Monday, January 24, 2011

Liege Belgian Waffles for my Baby Boy

When my son was in first grade, we used to spend time at lot of time at the Border's Book Store at our local shopping center.   There was a quiet little man who had a cart stand, where he'd sell freshly made Belgian Waffles.  He'd take a square of dough and make a fresh, hot "Liege Belgian Waffle" and my son would happily receive it with a hop, skip and a jump.  As the mother of an only child, the price was worth the smile on my son's face as he chewed on this special treat.  I remember that I was a divorced mom at that time, so affording this treat meant that I wouldn't buy one for myself.  My son would give me a bite, and I remember that the waffle had a rich taste of butter, with a hint of vanilla. The caramelized sugar left a chewy and sweet mouth feel.   One day, we realized that the man with the cart no longer set up business at the shopping mall-- sadly, we never saw him again.   Every so often my son-- who is now 22 years old-- would ask me if I remembered those delicious waffles.  Yes, I did, but my memories are more connected to that sweet little boy who delighted in his special treat. I miss those years, but I don't miss those teen years!

This  waffle is different from our traditional American Waffles. The Belgian Sugar (or “Liege” Waffle) is a popular street-food across Europe. Served warm, plain or garnished with chocolate, Nutella, fruit, ice-cream or whipped cream, it is enjoyed by thousands of shoppers and sight-seers.  I decided to do a little internet research on the history of the Liege Waffle and this story is consistently shared:
 "According to legend, it was invented in the 18th Century by the Prince of Liège's cook. At the Prince's request, he experimented with cooking a kind of bun by adding polished sugar to the dough. Seduced by the appetising odour of vanilla that emanated during the cooking, the Prince fell for the new cake's charm." Source

I did most of my Christmas shopping on Amazon, and I stumbled across this Belgian Pearl Sugar.  Since I qualified for free shipping I decided it was time to see if I could recreate a childhood memory for my son.  After looking at several different recipes, I decided to use the one on the very back of the box of pearl sugar.  You might wonder if you can just crush sugar cubes.  You could, but I wanted to be authentic.  Having read other recipes, I'm told that there's something special about this Belgian Pearl Sugar.  You really want the sugar to melt, and get that wonderful caramelization, don't you? The ingredients are: milk, yeast, eggs, butter, flour, salt, vanilla and eggs.  Cinnamon is optional, but I decided to skip that.

For those of you who are afraid of working yeast, this is a great beginner recipe.  I used Rapid-Rise Yeast.  They key is that you don't heat the milk to be scalding hot.  Using my beloved therma-pen, you can see that 96 degrees was just right.  You also want the butter and eggs to be at room temperature. Yeast likes warmth!
Begin by dissolving the yeast in the milk.  That's easy enough, right?

Gradually add all the ingredients to the flour, except for the pearl sugar. (My stand mixer works great to do this.)

Let the dough double in size (about 30 minutes). I let mine sit for about an hour. (Bottom right corner photo.)
NOTE: I turn my oven on to WARM for a few minutes, then turn it off. I cover the dough in a bowl, and place it into the warm and cozy oven to help proof the dough.

  • Gently flatten the dough into a rectangle and add the pearl sugar.
  • Fold the dough over, in thirds (my own technique to distribute the sugar throughout).
  • Divide the dough into small patties, about 3-4 oz each.
NOTE: To be more traditional, Liege waffles are shaped into a rectangle.

I have an inexpensive non-stick Belgian waffle maker. Yes, there are special waffle irons for this, but I didn't want to invest in one.  To prepare: Bake in a greased and heated waffle iron. Be very careful, as the sugar will caramelize and can be extremely hot. Allow them to cook for a few minutes, before biting into them.

I presented these to my son and waited as he bit in.  Ah!  That beautiful smile of his grew wide, and he said that these were exactly as he remembered!

TASTING NOTES: The are rich and buttery.  You need to be careful to not eat them the very second that you remove them from the waffle iron.  The sugar has melted and can be very hot.  I tasted vanilla and the yeast is very subtle. The texture is moist, a little dense and did I mention how rich these are?  I ate a half of one, and my son polished off two-- and my other half.  So, what was I supposed to do with the remaining five pieces of dough?

SOLUTION:  I figured that if that cart vendor could pull out a package of dough and make fresh waffles, then he must prepare them in advance. I wrapped each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerated them.  The next day, I brought them to room temperature (about 30 minutes). 

I greased the waffle iron and watched the steam as the sugar began to melt...

Does this picture need words?  Really? Look at that bubbling sugar!

...and these were delicious!  In fact, I think they tasted even better!  Of course, I only took one bite (this time, because I'm cutting back on my sweets to lose weight). My son loved these.  I made the rest on Day #3, and they turned out perfectly.
VERDICT: I can see why Liege Belgian waffles are a special treat.  I can't imagine adding anything extra to these, but go for it if you want ice cream, or nutella, or fresh whipped cream.  I recommend a fresh cup of coffee.  A cup of Belgian Hot Chocolate would be even better!

I'll make these again as a special treat for my boy grown son. Something tells me that when he's older, and married and has started a family of his own (in about 20 years) -- that I can lure him over to visit mom with the promise of these treats.

It's what mother's do for their boys.  

A printable recipe is at the bottom of this page. 

From mom's kitchen,

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teresacooks said...

