The Belgian waffle

Belgian waffle

The Belgian waffle is very popular in Belgium -- it is known to French-speakers as the gaufre or gauffre, and to Flemish- / Vlaamse speakers as the wafel, waffel or suikerwaffel.

Try out a Belgium's waffle recipe.

The waffle that most North Americans would think of as a Belgian waffle is known in Belgium as gaufre de Bruxelles, "the Brussels waffle".

In the United States, waffles are largely a sweet breakfast food, 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. They are heated in a toaster or microwave oven.

In Belgium Waffles are not eaten very often as a breakfast dish. But if you ask for them naturally you will get them. Belgians eat waffles as a casual snack food -- something you buy from a bakery or street stand.

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.

The Brussels 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.

Belgian waffle The Liège waffle is also known as the Luikse wafel in Vlaamse and as Lütticher waffeln in German.) It's more or less oval - shaped, a thinner and smaller waffle than the Brussels waffle.

But it's also more substantial, and has a significant crunch due to the small nuggets of parelsuiker or "pearl sugar" that are added to the batter just before baking.

These bits of sugar melt when being baked on the waffle iron and caramelize, producing a sugary crust like what's found on top of a creme brulée.

Give The Liège waffle recipe a try!

It depends on where you are in Flanders but there are regional variations which all have their own texture and taste. Worth trying warm with a sprinkle of sugar or for a touch more indulgence, try them with a dollop of cream, hot chocolate or jam sauce. Beautifully light, Flemish waffles (recipe) make the perfect snack or desert.

How do you eat Belgian waffles ? According to your taste, of course :)

Popular toppings include:

• butter
• powdered sugar
• whipped cream
• fresh strawberries
• fresh pears, peeled, diced, and covered with chocolate sauce
• Whipped cream and fruit cocktail

The Waffle History:

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

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.

The Belgian Waffle

Maurice Vermersch from Brussels, along with his wife, concocted a recipe just before World War II that used yeast as a rising agent in their waffle batter. The result was a thicker, crisper waffle with a tangy sweetness brought out by the fermentation in the yeast. The Vermersches cooked the batter in cast iron clampdown pans that had been seasoned with lard. Reactions from friends and family were so positive that Mr. Vermersch decided to sell his so-called Brussels waffles at the World's Fair in Brussels in 1960. Four years later, riding on the wave of success that came from opening several restaurants that specialized in the waffle, Mr. Vermersch brought his invention to the celebrated 1964 World's Fair in Queens, New York. Observing that most Americans, with their poor geography skills, couldn't place Brussels, he named the waffle the Belgian Waffle a few days into his World's Fair stay.
He actually arranged to sell them at several places throughout the fair, and not just at the Village. He served them with strawberries and whipped cream, and sold them for.

"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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Make Your Own Belgian Waffles