I was only 10 years old when I was away from my family on a school excursion. I used to play the lead in the steel band, and we were invited to play somewhere in Belgium. I don’t remember where, I was only 10. I’d only ever been away from home once before then, and that was when I went to Hong Kong with my mother when I was 3 years old. Yeah, like I remember that!
The thought of being away from family was exciting, yet daunting at the same time. I even took my cuddly toy cat, Tigger. Ha… I still have Tigger!
The excursion was for 7 days and involved a group of about 10-12 of us, with a couple of teachers. It seems so surreal to me now, writing about this. Why on earth would anyone want a steel band, made up of 10 year olds, who come from Hardwick Junior school, Derby to play for them? It’s amazing how little one remembers at 10 years old. I do however, remember that we visited the atomium and the manneken pis.
Anyhow, we were somewhere in Belgium… staying in a youth hostel, and sleeping in make-shift beds (sleeping bags on the floor). I don’t even actually remember playing in the steel band during our travels, but the one thing I do remember was sinking my teeth into my very first Belgian waffle.
It was dark and crisp evening, so crisp that you could see your breath. We stopped at a stand and one of the teachers bought us all a Belgian waffle, also known as Liege waffles or sugar waffles (suikerwafels). I can still taste it now. I held the soft, chewy, sweet and delicious waffle tightly in my small hands with just a paper bag around it for my protection… oh how it was so delicious. You have no idea how delicious it was. The texture and flavor sensation was new to me, like an angel playing with my taste buds. It was the awakening of my taste buds.
Twenty four years on, I have finally decided to make my own Belgian waffles. I’ve eaten a few in the meantime, including ones in France, the Netherlands, UK and even Whidbey Island, WA. The ones they sold at Whidbey Island were an abomination – they were absolutely vile. So vile, that I needed to make my own, just to prove that I haven’t gone mad, and that these waffles are still delicious!
Belgian waffles are completely different to toasting waffles or American breakfast waffles. They are made with yeast, dotted with pearl sugar and are traditionally eaten as a snack, and not for breakfast or brunch. They are crisp on the outside, with a soft, fluffy and slightly chewy texture, and are best when eaten fresh and still warm from the waffle iron.
As with most yeasted recipes, I prefer to let the stand mixer make the dough the night ahead, and allow for a cold prove. In the morning, I simply take the dough out, let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour, whilst I’m getting ready, and then knead in the broken sugar cubes. The dough balls are then ready to be cooked on a waffle iron. If you prefer to form the dough and bake the waffles on the same day, simply allow the dough to prove in a warm spot for about 1 hour.
BELGIAN WAFFLES (LIEGE OR SUGAR WAFFLES)
Adapted from My Dutch Baking Blog – Suikerwafel
- 1 teaspoon dried active baking yeast
- 120 ml (½ c) milk
- 1 tiny pinch salt
- 300 g (2 c) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 115 g (½ c or 1 stick) unsalted European butter, melted and cooled
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 40 g (4 heaped tablespoons) broken sugar cubes*
* Pearl sugar can be used if it’s easily available. However, to those who can’t get hold of it, simply use a big pair of kitchen scissors to carefully cut sugar cubes into 3 mm (1/8 inch) pieces.
1. In a small bowl, mix together yeast and milk. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until frothy, then stir in the salt.
2. Place 2/3 flour into the bowl of a stand mixer**. Add the yeast mixture, butter, egg and vanilla extract.
3. With dough hook attachment, mix the mixture until well incorporated. Then slowly add more flour, whilst mixing until the dough comes together – you may not need all the flour. Knead for 8-10 minutes – the dough should be smooth, supple and not at all sticky.
4. Cover stand mixer bowl with cling film (plastic wrap) and chill overnight.
5. An hour before you want to bake the waffles, take out the dough and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
6. Knead broken sugar cubes into dough using your hands. Do not use the dough hook here, it will break up the sugar.
7. Lightly grease waffle iron with flavorless oil and a kitchen (paper) towel. Preheat waffle iron.
8. Divide dough into 7 equal sized pieces. Flatten each one to 8 mm (⅓ inch inch) thick circle (round).
9. Place 1-2 dough circles (rounds) onto hot waffle iron, close lid and place a large tin (can) of food on top^. Bake for 3-4 minutes, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
10. Enjoy warm as is, or dust lightly with icing (confectioner’s) sugar.
** If you prefer to make the waffles by hand, simply form the dough and knead with nothing but the muscles in your arms. With the moreishness of these waffles, you may need to do the physical activity to counteract the calories!
^ Unless you have a heavy lidded waffle iron, the rising of the waffles during baking will cause the lid to pop ajar. If not weighted down, it will create a waffle without the distinct “holes”. Of course, they will still taste delicious!