Australia is in the middle of a jaffle evolution and top chefs are leading the charge. Eateries such as Jaffle Bar (opening this month at The Glen, Glen Waverley, offering all the classics through to Philly cheese steak) and Jaffle Jaffle in Westfield, Geelong (hello, prosciutto, gruyere, asparagus and truffle oil) are seizing jaffles as a business opportunity.
Sydney-based Jafe Jaffles has the food-truck angle covered, while Jafflechute, a ''float-down eatery'' in Melbourne, asks customers to stand on an ''X'' at a mystery location, where they receive a prepaid jaffle via parachute.
Upmarket jaffles are also making cameo appearances in restaurants.
Joe Grbac - who used to pinch his mum's bolognese sauce from the stove to fill his jaffles - recently ran a spanner crab and bechamel version as a special at Collingwood's Thomas Olive, Saint Crispin's upstairs bar. ''(Chefs) create some pretty interesting and amazing things on plates where we work, but we go home and eat the absolute opposite,'' he says.
Dan Hunter, of Brae fame, attributes our love affair with jaffles to nostalgia. ''My memories of eating jaffles are of the good times, post high school, doing nothing, getting drunk, going to parties, and I think a little bit of that probably carries through … they appeal to the kid in us and there's nothing like that,'' he says.
Aussie chef and icon Peter Russell-Clarke is less sentimental. ''We're a pretty lazy nation and we're certainly lazy when we get into the kitchen,'' he says, ''So if we can do something that requires either no skill or time, we grab it.'' Paradoxically, Russell-Clarke's jaffles are anything but lazy. He's been known to replace the croutons in French onion soup with cheese and pork mince jaffles, and to serve jaffles filled with barely cooked tuna steak with a sauce made from equal parts cream and canned tuna.
Although you don't have to be a chef to cook the perfect jaffle, it certainly helps.
Earl Canteen co-owner and self-confessed sandwich nerd Jackie Middleton has a number of top tips jafflephiles can use at home: spread real mayonnaise (''not the supermarket stuff'') instead of butter on the outside of the bread for extra crunch; add more cheese so it doesn't disappear into the bread; leave lettuce out of it; and let your jaffle rest for a couple of minutes.
Middleton is excited by the revival. ''They're a nice way to eat a sandwich if you want something that's really affordable, and I think that's what jaffles offer,'' she says. ''It's un-Australian not to love your jaffles.''
Unbaffle the jaffle
Is a jaffle a toasted sandwich? Kind of, but not really. A jaffle can only be a jaffle if its edges are sealed, the bread forming a puffy pocket around the ingredients.
Happy campers will remember the original jaffle iron, a cumbersome cast-iron sandwich mould used around the campfire. In 1974, Breville introduced the first electric jaffle maker into home kitchens. Forty years later, more than six million people worldwide have a Breville jaffle maker, according to Breville's Sharon Lenzner.
Lenzer differentiates between a jaffle maker with ''scissor action'', which segments jaffles into triangles, and those that only seal the edges. The latter creates more room for ingredients and is preferred by overfillers such as chef John Lawson, from No. 8 By John Lawson at Crown. Growing up, Lawson loaded up his sandwich press with ''anything you'd have on a jacket potato''.
But Lenzer cautions jaffle lovers to be conservative with fillings, which heat up quickly. ''You don't want to burn your mouth, especially if you're feeding kids.''
10 of the best
1. Dr Morse
Order Dr Morse's smoked salmon and sauteed spinach jaffle ($8) or a classic with slow-roasted tomato and provolone from the hole-in-the-wall counter, then take a seat on Astroturf-covered milk crates.
274 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, 9416 1005.
2. Tuck Shop Take Away
Despite a common aversion to the word ''moist'', there's no better way to describe Tuck Shop Take Away's pulled pork jaffle ($7.50). Succulent meat pairs magically with melted bechamel and smoked cheddar. Finish with a small soft serve for $5.50.
273 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North, 0431 406 580.
3. Oscar Cooper
''Anything you can put on pizza, you can put in a jaffle,'' says Oscar Cooper's Paul Butera. That might explain their poached chicken, gruyere and chive signature, less so their must-try specials, like a mac 'n' cheese with hot sauce, all $8.50. They also cater for gluten-free food.
160 Greville Street, Prahran, 9529 5670.
4. Helter Skelter
There's a lot to like about Helter Skelter - a zine library with titles such as Macarons are not Macaroons, a pink vintage drink trolley with self-serve water, a blackboard wall for specials and kids' enjoyment, and the juicy housemade dhal, spinach and banana chutney jaffle, served on either white or grain bread with a side of yoghurt ($7).
206 Somerville Road, Kingsville, 0439 971 098.
5. T-Roy Browns
T-Roy Browns is a tiny cave of a cafe ideal for takeaway. Should you wish to sit in the corner and enjoy a sopressa salami, double-smoked ham, dijonnaise and mozzarella sourdough jaffle ($5), owner Troy Brown is always up for a yarn.
Vault 1, Banana Alley, Flinders Street, Melbourne, 0421 489 588.
6. Little Rose Cafe
Little Rose co-owner Steed Sherriff's Coolangatta childhood was the inspiration behind the cafe. Every morning the cleaner at his dad's pub would take him to a diner down the road for a jaffle and a milkshake. Pick something nostalgic from the specialty menu, or try the chilli beef with avocado and sour cream on the side ($11).
309 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, 9681 8550.
7. Cafe Vue at Heide
For something a little bit fancy, Cafe Vue at Heide offers a duck egg and bacon jaffle ($12.50) with a ramekin of mayonnaise and mustard foam for dipping - the perfect energy booster for exploring the stunning grounds and exhibitions.
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, 9852 2346.
Jaffle purists beware, Ruby's banana nut ''jaffle'' ($8) appears to be made with a sandwich press. But once the thick-cut chocolate chip brioche arrives drizzled with Nutella, layered with banana and soaking up excess syrup from a side of berries, any misunderstanding is instantly forgiven.
138 Nicholson Street, Coburg, 0499 731 059.
9. F.T. Tuckshop
At F.T. Tuckshop, the tiny cafe at Food Traders Catering Co, jaffles are pumped out of the industrial kitchen to in-the-know local workers. They start at $4.50, but for $5.50 you can get the addictive cheeseburger jaffle, which tastes just like a McDonald's cheeseburger. Brekkie jaffles, including eggs benedict and a vego number with the works, are $5-$6.50.
2 Charles Street, South Melbourne, 0497 660 246.
10. Grigons & Orr Corner Store
Resist the shelves of nostalgic candy behind the counter at Grigons & Orr Corner Store and build your own jaffle. The base will set you back $6.50 and fillings are $1 or $2. For $9.50, you can't beat a classic: tinned Heinz spaghetti and tasty cheese with house-made ''under the counter hot sauce''.
445 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 0487 608 489.
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