1) Stir together the starter ingredients, and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
2) Combine the flour, Hi-maize, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
3) When the starter is ready, mix in the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
4) Add the dry ingredients, chocolate chips, and pearl sugar, mixing to combine.
5) Let the batter rest, covered, for 60 minutes. Preheat the waffle iron to the setting of your choice during the final few minutes of the batter's resting time.
6) Stir down the batter, then scoop a heaping 1/4 cup onto the hot waffle iron. Close the lid and cook until the waffle's done; irons vary, so we can't give a specific time here.
7) Transfer the finished waffle to a ready plate, and serve with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, if desired.
Yield: eight 7" to 8" round or heart-shaped waffles.