These are right up there with Eddy Merckx and Chocolate as the best things to ever come out of Belgium. These waffles are to me as cocaine is to Tom Boonen (I may have a problem!) They are nothing like any other kind of waffle and if you’ve never had one, you need to!

We first discovered these in a tiny, hole in the wall, Belgian restaurant in down town Salt Lake City, called Bruges. The place is barely big enough to fit the two large photos that decorate the interior: one of Eddy and one of their royal majesties of Belgium but it is the BEST waffle you will ever have! The owner is jovial (and always more generous with toppings than his employees!) and I’ve never left that place without a very big smile on my face. They are more dense than a regular waffle and slightly doughy, but the REAL magic is in the specially imported Belgian Pearl Sugar. It caramelizes as the waffles cook. Need I say more?

When I was pregnant with Lilly (like 10 days before she was born!) we took my brother-in-law and his wife there. It was after this trip that I decided “I bet I could make these!” but, being very pregnant and therefore not cooking much, I put that idea on the back burner for a while. Last year, for my birthday, I got an email from Matt and Kerry that simply said “We got you the SWEEETEST birthday gift ever!!” A couple of days later a package arrived and inside? 5 lbs of Belgian Pearl Sugar!!!

I had already researched recipes and knew which one I wanted to make. It looked the most authentic. Matt had, in fact, tried several and corroborated that this was by FAR the best. (He also had crushed up sugar cubes in place of the pearl sugar once and said it worked pretty well, so if you don’t want to spend the money for specially ordering pearl sugar you could do that.) The recipe is not difficult but it is time consuming. I finally decided that Andy’s birthday breakfast was the perfect time to give this a try. I made a triple batch. If you’re going to take that much time for something, you may as well have some for later! I placed some of the dough in the freezer for later use. These turned out absolutely perfect! This won’t stop me from going to Bruges from time to time, but it DOES mean that I don’t HAVE to drive 45 minutes for waffle perfection if I prefer to have it at home. 🙂

This recipe is from: http://liegewaffle.wordpress.com/liege-waffle-recipe-liege-gaufre-recette/  I will be cutting and pasting his directions and inserting my photos of each step of the process. I inserted my own cooking experience into step 11 which is denoted in italics.

INGREDIENTS
makes 5 Gaufres Liège

• 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup scalded whole milk at 110-115 degrees
• 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. of water at 110-115 degrees
• 2 cups King Arthur Bread flour
• 1 large room temperature egg, lightly beaten
• 1Tbsp. + 1 tsp. light brown sugar
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 8 1/2 Tbsp. soft room temperature unsalted butter
• 1 Tbsp. honey
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• 3/4 cup Belgian Pearl Sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Place yeast, milk, and water into the workbowl of a stand mixer. Stir for a few seconds to moisten the yeast.

2. Add the egg and 1/3 of the total flour. Mix to blend. Scrape down sides of bowl.

3. Sprinkle remaining flour over the mixture, but do not stir it in. Cover and let stand 75-90 minutes (at the end of that time, you’ll notice the batter bubbling up through the cover of flour).

4. Add brown sugar and salt to the workbowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed – just to blend.

5. With machine on low, add honey and vanilla. Then add 2 Tbsp. of butter at a time. Mix 4 minutes at medium-low speed; scrape down sides once or twice in that period. Let the dough rest for 1 minute and then continue to mix for 2 minutes. If you measured your ingredients perfectly, the dough will be sticking to the sides of the bowl in the last minute of mixing and then, in the last 30 seconds of so, will start to ball-up on the paddle. If this does not happen, let the dough rest for 1 more minute and mix for another 2 minutes. Whatever the outcome of the extra mixing, proceed to Step 6.

Here is the dough resting…

                            and all balled up on the paddle of the mixer.

6. Scrape the dough into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours. This step is crucial for developing the flavor.

7. REFRIGERATE FOR 30 MINUTES BEFORE PROCEEDING TO STEP #8. This is essential. The yeast respiration must be slowed before continuing.

8. Stir the dough down (meaning: gently deflate the gases from the dough, by pressing on it with a rubber spatula), scrape it onto a piece of plastic wrap, and then use the spatula to press the dough into a long rectangle. Fold that rectangle over on itself (by thirds – like a letter) so that you have a square of dough. Wrap it in plastic, weigh it down a bit (I put two heavy dinner plates on top of it) and refrigerate overnight.

9. The next day, place the cold dough (it will be quite firm) in a large bowl and add all of the pearl sugar to a bowl. It will seem like a lot of sugar, but it’s supposed to be :) Mix it into the dough by hand until the chunks are well-distrubuted. Once mixed, divide the dough into 5 pieces of equal size.

10. Shape each chunk into an oval ball (like a football without the pointy ends) and let it rise (covered loosely in plastic wrap) for exactly 90 minutes.

11. If you have a professional waffle iron (meaning: it’s cast iron and weighs over 20 pounds) cook at exactly 365-370 degrees (the max temp before sugar begins to burn/decompose) for approximately 2 minutes. I do not have a professional waffle iron, but my regular Belgian Waffle maker worked just fine. I did find the the back of my iron seemed to be hotter than the front, so I turned off the heat after the first minute or two so the back waffles wouldn’t be overdone. When I took them out I turned the heat back on to finish up the front two. Each waffle iron will probably have it’s own quirks, so just play with yours to see what works best. Give each waffle a few minutes to cool slightly before eating. No syrup or toppings are needed, unless you’d like to add some fruit or a dusting of powdered sugar; they’re quite sweet on their own.

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