Liege waffles were probably the thing that seduced me most about Belgium. The smell, primarily. That glorious aroma of hot, yeasty waffles caramelizing on heavy iron grills at every corner. I remember my first one ever. I followed my nose like a pig on a truffle. I was served a piping hot Liege waffle in a little waxed paper square and I was a changed woman.
These are not waffles like we are accustomed to in North America – which are basically pancakes cooked in a waffle iron. No, Liege waffles are magical.
They are dense and quite bread-y; thick and chewy and studded with pearl sugar. Pearl sugar which gets pressed into the deep waffle pockets by a blazing hot, heavy iron waffle press – caramelizing it into pure magic.
The dough is heavily yeasted – 50 grams is a little more than 4 tablespoons. It sounds like a lot, but the flavour is incredible. Enriched with eggs and 14 tablespoons (just under a cup) of butter, these waffles are serious business. Seriously good business.
Liege, for those who don’t know, is actually a city in Belgium. There is a second type of waffle possessed by this magical country, called the Brussels waffle. Unlike the dense, rich Liege waffle, Brussels waffles are light-as-a-cloud – crispy on the outside, but airy on the inside. You could eat about ten.
A feat that could certainly not be comfortably accomplished with Liege waffles…
This recipe is highly authentic. Translated from Dutch by my lovely friend and waffle-making guide/companion Kristiana, it is straight from the heart of Belgium. The ingredients are all listed in grams – if you don’t have a kitchen scale, now is your moment to buy one!! Or else, you could use this awesome tool to convert to cups.
The pearl sugar is really key to the authenticity of Liege waffles, but if you can’t find it, substitute the coarsest sugar you can find and reduce the amount by about a third.
Translated from Dutch from Kristiana’s Belgian friend’s recipe
Makes about 16 waffles.
- 150 grams warm water
- 50 grams yeast (no, this is not a typo)
- 300 grams flour
- 70 grams granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 15 grams butter, melted
- 200 grams butter, melted
- 200 grams flour
- generous pinch of salt
- 300 grams pearl sugar
1. Combine the warm water and yeast in a medium bowl, and let sit for 10 minutes or until doubled in volume. Place the large bowl of a standing mixer on a kitchen scale and tare off. Weigh in 300 grams flour, sugar, eggs, and 15 grams melted butter. Mix with the dough hook attachment until a homogeneous dough is formed. With mixer speed on low, slowly pour in remaining 200 grams of melted butter, mixing until it combines and a thick paste is formed (this may take 5-10 minutes). Let rest 15 minutes.
2. Return bowl to the kitchen scale and tare off once again. Sift remaining 200 grams flour onto dough, and sprinkle with salt. Knead with mixer until combined. Slowly add pearl sugar and knead until combined (about 3 minutes). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat waffle iron on medium heat. Separate dough into balls of 100 grams each. Cook in waffle iron till pale golden brown, then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Cook waffles a second time until brown and caramelized. Waffles may be reheated in a warm oven, or in the toaster. They freeze beautifully.