Cross-Cultural Sharing With Food: Liège Waffles

One of the wonderful things about traveling is trying food from other cultures. Oftentimes this food is similar to what we’re used to at home, but just slightly different due to preparation, ingredients, or other regional reasons.

Today I’d like to introduce you to the Liège waffle. This Belgian waffle isn’t what we think of in the United States when we hear the name “Belgian Waffle.” It is yeast based, and contains pearl sugar. It is much denser, sweeter, and crunchier than your typical pour-maple-syrup-on-it variety. In my family, we tend to eat this variety on its own, as finger food. Plus they are more a dessert than part of a meal.

I learned about these waffles from the family of a sister-in-law, who lived in Belgium for a while. The waffles are quite fussy to make, but they are definitely worth making (and devouring) once in a while.

Prepare Batter One
2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk, warmed to about 100 degrees F

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with one tablespoon of the flour and the sugar. Let stand for five minutes until foamy. Sift the remaining flour into a large 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 has doubled or tripled in volume.

Prepare Batter Two
9 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup pearl sugar or 3/4 cup crushed sugar cubes

If you can’t find pearl sugar (parl socker) at a local store, it is available at Amazon and also at IKEA. Otherwise you can crush sugar cubes into small pieces.

In a medium bowl, mix the butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon (if using), sugar, and pearl sugar into a paste.

Combine the Batters
With your hands or a spoon, work Batter Two into Batter One until well mixed. Dust two large plates or a large cutting board with flour. Shape the dough into 10-12 balls. Place them some distance apart on the plates or board, and dust the balls with flour.

Preheat waffle iron. Place a ball in the center of each waffle spot, depending on your waffle iron configuration. If your waffle iron is anything like mine, the auto-shutoff timer works well for this recipe. The waffles should be baked until golden brown but still slightly soft, perhaps for slightly less than three minutes. These will keep for several days in an airtight container, but I challenge you to save any for later.

This is second post in a very occasional series about making food from other cultures. My first post in the series was about Chinese Spaghetti.

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