The Belgian WaFFLe

Belgian waffle are is famous. World famous. This gourmet Gaufre  is happily consumed as a desert or snack in Belgium and as a breakfast dish in the US. 

I'm surprised how far the scent of the waffle caries.  Our friends have moved with their newborn child to Tahiti to take over a family waffle business. It's been a couple of years and they are not back yet so we assume gaufres are flourishing right in the vicinity of Bora Bora.

United States, waffles are popular enough that the franchised restaurant chain Waffle House has more than 1,000 restaurants in 24 states. In 2001, it claimed to have sold more than 442 million waffles in the previous 46 years. Frozen waffles made their convenience food debut in U.S. grocery stores in 1953.

Waffles in Belgium and United States

 In Belgium the waffle is based on a batter raised with yeast -- as opposed to most North American waffle or pancake batters, which are raised with baking powder. The yeast raising changes the chemistry of the batter, producing a tenderer crumb in the finished waffle than a baking-powder raising can. The yeast and the beaten egg whites which are folded into the batter work together to produce a light crisp waffle. 

Baking powder & baking soda are faster, more reliable, and achieve (somewhat) similar results. What the American version lacked in height it made up for in convenience.

 It is rectangular and usually about an inch thick, with fairly deep "dimples". When you buy it on the street or in a shop in Belgium, it usually comes dusted with a little confectioners' sugar / icing sugar, and maybe spread with chocolate or thick whipped cream. But you can also get it piled high with fruit and other goodies.

In United states Eggo Waffles are usually heated in a toaster or microwave oven. 

How the Waffle Came To The States

The word [waffle] is from the Dutch wafel, and first appeared in English print in 1735.

  • The wafel was known to the Pilgrims, who had spent time in Holland before sailing to America in 1620, and waffle parties became popular in the latter part of the eighteenth century.
  • Thomas Jefferson returned from France with a waffle iron, a long-handled patterned griddle that encloses the batter and gives it its characteristic crispness and shape.

Fun Waffle FActs

  • In the United States, Waffle Day - Aug. 24 – celebrates the anniversary of the first U.S. patent for a waffle iron. Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York received his patent in 1869.
  • Frank Dorsa introduced frozen waffles into supermarkets, calling them Eggo Waffles.
  • General Belgian affection for the Belgium Waffle is sufficiently great that this waffle was chosen as one of the national "birthday cakes" for the European Union's 50th birthday celebration.
  • In Sweden, the holiday is called “Vaffeldagen” and it coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation. It is also considered the start of spring in Europe.
  • The name Belgian waffle was created in New York.

Did you know that waffles have been around for thousands of years? 

"The ancient Greeks used to cook very flat cakes, which they called obleios, between two hot metal plates. This method of cooking continued to be used in the Middle Ages by the obloyeurs who made all sorts of oublies, which were flat or rolled into coronets. The oublie became the waffle in the 13th century, when a craftsman had the idea of forging some cookie plates reproducing the characteristic pattern of honeycombs, which at that time were called gaufres (from the Old French wafla)." 

Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Revised and Updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 1285)

The Brussels Waffle History:
• Belgian waffles were created for the 1964 World's Fair in NY. There, Fairgoers were treated to a new creation: the "Bel-Gem Waffle" — a combination of waffle, strawberries and whipped cream.
• Realizing that most Americans didn't know where Brussels was, within a few days of selling them, Vermersch decided to call them "Belgian Waffles". Well, sort of -- or more precisely "Bel-Gem" waffles. • The inventor of the Belgian waffle was Maurice Vermersch and his wife:

"Vermersch started making waffles from a recipe of his wife's when living in Belgium before the outbreak of World War II. After serving in the war, he started two restaurants in Belgium before making his World's Fair debut at the Brussels fair in 1960. Business went so well in Brussels that Vermersch and four other families decided to head to New York for the 1964 World's Fair. And when they arrived in Queens, the name of their product was changed from the Brussel Waffle to the Belgian Waffle. The name Belgian waffle was created in New York."

His waffles made memories at the Queens World's Fair," Newsday (Queens edition) August 22, 1989 (p. 21)

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