Jun 30, 2016
A waffle is a leavened batter or dough cooked between two patterned, hot metal plates. There are many variations based on the type of waffle iron and recipe used. Waffles are eaten throughout the world, particularly in Belgium, where each city has its own version.
The Belgian waffle made its first American appearance at a World’s Fair. At the 1964-65 World’s Fair hosted in Queens, Belgian native Maurice Vermersch and his family introduced hundreds of visitors to this tasty snack and the waffle’s popularity skyrocket.
Originally known as the Brussels waffle, named for the capital city from which it comes, the crisp-on-the-outside, airy-on-the-inside waffle was served two ways: plain or with freshly whipped cream and freshly sliced strawberries. The demand was so great that the family had to hire a team of 10 people just to slice strawberries, dozens to whip the cream, and more to cook the waffles on the 24 machines they had running.
The name isn’t the only thing that changed when this waffle moved to America. For one, it went from being a street snack food to a common breakfast option. These days, Belgian waffles here in the US are more like pancakes that have been cooked in a waffle iron.
One version of the waffle is known as the Liege waffle. It comes from the city of Liege and is similar to a yeast cake. Pearl sugar, which is large round sugar crystals, is mixed into the dough; when cooked on the iron, the pearls melt and caramelize forming big bites of crisp, browned sugar. It’s a denser, sweeter and chewier. These waffles are predominately sold on the street — everywhere and anywhere... outside of train stations, in grocery store parking lots, at fairs, and so on. They’re eaten with your hands and nothing else. Belgians prefer not to mask the sweet flavor and beloved texture of the waffle with toppings.
Liege type waffles are now available prepackaged in local groceries, but nothing beats the taste and texture of those you prepare from scratch!
Belgian Liege Waffles
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 sticks butter or margarine, melted (1 cup), plus more for brushing
1 cup Belgian pearl sugar
Whipped heavy cream or topping for serving
In a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar and yeast into the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the flour with the salt. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix at medium speed until it just comes together, about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 20 seconds between each. Whisk the vanilla with the 1 cup of melted butter. With the mixer at medium-low, gradually mix in the butter until smooth; the batter will be thick and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Stir the pearl sugar into the risen batter. Cover again and let rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 250°.
Preheat a waffle iron and brush it with melted butter. Gently stir the batter to deflate. Using about 2 tablespoons of batter for each, cook the waffles according to the manufacturer’s directions until they are golden and crisp; brush the waffle iron with melted butter as needed. Transfer the waffles to plates or keep them warm in the oven, then serve topped with whipped cream.