Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do you waffle?

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.

This is where many North American attempts at the Brussels/Belgian waffle fall down: 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. The Brussels waffle 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.

The other main kind of waffle is the Liège waffle, named after that city. (This waffle is also known as the Luikse wafel in Vlaamse and as Lütticher waffeln in German.) It's oblong, 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.

I prefer the Liege Waffle...

For the gaufre de Liège / Liège waffle:

420 grams (3 1/3 cups) flour
7 grams salt (about a half teaspoon)
25 grams (1/8 cup) granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 grams yeast / one package fast-acting yeast
300 grams (1 1/3 cups) butter
Around 20 centiliters (3/4 cup) cold water (preferably sparkling water)
270 grams (1 1/3) pearl sugar
Vanilla to your taste

Allow eggs and sparkling water to come up to room temperature first.
Sift the flour into a bowl: make a well in the middle.
Melt the butter over hot water or in the microwave. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Beat the eggs well: add the butter and the yeast: mix well. Add the water and mix again.
Add to the flour along with the granulated sugar and vanilla or other seasoning (cinnamon works well).
Beat the dough for at least ten minutes. It will probably be sticky and difficult to work with. This is normal.
After this beating, allow to stand and rise in a warm place for 15-30 minutes. 5 to 10 minutes before baking, add the pearl sugar.
Heat the waffle iron. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto each quarter or section of the waffle iron. Bake until well browned.
Serve hot off the iron, dusted with confectioner's sugar, or top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Please note that pearl sugar is somewhat specialized. Some stores that specialize in cakemaking and other confectionery carry it, and there are some online sources, this one for example, The Nordic House

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