reach a constant heat due to its mass and at the beginning we had some white wafers and then some fairly black wafers! We all laughed out loud, but inside, we were seriously wondering if we would be able to bring back to life this 253 year-old tradition.
Finally, it all worked out and we started to feel how much work people had to put in, in order to produce just a few thin wafers back when this was a standard method of production. On that day we made about 50 wafers and we were exhausted. We enjoyed them with our coffee and some crème chantilly; I would have loved it on ice cream! It really felt like being in one of those classic time-travel movies where we started living out of our time – a great feeling.
The odd part was when we offered our friends some to try. They loved it, but when we tried to explain how much work went into the making, it seemed that, like most things these days, it was taken for granted that a simple wafer couldn’t be “that” difficult to produce. And yes, it’s sort of frustrating when people hear you but they are not listening.
The wafers tasted great; fresh eggs, farm butter, T45 flour, rock salt: we used the best ingredients possible and they were freshly baked – from that point on, nothing much can go wrong. Also, there was that slightly browned/burnt edge to them that came from the intense wood fire baking – I loved it. But perhaps what tasted best was the satisfaction for all of us to have successfully made delicious wafers in that truly antique piece of equipment.