Ok, everyone has had a Belgian waffle of some sort. Head over to IHOP and you can get a round "Belgian Waffle" usually covered in fruit, powdered sugar and whipped cream. These are not bad, rather tasty, easy to make at home...
But are they REAL Belgian waffles? I think not. Anyone who has meandered through the streets of Brussels, Bruges or of course Liege in Belgium has been lucky enough to taste a bona fide Belgian waffle...sugary, caramelised, and with no need for toppings (although the best chocolate sauce in the universe is always available to dribble over the top). I had a boyfriend from Belgium way back when, and I spent many a day in Belgium, getting to know and love these waffles.
But back in the states I never tried to replicate the true Liege Belgian waffle. I was happy with yeasted Belgian waffles that I could whip up at home. After re-tasting these delicious treats thanks to Jean-François, a Belgian transplant that lives here in Cincinnati and sells his waffles at various Farmer's Markets and cafés around town. His waffles are called "A Taste From Belgium". And let me hand it to him, they ARE a taste from Belgium. One bite and I had a true Proust-with-the-Madeleine moment...I was transported to a damp cobblestone street in a cute village of Belgium, devouring my warm waffle...
So I did some research, and came up with this recipe for "Liège Belgian Waffles". (Found on ChowHound, but no source was given). They are not "perfect", but they are darn close to the real thing. The secret, I have found, is to use pearl sugar (same as I used on my brioche). This is what caramelizes in the waffle iron. You can get pearl sugar from L'Epicerie.
Sugar Waffles from Liege (Luikse Wafels) (Gaufres Liegeoises)
1 1/4 ounces fresh cake yeast or 2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk, warmed to 100 degrees F
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup pearl sugar or 3/4 cup crushed sugar cubes
Prepare Batter 1:
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warmwater with 1 tbsp. flour and the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutesuntil foamy. Sift the remaining flour into a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, egg and milk.Mix well with a wooden spoon to make a smooth batter.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the batter hasdoubled or tripled in volume.
Meanwhile, prepare Batter 2:
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the butter, flour, salt, vanilla, bakingpowder, cinnamon (if using), granulated sugar, and pearl sugar into a paste.
With your hands, work Batter 2 into Batter 1 until well mixed. (I used my mixer with the dough hook attachment).
Shape the dough into 10 balls, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 ounceseach. Flatten each ball into a disk and dust lightly with flour.
Bake in a medium-hot waffle iron.
Don't let the iron become too hot or the sugar will burn.
Bake until the waffles are goldenbrown but still slightly soft, 3-4 minutes.
Serve the sugar waffles lukewarm or cooled to room temperature on a rack.