Liege Waffles

Remember those cartoons with an apple pie cooling on a windowsill, a billowy cloud wafting from it? The aroma would unfailingly hook an unsuspecting character by the nose and draw him like a ragdoll to its sweet, sweet source. I’m pretty sure that’s what I looked like the first time I caught the scent of Belgian waffles.

It was seven years ago. I’d just moved to Brussels and was eager to explore my new surrounds. I’d set out for the weekly farmers market near my house, and it was there that the scent cloud first tickled my nose. Like a dog with a nervous tick, I twitched my head side to side, sniffing the wind until I found the source of honeyed air. It was a large white and yellow truck the size of a well-equipped motor home and kitted out as a mobile patisserie. One side of the truck was hinged and propped up to form an overhead shelter that protected a glass display case above the wheel wells. Within were delicate pastries and cookies—gems in a jewel case.

Waffle Truck

A waffle truck in Brussels

But I was ogling something else. Off to the side, near a stack of baguettes, a waffle iron sat, steaming and puffing, oozing crusted batter drippings. Without hesitation, and pointing dumbly to the billowing iron in hopes of relieving any doubt as to exactly what I wanted, I said, “Une gaufre, s’il vous plaît.” A waffle, please. A man—Gilles, I would later learn, thanks to my biweekly visits—took a utensil resembling a barbecue fork and peeled the crenellated confection off the knobs of the iron, folded a piece of wax paper around it, and handed it over. I cradled it in two hands as if it were a piece of fragile glass. This waffle was nothing like the IHOP version of a “Belgian” waffle I’d grown accustomed to in the U.S. In my hand was a warm, ginger-brown oblong waffle about the size of a kitchen sponge. With no maple syrup and no whipped cream smiley faces in sight, I sunk my teeth into the dense, sweet, chewy confection known as a Liège (pronounced LEE-ezh) waffle. The caramelized crust gave way easily and the taste of butter and sugar melted on my tongue. It was love. My understanding of a true Belgian waffle—and my waistline—would never be the same.The Belgian waffle as we know it in America actually originated as the “Bel Gem Waffle,” a food created by Belgian restaurateur Maurice Vermersch for New York’s 1964 World’s Fair. Waffles became a national craze in subsequent years, the waffle iron a fixture in American kitchens. The name “Bel Gem” mutated first to “Belgium,” then to “Belgian,” forever linking the flat country to maple syrup-splattered diner menus across the 50 states.

Belgium isn’t totally blameless here—the small quiet types never are. Though Vermersch’s rendition was a far cry from the waffle nirvana I’d experienced at the market, it was actually patterned after a “Brussels” waffle. This is a cousin to the authentic Belgian waffle yet more closely resembles the American version. Leavened with yeast and egg whites, it’s fluffier than the real Belgian deal and served in a stack throughout its namesake city, with toppings such as chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and strawberries.

However, the most common type of waffle in Belgium, and in my opinion the most bewitching, is the doughy diva I discovered that day in the market. Named for a town in southeast Belgium, the Liège waffle is cooked on an extremely hot iron that caramelizes the chunks of pearl sugar in the batter, creating a glistening crust that enrobes the buttery, vanilla-y cake beneath. It’s eaten by hand in Belgium—and never for breakfast—though I’ve been known to eat them morning, noon, and night. Street vendors around Brussels prepare and serve them hot off the iron from vans parked at just about every market and main shopping area. I’m partial to the vans in front of the city’s most beautiful landmarks and vistas.

You really don’t need an excuse to indulge in a Liège waffle—at least I certainly don’t. But August 24 marks the anniversary of the first U.S. patent for a waffle iron. It’s not the same as the iron used for an authentic gaufre Liège, yet it’ll suffice. Well worth the effort, this recipe is somewhat more sophisticated to make than a toaster waffle yet slightly less difficult to produce than a tiered wedding cake. If you can’t bring yourself to make it from scratch, don’t worry. Chances are there’ll soon be a waffle truck near you. You’ll know it when you smell it. Just follow that billowing scent cloud.–Kimberley Lovato

LC Craving Caveat Note

This little number requires a little advance work and timing. We suggest you plan your craving accordingly.

