Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was so enamoured with waffles that he had an iron shipped from France to Monticello so his guests could sample the Brussels and Liege versions he so enjoyed. While Belgium has been famous for waffles since the Middle Ages it's interesting to note there are no Belgian waffles made in this small country. The Belgian waffle is an American creation that was introduced at the 1964 World's Fair where it was called a "Bel Gem Waffle". The American version is actually patterned after the Brussels waffle but it's leavened with baking powder rather than yeast and beaten egg whites. Following the World's Fair waffles became a craze and the waffle iron proudly claimed a spot in most American kitchens. Do you remember the light, dense and delicious waffles of Sunday night? Chances are they were made with a baking mix and made it to the table with little effort and less forethought. Their Brussels and Liege counterparts aren't quite that easy. They both require yeast or a sponge and won't get to the table on a whim.
A true Liege waffle is made with chunks of sugar, which caramelize and form a crispy, crunchy coating. In Belgium, waffles are sold in waxed wrappers and eaten like a street food. They are usually not eaten for breakfast and are considered to be a snack or dessert food. Are they better than their American counterpart? That's for you to decide. I'm including recipes for Brussels and Liege waffles; I hope you'll try them when you have some time. Somethings beg to be tried before we die, put Liege waffles on your list.
Brussels Waffles - Gaufre de Bruxelles
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups warm milk, divided use
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
1/3 cup white sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1) In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm milk. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of reserved warm milk and melted butter.
3) Stir in yeast mixture, sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in remaining 2 1/2 cups milk alternately with flour, ending with the flour.
4) Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks; fold into batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
5) Preheat waffle iron. Brush with oil and spoon about 1/3 to 1/2 cup (or as recommended by manufacturer) inside edges of iron. Close lid and bake until steam no longer escapes from iron and waffle is golden brown. Serve immediately or keep warm in 200 degree oven. Yield: 8 waffles.
Liege Waffles - Gaufre de Liège
4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/3 cups warm milk
1-3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup pearl sugar (see Cook's Note)
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
1) In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the milk. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and sugar; set aside for 5 minutes or until foamy.
2) Sift remaining flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in center and add yeast mixture and egg. Stir well to make a smooth batter.
3) Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm place and let rise until doubled or tripled in bulk, about 2 hours.
1) Place butter, flour, vanilla, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, and pearl sugar into a bowl and work with back of a wooden spoon to form a paste.
2) Work butter mixture into sponge mixture until well combined. Cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
3) With floured hands, shape dough into 10 balls. Flatten one slightly and dust it with flour. (If dough seems too wet to handle, just pour batter directly onto the waffle iron.)
4) Heat a waffle iron until medium hot. Place a flattened ball in the middle of the iron; close top. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. If waffle iron is too hot, sugar will burn. Continue baking until all the waffles are done. Waffles may be kept warm in a 200 degree F. oven until ready to serve. Yield: 10 waffles.
Cook's Note: Pearl sugar, also called hail sugar because it is similar in size to hail stones, can be purchased in a well stocked super market. If unavailable you can make your own by crushing sugar cubes till they resemble hail stones or coarse salt.
I'm sending this recipe to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeast Spotting event.
This week's event is being hosted by Zorra.
Brussels, Belgium Information
Find out about the homeland of the Brussels Waffles. Travel guide to Brussels. Features information on hotels, apartments, sights and entertainment in Brussels.