Many people are familiar with waffles. Often when people make waffles they use a box mix or if they are adventurous they will make it from scratch. A typical waffle recipe is made from baking soda to be mixed quickly and cooked. When people think of yeast waffles they think of Belgium waffles. And it is a privilege to have eaten one.
If I were to ask ten different people what a “Belgian” waffle is I would get ten different answers. Is it a type of waffle made from a particular waffle iron? Is it made from yeast? Did it come from Belgium? The answers are all a yes, but it takes more than one individual characteristic to define the unique waffles that originated from Belgium.
There are two popular types of waffles that Belgium is known for: the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle. They are both yeast waffles but that is really where the similarities end. Saying one is better than the other would be a personal preference. As we explore the differences you will see each one is delicious in its own right.
When preparing a Brussels waffle, it starts out like most yeast recipes, but ends with folding egg whites into the mixture before letting it rise. This makes for a foamy batter when spooned onto the waffle iron. It is wetter than most yeast dough, but thicker than typical a waffle batter. There is no mistaking the heavenly aroma of the yeast when it first hits the waffle iron.
An authentic Brussels waffle iron will have larger squares and deeper pockets. Most will be a heavier iron that lets you control the temperature. A yeast waffle is thicker than a baking soda waffle, and it typically does not soak up syrup like a sponge. When bought on the streets in Belgium, it usually comes with sweet cream, fruit, or dusted with confectioner sugar. They are eaten anytime of the day, not just for breakfast or brunch.
When preparing a Liege waffle, it starts out with yeast, but depending on the recipe you are making it could take up to twelve hours before the batter is ready to be used. The yeast in a Liege waffle goes through a respiration period and is sometimes chilled overnight before the pearl sugar is added. Pearl sugar, or Nib sugar, is like crystallized sugar and can be bought online. It is essential to making Liege waffles.
An authentic Liege waffle iron normally makes two waffles at a time and they are longer than a typical waffle iron. It is important you have a waffle iron that you can control the temperature when making Liege waffles.
The batter of the Liege waffle will be thick, like a biscuit, but lumpy because of the pearl sugar. Because of the respiration of the yeast it gives off a bit of a fermented aroma when cooked. The pearl sugar caramelizes and make for a very sweet, and sticky waffle. These can be enjoyed plain, but if a topping was desired, fruit would complement it well.
So, as you can see the Brussels waffle (which is named after the capital of Belgium where they came from), and the Liege waffle (legend has was inspired by Prince-Bishop of Liège’s chef) are both very worthy cuisine. Different, but both commendable.