Liège Waffles Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 16 H
  • Makes 5

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup scalded whole milk, [110°F to 115°F (43°C to 46°C)]
  • 2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons warm water, [110°F to 115°F (43°C to 46°C)]
  • 2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Belgian Pearl Sugar (Lars Own brand is an excellent choice) or sugar cubes that you’ve coarsely crushed in a mini chop or a food processor

Directions

  • 1. Dump the yeast, milk, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine until the yeast is just moistened. This ought to take but a few seconds. Add the egg and 2/3 cup of the flour and mix just until incorporated. Sprinkle with the remaining flour but do not stir. Cover and let stand until the batter is bubbling up through its mantle of flour, 75 to 90 minutes.
  • 2. With the mixer on low speed, add the brown sugar and salt to the batter and mix just until combined. With the machine still running, add the honey and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix for 4 minutes on medium-low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice during that period. Let the dough rest for 1 minute and then continue to mix for 2 more minutes. (The dough should be sticking to the sides of the bowl during the last minute of mixing and then, in the last 30 seconds or so, it should start to ball-up on the paddle. If this doesn’t happen, let the dough rest for 1 more minute and mix for another 2 minutes. Whatever the outcome of the extra mixing, proceed to the next step.)
  • 3. Turn the dough into a large bowl and sprinkle very lightly with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours.
  • 4. Now cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
  • 5. Stir the dough down by pressing on it gently to deflate it. Carefully scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and then press the dough into a long rectangle. Fold that rectangle over onto itself in thirds, like a letter, so that you have a square of dough. Wrap it in plastic, weigh it down a bit (I place two heavy dinner plates on top of it), and refrigerate overnight.
  • 6. The next day, place the cold dough (it will be quite firm) in a large bowl and add all of the pearl sugar to the bowl. It will seem like a lot of sugar, but it’s supposed to be a lot. Mix the sugar into the dough by hand until the chunks are well distributed. Once mixed, divide the dough into 5 pieces of equal size. Shape each chunk into an oval ball (like a football but without the pointy ends) and let it rise, covered loosely in plastic wrap, for exactly 90 minutes.
  • 7. If you have a professional waffle iron (meaning it’s made from cast iron and weighs over 20 pounds) cook at exactly 365° to 370° F (185° to 187°C) (the max temp before sugar begins to burn) for about 2 minutes. If you have a regular waffle iron, heat the iron to 375° F (190°C) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. (Many regular waffle irons go up to and over 550° F (287°C) at their highest setting. I suggest you place the dough on the iron and immediately unplug it or turn the temp dial all the way down; otherwise, the sugar will burn.)
  • 8. Let the waffles cool a few minutes before eating, wrapped in waxed paper, if desired.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Leanne Abe

Aug 23, 2011

This is the best Liege waffle recipe I’ve tried. The waffle comes out sweet with a buttery, malty, yeasty flavor, but it’s not overly yeasty. The outside is crisp and sugary, but there’s a good chew to the interior, along with occasional crunchy sugar-filled bites. Be forewarned that there is a lot of non-active time with the recipe; this allows the flavors and texture to develop in the dough. I used pearl sugar but also tried it with sugar cubes crumbled in the food processor. Pearl sugar is best, but I wouldn’t turn down a waffle made with sugar cubes, either. The directions say to mix the sugar in by hand, but I found it easier to knead the sugar into the dough. I let my waffle iron heat up to 3/4 of the max heat setting and then measured the temperature with an infrared thermometer. I placed the dough oval in the middle and at 370°F, the waffles cooked in two minutes. It seems like a lot of work for five waffles, but they’re rich and easily split into quarters for sharing. All the sugar and butter in the dough left a mess in my waffle iron, but a pastry brush and warm water (on the still-warm iron) cleaned it up.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Aug 23, 2011

You need quite a bit of lead time for several rounds of proofing, including overnight refrigeration, for this recipe. But all of the work and time are worth it when you get five absolutely beautiful waffles that are more like pieces of fine pastry than what we Americans typically call “waffles.” I used a regular waffle iron, my Krups, and was able to get it to a temperature of 360°F. The dough balls took five minutes to cook–the iron was hot enough to create a beautiful carmelized sugar crust on the outside while cooking the waffle inside to a lovely “brioche-like” texture. I did not have pearl sugar so I made my own by crushing sugar cubes with a meat mallet. My only complaint would be that some of the sugar melted and stuck to the waffle iron, making clean-up rather challenging. Perhaps by using actual sugar pearls, this would be less of an issue.

