Last year, my husband and I spent a week touring the country of Belgium with extended stops in Bruges, Brussels, and Antwerp. Some of our fondest memories are of the food - fine Belgian chocolates, paper cones full of fries and of course, waffles. I came home a full 5 pounds heavier!
Photo Credit: Liege Waffles
When it comes to waffles, no one does it better than the Belgians. Around every street corner, you'll smell the sweet aroma of waffles being cooked and people snacking on little waffles in wax paper. One day in Brussels, we just couldn't pass up this little street vendor who had a long line of patrons. Wow were we glad we took the time to get that sweet little waffle topped with fresh strawberries or strawberry jam and whipped cream. It was the best waffle we've ever had!
The chef in my husband decided that we could make these little treats at home - how hard could it be - right?? Well we tried recipe after recipe of Belgian waffles and none of them compared to the one we had that day in Brussels. Well after some luck and numerous attempts, we were finally able to replicate that little waffle and I'm sharing that recipe with you today.
I know that you'll love these waffles as much as we do - they truly are the best ever!!
We returned home craving Belgian waffles and not just any Belgian waffle mind you, we wanted to duplicate those yummy sweet caramelized waffles that we enjoyed so much in Brussels.
After trying numerous Belgian waffle recipes, we just couldn't seem to duplicate the sweet caramelized crust and dense texture that our waffle from Brussels had. Needless to say, we were getting quite frustrated and had pretty much given up. Then one day I was reading Midwest Living magazine and out of sheer luck, I discovered an article about Liege waffles and the mystery was unraveled.
Well it turns out that the sweet tasting waffles that I was so desperately trying to replicate weren't classic Belgian waffles at all... they were Liege (a city in Eastern Belgium) waffles. According to the visitbelgium.com website, "In Belgium there are two types of waffles (or gauffres as we like to call them): the Brussels and the Liege waffle. The Brussels is rectangular in shape with a golden-brown exterior, deep divots and is usually eaten with a knife and fork. Brussels waffles are served with a variety of toppings such as powdered sugar, whipped cream, a scoop of ice cream, strawberries and chocolate. The Liege waffle is golden-yellow, more dense in texture and has a burned sugar coating on the outside giving it a lightly sweet flavor. This hand-held waffle is sold by street vendors all over Belgium."
And so continued the quest to find the best waffle recipe only now we knew we were searching for a Liege waffle.
In the 18th century, one of the cooks for Prince Bishop of Liege invented the tasty Liege waffle.
We tried four or five different Liege waffle recipes making adjustments as we went to create a combination that yielded the desired color, taste, and texture. Enjoy!
Recipe makes 8 - 10 waffles.
It has been our experience that Belgian pearl sugar is difficult to find in the U.S. so we buy C&H sugar cubes (normally for coffee), place about 60 of them in a plastic Ziploc bag and 'crush' them with a meat tenderizer (you could use a rolling pin or heavy sauce pan as well).
Image credit: L'Epicerie
Then put the sugar through a sifter maintaining only the 'pearls' of sugar for the waffles. You need about 1 cup of pearls. The fine sugar that goes through the sifter can be put in your kitchen sugar jar or used to sweeten the strawberries if you are using them for the topping. I was able to find an online source at L'Epicerie. See the pearl sugar photo to the right so that you know what you are trying to obtain.
The addition of pearl sugar in the batter is what gives these waffles that special caramelized Liege waffle taste. However, that same sugar makes them sort of sticky so be careful not to burn yourself when removing them from the waffle iron.
The pearl sugar also makes clean-up of the waffle iron tricky. As the sugar melts, it runs in the crevices of the waffle iron. So my biggest tip is that after you finish baking your waffles, clean the waffle iron while it is still warm. If it cools completely, the caramel sugar mixture can be nearly impossible to get off the iron.
These waffles freeze extremely well so consider making a double batch. We just let the waffles cool, wrap them individually in Saran wrap, and then place them in a large Ziploc freezer bag. When we want one, we remove it from the freezer and put it in the oven on a baking sheet to heat it up.
The waffles make GREAT housewarming gifts to welcome new neighbors or holiday gifts for friends and family. Just wrap them up in a gift tin or box and deliver them with your favorite toppings. Your recipients will be thanking you again and again!
First of all, I should say that the sweet caramelized exterior of Liege waffles makes them ideal for eating as a snack with just a dusting of cinnamon or powdered sugar. That said, I love waffles with toppings so here are some of my favorites.
Photo Credit: Roboppy at Flickr
1) Strawberries & Whipped Cream - When strawberries are in season, I just slice them up and add them to the center of each waffle. Out of season, I buy frozen whole strawberries in my grocer's freezer section, thaw them, add a bit of sugar and spoon them over the top of the waffle. Of course, I add whipped cream no matter what the season!
2) Nutella & Bananas - Most Americans aren't real familiar with Nutella, but if you've traveled at all in Europe, you know just how much Europeans enjoy their Nutella. And why not? Chocolate with hazelnuts is a delectable combination. I just spread a thin layer of nutella on top the waffle and then add sliced bananas. You can see in the photo that someone else liked that idea as well and took it a step further adding some coconut to the mix. Have I mentioned my mouth is watering?
3) Vanilla Ice Cream - Liege waffles are the perfect base for a delectable dessert so I take warm waffles, top them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then drizzle the entire thing in either rich caramel or melted Belgian chocolate.
4) Caramel & Bananas - Drizzle the waffles with Caramel ice cream topping (warmed up of course), add some sliced bananas and a few crushed walnuts. Yummy!
Want to try some other Liege waffle recipes? Here are some of the one's that we tested during our attempt to find the perfect waffle recipe. Feel free to run your own experiment!
The Liege Waffle Factory based in Denver has brought the taste of authentic Liege waffles to the United States. You can buy frozen waffles online and have them shipped via overnight or 2 day air directly to your home. Simply heat them straight from the freezer and top them with your favorite toppings for a little taste of Belgium right in your own home.
In Belgium, waffles are sold in waxed wrappers by street vendors. They are usually not eaten for breakfast and are considered to be a snack or dessert food. Most Belgians enjoy them as a late afternoon snack because they don't eat dinner until 8 to 10 PM.