Photo courtesy of Nancy Brown
Ok, I have a confession to make. Even though I was really excited about the Royal Wedding and chose to bake a few things to help celebrate it, I wasn't even in the country to watch it! Why? Because I had booked a 3 day trip to Brussels instead! In hindsight I should have booked my Brussels trip to leave a day earlier so I could be back on UK soil to watch and celebrate the Royal Wedding live with everyone else, but I choose to use my Airmiles for the flights in order to fly for free, so flight availability was a bit tight. Instead, I recorded the Royal Wedding and watched it on Friday evening when we got home. Didn't Kate look amazing? And did you see their cake??
It turns out that we went to Brussels at the perfect time. The weather was almost perfect (except for a torrential downpour during our day trip to Brugge - but that only lasted half an hour before the sun popped out again), there were minimal crowds, and the food was delicious. But the best thing of all were the waffles! Oooh the waffles! I'd always thought Belgian Waffles were just a larger thicker waffle with whipped cream & berries on top - nothing really different than a regular waffle, but boy was I wrong! The waffles that we were eating in Belgium weren't like anything I'd ever had before. They were crispy and caramelised around the edges, and the actual waffle was chewy and yeasty and full of vanilla flavour. As far as toppings go, we had a choice from the simple yet always delicious Nutella, or the Belgian specialty Specaloos to strawberries piled high with whipped cream. I opted for Nutella, because after seeing the ridiculously tiny fork they give you to eat your waffle with, there was NO way I could manage eating one covered in strawberries and whipped cream. After biting into my first Belgian Waffle I just knew I had to recreate them at home. After getting back to our hotel room and quickly googling an authentic Belgian waffle recipe I discovered that the waffles I'd fallen in love with were actually called Leige Waffles or "Gaufres de Leige" in French - but for the simplicities sake I'm just going to continue calling them Belgian waffles ok?
See those silly little forks!
The main differences between Belgian Waffles (aka Leige Waffles) is that they use yeast as a rising agent in them, and the batter is more like a very sticky dough rather than a runny batter like North American waffles are. They also had something completely different in them that resulted in their caramelised edges - pearl sugar! I'd never seen or heard of pearl sugar before, and instead of looking like little pearls it actually looked more like white the white little rocks you'd find in a fancy planter or walkway. I did manage to find some pearl sugar in a Belgian grocery store.
I've read that it can be rather hard to find outside of Belgium, but crushed up sugar cubes can be used in place of of pearl sugar if you can't find it. The recipe I used called for 1 cup of pearl sugar, but after making the waffles I would suggest reducing that amount down to 1/2 a cup. I thought the pearl sugar would have melted while the waffles were cooking in the iron, but most of it didn't which did result in nice little crunchy bits in the waffles, but I thought 1 cup of pearl sugar was just too much. I opted to top my waffle off with Nutella (my favourite), even though I did have some other specialty Belgian toppings that I brought back as well. The waffles were delicious, and very very similar to the waffles we had in Brussels.
Belgian Waffles (aka Leige Waffles)
Adapted from Food.com
1 (1/4 ounce or 6g) package yeast
1/3 Cup (80ml) Lukewarm Water
1 1/2 Tbs Sugar
1/8 tsp Salt
2 Cups (250g) Flour
2 tsp Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
1 Cup (225g) Softened Butter
1/2 Cup (approx 1-2 handfuls) Pearl Sugar or Crushed Sugar Cubes
1. Mix yeast, water, sugar and salt, and let develop for 15 minutes.
2. Place flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in yeast mixture and vanilla and begin to knead. Continue to knead while adding the eggs one at a time, along with approx 2-3 Tbsp of the soft butter at a time. Make sure the dough is mixed well.
3. Leave the dough in a warm spot to rise in the bowl until doubled - approx 1.5 - 2 hours.
4. Gently mix the pearl sugar into the dough, and let rest for 15 minutes. Heat waffle iron.
5. Place about 1/3 cup of the waffle dough into the middle of your hot waffle iron and spread out slightly with a fork or spatula. Cook the waffles on low heat for 3-5 minutes, until waffles lightly brown on top.
My waffle iron - sorry it had too many crumbs to take a photo of the inside!
6. Serve the waffles warm with your choice of topping such as Nutella, Fruit, Whipped Cream, Specaloos, etc.
There's that tiny fork again!
I don't think I could live without my waffle iron. Thanks to some good friends back in Canada, it was one of the first appliances we got when we moved to the UK as we got it for a wedding gift. Waffle irons aren't nearly as common here in the UK as they are in North America, so finding a waffle iron in physical store can be kind of hard. Often if a store does carry waffle irons in stock, they will only have 1 or 2 brands or designs. The waffle iron I have is no longer available, but if you're looking to purchase one I'd recommend the one below.