Comments
Comments
  1. Salle says:

    There is always something about Kimberley Lovato’s writing that transports me to exactly the spot she is writing about. I read this article and immediately felt the sugared delight melt in my mouth.

  2. Amy Wallerstein says:

    My husband and I went on our honeymoon 13 years ago and one of our stops in Europe was Brussels. Our favorite food of four cities was a waffle off the streets of Brussels. I still look back remembering how delicious it tasted! I look forward to trying this recipe.

  3. Deb says:

    Marvelous history of waffles! Who knew? A yeast dough with little chunks of sugar, how tempting. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Renee Oliveira Rogers says:

    Kimberley,

    I want to thank you for writing a wonderful piece. I was lucky enough to have spent a semester in Leuven many years ago. Student life as it was, consisted of dining on pomme frites and waffles from the street cart on a regular basis. Nothing compares to a fresh waffle straight from the iron! Thank you for bringing back a wonderful memory for me.

    • Renee—how wonderful to have spent time in Leuven. It is a beautiful town and was a frequent trip for us, not only for the surroundings but also, as you mentioned , for the waffles and frites,and of course the great beer. Belgium is really a great food country and I’m so glad this story brought back fond and tasty memories.

      • Frank says:

        Would you be able to double this recipe? I can’t figure out the proportions and imagine that double the yeast might not be a good idea.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Frank, when dealing with recipes that call for yeast, we typically simply make a double batch rather than double the recipe, seeing as there’s scientific stuff that we don’t completely understand but do fully respect happening. Sorry, but better safe than sorry, especially when breakfast is on the line. And it takes just a few minutes more to repeat the steps. Look forward to hearing what you think of the waffles, Frank.

  5. Holly says:

    Merci por les souvenirs, Kimberley! Brussels certainly has the best smelling subways in the world, thanks to the scrumptious waffle stands! Maybe that is how I gained so much weight during my summer there. Nice to be reminded of that lovely street market as well.

  6. Cristin says:

    Sounds delicious. Thanks for the lovely memories, and now I need to go buy myself a waffle iron.

  7. Rachelle says:

    Thanks so much for the link to the sugar crystals! We have looked online before, in France, at specialty shops, we’ve attempted breaking larger crystals down, and tried making our own with damp sugar. We’ve made the waffles without the sugar crystals and while delicious it’s not quite the same. I just received my sugar today and foresee waffles in our weekend.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      You’re quite welcome, Rachelle. We know what it’s like to come close but not quite close enough to recreating a favorite recipe, so we understand the need for all the right details. Let us know how this recipe goes…

  8. AnnMarie says:

    What a wonderful recipe. Especially if you love to cook, lik myself. These are absolutely delicious. I’ve never had waffles from a restaurant. I’ve always made them at home. But this recipe has become my new favorite. I ate one as soon as it came off the iron. Thank you for sharing a bit of sunshine.

  9. Michelle Lee says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article and recipe! I can’t wait to try it. However, I do have one question. I’m planning to have a brunch party where guests can cook their own waffles. How can this be accomplished without the dough over proofing since waffles will the cooked throughout the morning and not all at once. Can I refrigerate the dough after it has gone through its final proof of 90 minutes and when it’s ready to be cooked, take out the dough from the fridge and cook it? Or does the dough have to be at room temp? If so, how long can the dough sit in room temp without over proofing? Thank you for your help!!!!

    • leanne says:

      Michelle – I would prep the dough through mixing in the pearl sugar and then place it back in the fridge. Take the dough out about 90 minutes before brunch starts and it should be ready to go by the time your guests are cooking up waffles. Because it’s such a dense, buttery dough, I wouldn’t worry too much about it getting over proofed in the time your guests finish the waffle cooking.

      • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

        Thanks Leanne! Linda also suggested that you might want to divide the dough in half and then proof the dough for each half closer to the time that the waffles will be cooked. Hope one of these methods work perfectly for your brunch party.

