belgian waffles you'll dream about
We PoshGirls work hard to bring you the best, most authentic experiences from around the world. Of course, many of those experiences are of the culinary kind and the one we have to tell you about today is worth adding to your cultural culinary storehouse. Crunchy, chewy, caramel encrusted, absolutely addictive, the true Belgian waffle is reason enough to visit this enchanting country of some ten million people.
Like us, you may have heard the term "Belgian waffle" and may even have ordered one in a restaurant or cafe somewhere. But unless you've eaten a genuine Liège Belgian waffle, made with an authentic recipe, including certain made-in-Belgium ingredients, it's unlikely that you've tasted what we believe is, in our opinion, the best waffle in the world.
Belgian Pearl Sugar
Known in Belgium as "gaufres" Belgian waffles are recognizable to most for their deep pocketed thick size as compared to North American and other waffles. But there are even differences among the waffles made in different parts of Belgium. Each region seems to have developed its own recipe. Waffles first appeared in the 13th century, created by a blacksmith who was inspired by the shape of honeycombs made by bees. He produced an iron with the same pattern and through bakeries and vendors, the waffles grew in popularity as vendors were allowed to sell them at the exits of churches. Then, a couple from Brussels, Maurice Vermeresch and his wife, added yeast to the recipe and took them to the 1960s World's Fair held in Brussels. The new Belgian waffles were a hit and the Vermereshes opened up several restaurants specializing in waffles.
The Brussels waffle is the one that you may be most familiar with if you've had one in a cafe. It is based on a yeast batter as opposed to one using baking powder, as would be in a typical North American waffle (or pancake) batter. They are often made in squares, served dusted with powdered sugar or toppings and served primarily as a breakfast item.
The other main type of Belgian waffle, the one we're dreaming about even as we write this, is called the Liège waffle, named after the city of its invention. It's a little more free-form in shape but basically an oblong oval. It is made with a thick, yeast-risen batter and a special sugar called pearl sugar that is added to the batter just before cooking the waffle. This special sugar, which just as it sounds consists of tiny little polished sugar balls, melt when the batter is baking on the iron and give the waffle its distinctive caramelized crustiness, similar to what you might think of when you eat a crème brûlée. The waffle irons used to make these culinary works of art are also somewhat specialized, but for home cooks, you can emulate with your own deep waffle iron.
In Belgium, waffles are not typically a breakfast food. They are a snack food, often purchased from bakeries and street vendors who make them fresh while you wait. They are served plain or with butter or, most commonly seen, with a vast array of fruits, chocolate and whipped cream.
All kinds of good
Because we become obsessed with bringing home the tastes of our travels, we thought you'd enjoy this recipe for a Liège Belgian waffle that you can make at home. We've also listed some places for you to get the various items you may want to have on hand, if you decide to go the extra mile on authenticity.
Gaufres Liegeoises (Liège Pearl Sugar Waffles)
1 (1/4 ounce) package yeast
1/3 cup warm water (100 to 105 degrees F – too hot will kill the yeast)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 cup Belgian pearl sugar*
1. Combine the yeast, water, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
2. Place the flour in a separate large mixing bowl (if you have a stand mixer, you can use its bowl for this purpose) and make a well in the center of the flour.
3. After the yeast mixture has been allowed to develop, pour the yeast mixture into the well in the flower and combine ingredients until all are well-blended on medium speed (if using a stand mixer, the paddle attachment is good for this purpose).
4. Add the eggs one at a time and combine after each addition.
5. Add the melted butter in several small amounts and mix after each addition.
6. Add the vanilla and blend.
7. Add cinnamon, if desired and blend. Be sure to mix the batter well after each addition.
Please note: The batter will be thick and very sticky. It is not at all like pancake or waffle batter you are used to, but more like a thick sticky bun dough.
8. If using a stand mixer, remove the bowl from the mixer.
9. Let the dough rest until it doubles in volume inside the bowl.
10. Gently fold in the pearl sugar and let the dough rest for another 15 minutes. *If you get the pearl sugar, get the "Belgian" variety (there are others such as Swedish or Scandinavian, which are not suited to making these waffles. If you don't want to bother with the pearl sugar, you can take sugar cubes and crush them up to create an equivalent amount of "sugar bits" that can be substituted for the pearl sugar.
11. While the dough is resting, heat the waffle iron.
12. Spoon about a 3″ ball of dough into the center of the waffle iron. Don't worry about the size and shape. These waffles are dense and rather "rough around the edges."
13. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes on a medium-hot waffle iron until golden brown but still slightly soft. The time will depend upon your waffle iron and the heat level. Practice until you have found the time and heat level that works best for you.
Recipe makes 6-8 waffles.
Here are some favorite topping ideas that you can use to finish off your Belgian waffle masterpiece: Butter, sliced strawberries, sliced banana, blueberries, raspberries, Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread), ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or hot fudge, shredded coconut, crushed nuts, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream, or any combination of the above! If you'd like to get your hands on some authentic imported Belgian pearl sugar try this one from Get A Waff. If you want to go an easier route, you can purchase already made waffles or frozen waffle dough (shipped from November to end of March) from the Liège Waffle Factory. And, if you really want to go all in, you can check out Belgian waffle irons made by top brands such as HVD, Krampouz and AMPI. These are the ones used by the pros. Have fun and let us know what your favorite toppings are!