I was watching Masterchef Australia this morning, and I saw the four contestants given a challenge to cook something they were referring to as a Jaffle. It looked like a bread pakora to me, but on closer look at the process, it looked more like a toasted sandwich. I had never heard of Jaffles before today morning, I couldn’t contain my curiosity anymore and I had to look it up.
I found a post by Susanna Birch on Hubpages, where she says that the Jaffle is a toasted sandwich traditionally made in a jaffle iron. The jaffle iron is a type of closed metal skillet. A fresh sandwich is buttered on the outside and enclosed in the jaffle iron, and then the jaffle iron is placed either on top of the stove or in a campfire. The resulting sandwich is sealed around the edges and the sandwich ingredients are deliciously cooked and melted.
Jaffle is traditionally an Australian term. It is also referred to as toasted sandwich, toastie, hot sandwich, Panini and many other names across the world.
Meandmybigmouth says, the jaffle iron seems to have been introduced to Australia in 1949 and was a coveted household item in the early 1950s. The original Jaffle brand jaffle iron was manufactured by the L.G. Hawkins of the UK, who were also known for making pressure cookers. Oddly, the toasted sandwich produced by this device has never been called a jaffle in the UK, although the term is also used in South Africa. In the UK, they’re toasties.
The history of the jaffle iron begins with wafer irons in medieval times. These were used to produce flat, unleavened cakes and consisted of two metal plates with wooden handles. The plates were connected by a hinge and the cakes were cooked over a fire, flipped to cook both sides. The Belgian waffle iron was a direct descendent of this device. The original jaffle iron was likely inspired by the waffle iron.
The origins of the jaffle name are obscure. “Jaffling” was a word used in East Anglia. It meant the same as the more common “jiffling”, which meant fidgeting or shuffling. But perhaps the jaffle name has nothing to do with that at all, and was simply a made-up brand name that sounded a bit like waffle.
When it was first advertised in 1949, the device was described as a “pressure toaster”, perhaps to trade off the idea of the pressure cooker. Its advantage was that the edges of the bread were pressed together to contain the hot filling. The jaffle iron was embraced with some fervour. There were even cookery demonstrations showing how to use it and the device cropped up frequently as a desirable prize at shows, social events and the odd charity “do”. Sadly, it could also become a weapon. An Illawara Daily Mercury headline in December 1953 screamed ‘Wife hit husband with “Jaffle Iron”; fined £3’.
Jaffles were touted as “the latest cookery creation for all the family to enjoy”. They were considered trendy enough for entertaining as well. In 1949, the Western Mail in Perth proclaimed:
Really useful for everyday cooking as well as parties is the Jaffle Iron which is very simple to use and produces a most appetising toast “pie.” All that you do is make a thick sandwich and, after clamping it shut in the iron, heat it over a flame. It may be used over any type of heat and we suggest that if you are having a barbecue it might be an idea to provide your guests with three or four bowls of appetising filling and let them make their own.
Before long, food manufacturers latched on to the craze. In 1950, grocers were advertising “Edgell Bologanaisse (sic) Mince Beef and Spaghetti – 1/11. A New Line for the Jaffle Iron.” The irons were available in single and double models and were obviously treasured. A wistful note in Mount Gambier’s Border Watch in 1950 offers a reward for a lost one.
Similar devices were available in America, perhaps as early as the 1920s. In the USA they are called pie irons, pudgy pie irons or “tonka toasters”. An electric version was patented in 1924 by Charles Champion of Illinois. He also invented a machine for making popcorn.
An electric sandwich maker was produced in Belgium in the early 1970s. For a short time the Australian company, Breville, distributed these but problems with supply led to the company developing its own toasted sandwich maker. The Breville Snack & Sandwich Maker became a huge success in Australia and in Britain, to the point where, in many places, a jaffle is actually called a “Breville”.
Jaffles can be sweet or savoury. Popular fillings are tinned or leftover pasta or sphagetti, tomatoes and cheese, tofu and tomato, apple and cinnamon, chocolate and raspberry, leftover mince from last night’s Bolognese, nutella and bananas with toasted almonds, piccalilli and chutney, etc. It is generally flowy, and oozing with liquid when cut and served.
So, a new thing learnt. A well-spent day then. Now waiting to try the original Australian Jaffle in reality.