  10. Rick Unuia says:

    Hello, I made these waffles and I did like them…just some questions though, because this recipe is so different to other recipes Ive tried. First, on the last 90 min proving, I found the dough had a “beery, kinda fermented” aroma. Is this normal? After I cooked the waffles ( I used a Cuisinart a on 4.5 and pressed down a little for the 2min cook time), they came out looking wonderful and had a good result from the pearl sugar – but still, that slightly alcoholic taste ( I just want to know if this is common,) Cheers

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Rick, I spoke with Leanne and Linda our testers who made the waffles. Leanne said the waffles do have a malty, yeasty aroma in the dough from all the yeast, but there shouldn’t be a fermented aroma. And the cooked waffles definitely should not taste alcoholic after cooking. She wondered if the type of yeast may be the culprit. Linda suggested that you could try increasing the vanilla by an additional tsp or by adding a second complementary flavor, such as orange flower water or a little bit of almond extract, if you found the malty flavor not to your liking.

      • Rick says:

        Hi there- thanks for the reply. Yeah I don’t mind the malty flavor, but I was just wondering if a beery taste was supposed to be prevalent. Personally I don’t think I measured the ingredients correctly. As for the yeast, I used a dried active yeast–everything seemed to be working fine, but it was just the last 90-minute proof that I’m wondering about. Also, could you tell me what exactly the overnight refrigeration accomplishes? I’m an amateur baker and I’m not experienced in how this all works, so was wondering if it improves the flavor? Is is just as good to perhaps leave the dough in the fridge for a shorter amount of time, say, an hour or two? Is the process made faster in the freezer instead? Sorry for all the questions–but at the moment I’m very invested and interested in Liege waffle creation. :) Cheers!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Rick, I’ve forwarded your queries along to our most experienced Liege waffle makers and I expect a response any time….

        • David Leite says:

          Rick, I see you’ve gotten some answers as well as had some success. Wonderful.

          For the record, yeast dough (also called a fermented dough) can have a fermented/alcohol flavor if it rests to long, called over proofing. So my guess is twofold: not properly measuring the ingredients–so you may not have had the optimal ratio of yeast, carbohydrates, and sugar–as well as over proofing.

          • Rick Unuia says:

            Hello, David. Yes, overproofing coupled with the definite possibilty of too much sugar/honey I think contributed to the cause of the fermentation. As such, I have not had an issue since I tweaked a couple of things.

  11. Rick Unuia says:

    Hi Renee – thanks for that! Could you also perhaps ask about the presence of of the pearl sugar? What I mean is that…I get a good caramel on the outside…but there SHOULD be some kinda unmelted chunks in each waffle to be crunched into correct? Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re quite welcome, Rick. I know for a fact that yes, there should be some chunks of kinda unmelted pearl sugar in each waffle to be crunched into. Will get back to you on your other curiosities stat….

  12. Rick. Hi! So glad you are enjoying these waffles. Sure wish I had a warm batch of my own right now. Yes! Crunches of pearl sugar in the waffle are normal and part of the delicious surprise of biting into a liège waffle. As for your previous question about why the dough must rest overnight–you have me scratching my head. Good question. It must certainly have to do with the yeast and chemistry, letting the right reaction occur to achieve the desired texture, but frankly I am not sure why it has to be an overnight versus a four-hour waiting period. I can’t answer specifically, but have put out the waffle feelers to some “experts” who might know. Have you tried letting the dough sit for a shorter time? If so, were the results any different? Thanks for being so waffle-curious.

  13. Rick Unuia says:

    Okay, this time I followed the recipe EXACTLY and used the dough hooks on my electric beater to process much of the mixing. At the moment it is going through its four-hour rest, but it already looks great! Much better than the previous attempt! The dough has a shine and a very viscous and thick putty-like consitency to it. I added a few spices to the flour mix, too. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and some allspice. It smells wonderful and I cant wait to try the end product.

  14. Rick Unuia says:

    Hello again. Ok, I tried the recipes out. I wasn’t too happy with my spiced mix which I think was a bit of an overkill with the spice–it tended to overpower a lot of the other flavors. I have done a couple of doughs since then, and after a bit of tweaking I came away with possibly my favorite Liege recipe yet. Ive taken elements from this recipe with elements from a slightly similar recipe. Anyways, the result of my waffles were a great caramelisation, with odd lumps of the pearl sugar for crunch. My waffles came out buttery, with a good, but not strong, vanilla flavor. The texture was almost in between a bread and croissant texture–it was light, almost like a pastry, I think…like a very light bread, kind of. They were soooo good! Thanks heaps for the advice–this recipe you have here really helped to make me think how to improve my recipe!

