Authentic Liege Waffles with Homemade Pearl Sugar + Strawberry Maple Syrup
This post has been a long time in the making! It all started 3 years ago when JD and I hosted a Belgian exchange student named Melodie. Her parents sent us a big box of Belgian treats including authentic Liege waffles. Liege is the city Melodie was from, and according to many (not just her), Liege waffles are the end all, be all waffle –even by Belgian standards.
Unlike other waffle batters I’ve made, Liege waffle batter uses yeast, so it’s one of those “hurry up and wait” recipes. Baking, pastries, and bread making has always made me nervous. Unlike regular cooking, you can’t always substitute one thing for another. Plus because it’s usually labor and time intensive, you know that if you screw it up, it’s going to be a long time before you’ll see success. When I was in culinary school, baking was one of the few classes I finished before I dropped out and went back to regular college. Even with teacher supervision and correction, it was nerve-wracking. The best thing I remember making was challah bread –OMG that was good! I tried to recreate it at home and it turned out awful.
Finally I’m confident enough to make cookies, bars, and simple cakes, but I’d yet to do anything involving yeast, proofing, punching, etc since the failed challah experiment of 2005. So there’s that part. When I write out the recipes for this post, I’m going to write it in the clearest way I can so it’s easy to follow. The recipe I used was found here, and it a great recipe, but it wasn’t easy to follow, in my opinion. With recipes like this, I think it’s extra important to have your mise en place set up before doing anything with the yeast or the mixing or any of it. Also, this recipe takes some time: about 3 hours from start to finish. So it’s more of a brunch or breakfast-for-dinner thing. But they’re just as good leftover –if you have any left over, that is.
My friends Erik and Lisa told me a trick about working with yeast. With this recipe (and I believe in most or all), you need to let the yeast “bloom” in lukewarm water. As if I weren’t nervous enough, I learned that you can actually kill the yeast if the water is too hot. Lisa and Erik told me to run my hand under cold water as it’s heating up. As soon as it feels slightly warmer than your own body temperature. That’s lukewarm.
Also, this is the waffle iron I use. I like anything that can serve more than one purpose, and this one is a flat top griddle, waffle iron, and panini press/George Foreman-style grill all in one. All you do is change the plates.
Part of the component to the waffles is the pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is exactly what it sounds like: little balls of sugar about the size of pearls. There is hardly any sugar mixed into the dough, except for the pearl sugar. The pearls create little pockets of sweetness that burst and start to caramelize while the waffle cooks. You can get pearl sugar at Whole Foods or here on Amazon, but it’s pretty pricey per pound (it’s cheaper at WF: $4 for 8 ounces). That’s when I thought “I bet I can make that.” So I found a recipe, and it’s actually very simple. It will also cost about 1/100 of what it does to make it. (I mean, a ten pound bag of sugar is $4.) Plus you can say you made it! From scratch! Satisfaction, right? The pearl sugar keeps for weeks because all it is is water and sugar. I actually made it the same night I made cured egg yolks. What can I say? It was during a blizzard, and I was bored. And what mom doesn’t keep eggs and sugar around?
The third component to this post is the strawberry maple syrup. You can always top your waffles with plain maple syrup or fresh whipped cream, but you really should try this syrup! It’s drinkable…I mean, literally, we drank what was left in the ramekins.
Now for the recipes:
Authentic Liege Waffles
(adapted from Food and Wine)
Total Time: 3 hours (1 hour hands-on)
Makes: 16 waffles
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
1 cup (2 sticks of unsalted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar
1 ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 cup pearl sugar (recipe follows)
Strawberry Maple Syrup (recipe follows)
- Melt the butter (I always do it in the microwave, loosely covered, in 30-second increments). Add the vanilla bean paste or extract to the butter, and set aside.
- Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a large stand mixer. Create a well in the center. Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. Set aside.
- Crack the 3 eggs into a bowl. Set aside.
- Add the brown sugar and yeast to a small bowl. Toss together. Add the lukewarm water to it, and let it bloom for 5 minutes. The yeast will look slightly foamy.
- Add the yeast mixture into the well you created in the flour.
- Mix on medium with the paddle until the dough looks raspy, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, and mix for 20 seconds on medium in between each addition.
- Get ready to stream in the butter and vanilla mixture. Turn the mixer on low, and stream it in until the batter looks smooth.
- Use a rubber spatula to push the dough off the sides. (The dough will be very sticky.)
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
- Let it rest for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Fold in the pearl sugar (recipe follows), and let the dough rest for another 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile preheat your waffle iron on medium heat.
- Fold the mixture together to deflate it a little bit.
- Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray.
- For each waffle quarter, use 2 tablespoons of dough.
- Cook the waffles in batches, about 5 minutes per batch.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with sweetened whipped cream or Strawberry Maple Syrup (recipe follows).
(adapted slightly from The Pancake Princess)
Total Time: 2 hours (30 minutes hands-on)
Yield: 1 ½ cups of pearl sugar
Difficulty Level: Easy
1 ½ cups white sugar
2 tablespoons water
- Add the sugar and water to a sauce pan.
- Turn the stove on the lowest possible heat setting. Stir occasionally for 25-30 minutes. You are trying to clump as much sugar together to create little pearls. You don’t want any loose sugar left over. If it doesn’t seem to clump together, you can turn the stove up to low just for a minute or 2 to try and get it to stick together. Just don’t do it for too long, or the sugar will dissolve. The lowest setting is allowing the sugar to dry out without actually cooking it.
- Once the sugar has finished, leave it setting out off the heat for as long as possible (at least an hour or 2). Store it in an airtight container.
Strawberry Maple Syrup
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 ½ cup syrup
Difficulty Level: Easy
1 pound of frozen strawberries, defrosted (not the kind in sugary syrup)
½ cup real maple syrup
- Add the strawberries to a blender, and puree until smooth.
- Add the puree and the maple syrup to a mason jar (or other storage container). Seal, and shake until well blended. Serve with Authentic Liege Waffles.