Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What would Grandpa think?

When I was a kid, (and probably when my dad was a kid as well), my grandfather made these cookies at Christmas called "gallettes".  These are not what you might think, or you might find if you googled, but they were waffle cookies, similar to "pizelles" (without all of the anise).  They are also somewhat similar to Belgian waffles, but not as thick and cakey.  My grandfather used a gallette iron, which made one cookie, and spent the afternoon cooking them one at a time.  We didn't live near them, and weren't always with them on the holidays, so I remember getting a shoe-box full of these every year.  This was always a great time when the box of gallettes arrived.  They were wonderful cookies, and they were a small, but memorable thing for me with regards to the holiday.

When my grandmother, and soon after my grandfather died many years ago, so did this tradition, and the recipe.  Its unfortunate that I didnt talk to him more.  I was young when he passed, but I don't think I new him very well. The same goes for my grandparents on both my mom and dads side. I remember all of my grandparents, but really knew nothing about them.  I know my background is Polish and French, I know the town my one grandfather is from in France, and thats about it.  My folks dont talk about their parents much, and the one person who knows more about my family than anyone is my brothers soon to be ex-wife. There goes the knowledge base.

The gallette is one of those things that I have always wanted to replicate.  Taste and smell are wonderful memory aids. Its amazing how you can catch a whiff of something; fresh cut grass, a summer rain, baking, and be taken back years to a childhood, to be placed back in the very scene.  You can almost look around and see and smell everything around you in great detail. A simple scent can transport you in full HD back to a time you could not have recalled if you tried.  So for years that is what I have wanted to do. Create a time machine powered by the elusive gallette.

My father informed me that all he recalled was that the recipe had a lot of eggs and butter.  I knew it could not have been that complicated, but still I wanted some idea of the ingredient portions, so I could try to make these.  As luck would have it, a year ago my ex-wife discovered the gallette iron in the basement of her house, and returned it to me.  So last year I decided I was going to try and reawaken this tradition.  So last year, after much googling, and ingredient tweaking. I made a variation of the (clearly non-vegan ) following recipe:


  • 2 cups butter
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the gallette iron over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the flour, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Finally, stir in the vanilla.
  3. Drop batter by rounded teaspoons onto the heated iron, two at a time. Close the iron, and hold on the burner for 30 to 45 seconds, turn over and cook for an additional 30 to 45 seconds. Carefully remove cookies and cool on wire racks.

Simple right?  I think the iron is key, and of course all of the love.  You do have to make these one at a time, about 45 seconds on each side.  If that isn't love, I don't know what is.

I made numerous batches, and of course boxed them up and sent them out to my family.  The gallettes were a huge success. For the first time in years, we were all enjoying what is a rather simple confection, that we all identified the holidays with.

So 4 months after the holidays, with thoughts of gallettes safely tucked back in my memory, I went Vegan without a thought to how my life would be affected.  Over the last 9 months, I thought I met and dealt will all of these things as they came up.  This was until I pulled the iron out this past week and thought "oh crap, now what?".

My first reaction was to just say "screw it" (i used other words), and make them as I did last year, and just put up my blinders. I thought about that briefly. And I wondered if I could even explain Vegan to my grandparents, and what they might think? My grandparents were "meat and potatoes" folk, and I doubt  they would get "veganism".  There is no point in trying to figure that out.  I've no idea what Grandpa would think.

So what is important here? Making a cookie that tastes a lot like what my grandfather used to make?  Am I really conjuring up the spirit or essence of my grandfather by doing this?  If I alter this recipe, will he care?  Will anyone care?  I'm actually surprised at how I feel pulled in different directions over a very simple recipe, that we have all basically forgotten for almost 30 years.  I have decided that I'm not going to make this recipe in its original form.  I'm going to contemplate my family heritage, and in the meantime, I could use some advice on this recipe.  

The drama is to be continued,... as is the veganization of the gallette.


  1. I don't know... something that relies heavily on eggs may not taste the same, and that sounds like what you are after. There are many egg substitutes (replacer powder, flax, chia) and I'd be all over attempting this (I love to veganize recipes!).

    I'm looking forward to the To Be Continued... :D

  2. I love this post! My Italian Grandmother's meat sauce is the equivalent of your gallette. I have not had it in at least 30 years yet I still remember vividy the way it tastes and more importantly all of the family meals shared around her table in Brooklyn. My cousin has created a vegan mushroom version that I will be making soon. I think that it honors my Grandmother's memory and I think a vegan gallette honors your grandfather's too.

  3. There's GOT to be a way to veganize it! And I agree w/ Lee--to veganize it will totally honor his memory, whether he would have understood veganism or not. :)

    My grandmother passed in April--my aunt has her four thick binders full of recipes, and she's bringing them to me next week. I'm thrilled to veganize them--it feels like a project we're working on together.


  4. @spabettie i agree, with that many eggs, whatever i do will be a stretch, thats why i'm thinking of doing more than veganification, and making it more my own recipe. still contemplating. thanks

    @lee i'm looking forward to seeing the blog of that sauce, i'll honor her as well by making that sauce. thanks for you email as well :)

    @laura you are so lucky to be getting those, we have few records, and any recipes were in their heads. i'll try something... thanks!

  5. If waffles can be made vegan, so can these! Have you googled for a recipe? I wish you lots of luck. I think it still honors your grandfather. We can't keep all the traditions that harm others alive. For example I had relatives who were slave owners but I'm not keeping that tradition going! And my grandparents were racist and sexist and that is not being continued. We have to take what we love and leave the rest. Veganising the galettes is a way of modernizing the recipe so everyone can enjoy it.

  6. wow,... i could not have said it better. thanks @bitt, that is about as fine a summary as i could hope to make. awesome reply. thank you. i'm looking up waffles as we speak!