I have come down with a cold, so yesterday I amused myself by making Gaufres de Liege, known to me as Belgian sugar waffles. These are amazing, and have left me uninterested in most all other waffles. They are made from a yeast dough and studded with big coarse sugar that melts and caramelizes as it cooks. They are so, so good.
I had my first one of these at Arosa cafe here in Seattle. (If you live in Seattle you can read more about Arosa’s two locations and Hans, whom everybody loves, here at Voracious.) Even when not fresh (I brought it home and heated in the oven for a moment) it was delicious. I tracked down a recipe over at The Kitchn and had a go.
First I needed to find pearl sugar (though the recipe calls for turbinado sugar and only pearl sugar “if you choose”). I know I’d seen it in the Scandinavian Specialties import store in Ballard, the stuff I had seen resembles the large, opaque salt you see on soft pretzels. I ended up finding some at my nearest Red Apple Market:
This brand had two kinds, Swedish Pearl Sugar (like described above) and this Belgian Pearl Sugar which is far larger than I was expecting:
But, right there on the back of the box is a recipe for Belgian Sugar Waffles:
I don’t know if you need sugar this large, but it certainly seemed to work well. You can also find this Lars Own Belgian Pearl Sugar at Amazon, along with hail sugar, the small kind, which is sold by Chef Shop (whose physical location just happens to be in Seattle). You can also find the Lars Swedish sized pear sugar occasionally at Ikea.
The recipe calls for 140 grams of sugar, which for me worked out to just over 3/4 cup, but I didn’t use all of it because the dough seemed so crammed with sugar.
You divide the dough into 12 parts, let them rise a bit more and put them in your waffle maker:
These aren’t meant to fill the space in your waffle maker, they are meant to be oddly shaped. The sugar bits melt, so if you have an older waffle maker you might want to use that one:
Here is my DIRE WARNING. The molten sugar bits will burn your fingers when you remove them from the waffle maker. So don’t pluck them from the waffle maker with your bare fingers (ow ow ow stupid ow), and don’t lift them from the waffle maker with tongs but place your bare hand protectively beneath it as the hot sugar will drip onto your lower hand (unexpected ow). Use tongs to pluck it out of the waffle maker, and a spatula beneath to steady it on it’s way to the cooling rack. You have been warned.
What emerges will be so good you almost won’t mind the amount of work it will be to clean out your waffle maker.
The waffle maker pictured here is on it’s way out and I suspect our next waffle maker will be chosen specifically with Gaufres de Liege in mind. Smaller, deeper squares and with temperature settings. (If you’re wondering what happened to the waffle maker I mentioned earlier, I returned it. It made a disturbing and obviously not right click when one closed it, something was catching and we couldn’t figure out what. Also, it seemed to only under or over cook waffles and for as much as it cost I wasn’t too pleased about that. I’d much rather have the 1/5th of an ottoman that it was worth.)
One last note, the recipe below calls for a low temperature setting for your waffle maker. Mine just has On and Off and yet the waffles turned out just fine. I just checked to see if the outside was dark enough for me, they all seem to have cooked through just fine (I, um, ate half of them so it was a good sample). You can heat them in the toaster, but be aware of the molten sugar warnings above and if you are going to just eat it by hand wrap it in parchment paper instead of a paper towel (which will stick to the caramelized sugar exterior).
Gaufres de Liege
makes 12 waffles
- 6 tablespoons warm milk (no hotter than 110°F)
- 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (230 grams) bread flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 medium egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, at slightly cooler than room temperature
- 140 grams turbinado sugar, or pearl sugar if you choose (I went with 3/4 cup. It’s worth seeking out Lars Belgian Pearl Sugar if you can find it.)
- Cooking spray
Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk; then add the yeast. Make sure that the milk is not too hot, lest it kill the yeast instead of promoting its growth. Place a plate or some kind of cover on top of the bowl with the milk, sugar and yeast. Set aside for about five minutes. When you check on it, the yeast should have bubbled up, looking light brown and spongy.
Meanwhile, mix the sifted bread flour with the cinnamon, vanilla extract, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the yeast mixture; then add the whole egg and egg yolk. Mix on medium speed until it is fully combined. The dough will be yellow and stiff, yielding only slightly to a poke.
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in a warm place for about thirty minutes. (I always find the top of my fridge is the best spot in my house.)
Beat in the butter piece by piece; you do not have to wait for the prior piece to be fully incorporated before adding the next. When the dough has incorporated about half of the butter, the mixture will be like a very thick, somewhat broken-up paste. If you keep engaging the mixer on medium-high speed, the dough will eventually become a cohesive whole, looking smoother and more feeling more elastic. Scrape the sides of the bowl if needed.
Kneading very gently, incorporate the sugar crystals just enough to get them evenly distributed. Work quickly so as not to soften the buttery dough too much.
Divide the dough into a dozen equal pieces, gently forming them into balls.
Place the balls of dough on a cutting board in a warmish place for fifteen minutes or so. During the last two minutes of this resting time, preheat your waffle iron until it is very warm, but not hot.
Spray the griddles with cooking oil. Place each ball of dough in a whole square or section of the waffle iron. (I could fit two in my smallish, round Belgian style waffle maker.) Like regular waffle batter, the dough will start to puff up. Cook the waffles until the surface is golden to dark brown. Be sure that the waffle iron you are using is appropriately deep, or else the interior of the waffle will not be cooked through. If you are using a vintage stovetop waffle iron, flip the iron every thirty to forty seconds, lifting the iron to check the rate of browning. The browning should be gradual to allow the interior to fully develop.
(Be careful when you lift them from the waffle maker! Very hot sugar can drip from the waffles and, trust me, it burns.)
Set the waffles on a cooling rack as they come out of the iron to promote a crispy exterior. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Any leftover waffles, if they are not dark brown, can be carefully re-cooked in a toaster for approximately thirty to sixty seconds. (Again, beware hot molten sugar.) Leftover waffles may also be kept in an airtight container between sheets of parchment paper, for up to three days.