I love liègoise waffles, I used to eat when I lived in Europe. I have a great little cookbook called "everybody eats well in Belgium" that has a recipe for them that I use. It's different than yours in that there's 2 doughs that are mixed together. One is a yeast dough, and one is a butter dough. I use the pearl sugar from Ikea - it's smaller than the Belgian, but works quite well. My children beg for these and I also serve them at brunch, where people are always astonished by them. Nice to see them here - you really don't see them on blogs much.

Catherine said...

I can so relate to your story of you and your son. You not only kindled memories but brought a tear to my eyes. God Bless you, Catherine

P.S. The waffles look fantastic.

Joanne said...

Oh wow. This sounds beautiful. It makes me really glad that I don't have a waffle iron...otherwise I'd be in the kitchen swallowing these whole.

Eileen said...

Oh my, these look amazing and sound delicious! I want one now :) I have wanted to make an authentic belgian waffle like this ever since watching an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay". I think I am going to have to invest in pearl sugar and make these, it looks like it is worth it. Thanks so much!

Mom24 said...

I love these! Thank you so much. I just ordered the sugar.

Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

OMG these looks amazing. I've seen the Belgian sugar in a store, I just can't remember where! I will have to rack my brain now!

ARLENE said...

These look amazing. It just happens that I had a craving for Belgian waffle on Sunday and enjoyed this seldom eaten treat. However, it paled by comparison to your delicacy. I'm tempted to order that sugar. Of course, I'd need to order a waffle maker, too.

Proud Italian Cook said...

That bubbling sugar photo made my heart skip a beat! I love love Belgium waffles and this is certainly a step above. You're tempting me! oh and you're such a nice mom, I'm sure you'll be making them for your grandkids one day too!

The Chef In My Head said...

Ahhh, those teenage years, thankfully just a bad blur. But the little years are so precious. I have a son and a daughter and love them both dearly, but there are some really special moments between a mother and her son that can't be matched.
Love the recipe for your waffles, YUM! ~Leslie
PS If my daughter reads your blog I'm in some really deep gimshee :/

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Good for you for taking matters into your own capable hands and making your own! We have a Waffle truck in Manhattan that serves the best Belgian Waffles for lunch. I'd be very sad if he disappeared.

Velva said...

As always, absolutely beautiful. Isn't it wonderful when your child has fond memories of a special food? Until this post, I had not heard of Liege belgian waffles-no doubt I have been missing out.


Everyday Cookin' said...

Now Debbie...these look FANTASTIC

Patti said...

Oh! These sound heavenly!! And what a great memory for you and your son.
I almost threw my Belgian waffle maker in the goodwill glad I didn't. I'm going to have to hunt down some of the sugar and make these for sure!
Thanks for sharing the recipe and your wonderful story. :)

bellini valli said...

I like the sound of topping the4se with Nutella althiugh I imagine they don't really need a thing and should be eaten in their purest form. I tried these when I was in Ottawa years ago and would love to be able to duplicate them...all I need is pearl sugar so I will keep a look out for it.

Stacey Snacks said...

Deb, I have never seen that sugar (we have 14" of sugar on our driveway this a.m.!!), but that company Lars makes the best fried onions!

From the Kitchen said...

The waffles look and sound delicious! The story that accompanies them is priceless! I need to check further into the thermometer you're using as I think mine has given up the ability to be correct!

Hope you got that tire fixed relatively easily!


Carole said...

What a good momma you are.

Kristen said...

great story and great recipe!

Kim said...

Holy cow do these ever look sinful, indulgent and extremely worth it! LOL! I watched a program on the liege waffles once and found it really interesting. Nice to know you can get the pearl sugar from Amazon. I will definitely keep that in mind. These look delightful!

Allie said...

What a nice story Debby! I love how food is often associated with great memories and can bring us back to great times. You are a great Mom AND a great cook :) I wouldn't mind being your child. Can you adopt me ?

Allie said...

These look great Debby! I love the story associated with them :) Isn't it great that food can bring back such great memories? Your son sure is lucky to have an awesome Mom AND chef at home. Can you possibly adopt me?

Muneeba said...

Debby .. I got a little teary eyed when I read the story abt you giving your son the waffle and watching his little face light up. And then my knees got WEAK at the sight of the finished waffle!!! OMG. Best. Food. Picture. Of. The. Month!

Now Serving said...

Those look outtasight goo - My son would devour those :) Nice superbowl ideas - I am planning a Mexican fare
you ming want to send in a dessert recipe for my event - please check out the event details here - hope to see you there :)

Monica H said...

Aww, I loved this post because you took a memory and turned it into a reality for your son. That's just awesome. I love how food can bring you back to that moment.

They look delicious!

Anonymous said...

There is a waffle cart in a city about 2 hours away from me that I would drive two hours for! Love liege waffles and a few months ago I purchase begian pearl sugar from a dutch import store just to make the waffles but I'm afraid of ruining my waffle iron with the hot sugar. Was it tough to clean afterwards??

Mom24 said...

I'd like to make these for my daughter's birthday tomorrow, they're a favorite treat of hers. Just to clarify, you have successfully mixed in the sugar and let the dough sit overnight? I was concerned the sugar might soften too much or even dissolve. Another recipe I found indicates to let the dough rest overnight and then fold in the sugar but I'm afraid the dough will be so hard it will be very difficult to distribute the sugar. Thanks! Hope you're still doing well after your surgery.

Debby Foodiewife said...

Hi Mom24,
I refrigerated the remaining dough, and made the rest on the following day. Because I used Belgian pearl sugar, it didn't soften too much nor did it dissolve.
Good luck!

Mom24 said...

Thank you!