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Well Rick, from one waffle-lover to another, it sounds like it’s time to break out the maple syrup to celebrate. We’re so glad you were able to use this excellent Liege recipe as a guide for your waffles. They sound terrific!

  15. Patty K says:

    Hi Rick,

    Please share your recipe and method for the waffles. I would very much like to try these waffles and have recently bought an iron. It’s just an average kitchen type which I hope will get hot enough to produce a liege waffle.

    Thanks.

  16. jen says:

    Can the dough be frozen?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Seeing as it’s more of a batter than a dough, jen, I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m wondering if you could instead freeze the waffles and then reheat them in a low oven…?

  17. Debbie Fleming says:

    We just got back from Montreal where we had a “Gaufre Liege” that was like no other “Belgian Waffle” I’d ever tasted! The density and caramelized sugar was so wonderful that I had to find out how to make them. I found your recipe and it matched my description of flavor to a “T”! I have started the process and am now waiting the four hours before refrigerating for 30 minutes. I just have to run out tomorrow to buy a Belgian waffle iron! The whole family can’t wait! I’ll let you know how it goes…thanks!

    • Debbie Fleming says:

      Made them tonight. Other than not having a Liege waffle iron and having to experiment with times and settings, I’d say they were pretty darn good!

  18. I have tried this recipe twice now and can attest that it works brilliantly as written. On the other hand, my intention when I made it the second time, completely backfired. I was really keen on sending these as gifts to my husband’s unit as they were shooting on location and away from home in Mumbai and so decided to triple the batch. I also ended up altering the various proofing and resting times because of a few unavoidable reasons. The initial proofing time ended up only 3 hours by which time it had risen high above the bowls rim. I then left it in the fridge for around 5 hours before making the waffles. The resulting waffle was denser than my original attempt and also not as flavorful. Heart broken, I then left the dough with the sugar in it in the fridge for a day and made waffles a day later and of course they were dense and sour. I have to tell you that I still ended up binging on these though I was too heartbroken to send them as gifts. Despite the fiasco, the memory of the very successful and absolutely delicious first attempt will definitely have me coming back to this recipe.

    • Beth Price says:

      So sorry to hear of this, Bombay Chowparty, as you had the best intentions of a lovely gift. I’m just glad that you managed to salvage a few bites. Maybe you can make some for your husband when he returns from location?

  19. Laura says:

    Well, Belgium has just jumped to the top of my travel wish list. I first had a real Liege waffle (and my first taste of speculoos, now one of my favorite foods), at a food truck in Manhattan called Wafels & Dinges. It has haunted me…until now! This recipe came out perfectly, and though it took a long time to finish, it was quite easy. Even cleanup wasn’t bad. Thank you for these great treats :).

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Swell, Laura! We know well that haunted feeling. You’re very welcome, we’re glad to be able to help quell that longing…although you must definitely still travel to Belgium….

  20. Patty says:

    I made these waffles recently and the dough seemed to turn out as it should. My waring pro waffle iron did not stay hot enough to caramelize them. I would so appreciate your recommendations for any irons that work successfully, other than the very expensive professional type.
    Thanks

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Patty, I used an All-Clad waffle iron and had pretty good success. Let’s toss your question out to the readers and see what they used. Anyone?

  21. Faliming says:

    There is something wrong with my technique. I haven’t tried a Liege waffle before, so I don’t know how it should taste like. The texture of my waffle is more similar to a full bread like texture. Should it be like that? What did I do wrong? Please help.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Falimag, these do have a tad bit different texture than a normal waffle. Were you able to find the pearled sugar? And what kind of waffle iron did you use?

      • Faliming says:

        Hi Beth, yes, I use pearl sugar and got it and waffle iron from HVD. I use trimoline instead of honey. Did I miss anything? I live in Asia and it is very humid and warm. Will it affect the time length for the dough to rise?

        • Beth Price says:

          Hi Faliming, let me reach out to some of our testers and see if they can provide some answers. Be back soon…

        • Beth Price says:

          I spoke with Linda, one of our professional bakers, and these are her suggestions. “the texture and flavor of Liege waffles are more bread-like than other waffles. This will always be the case since they are made from a yeast dough and bread flour which has a higher protein content resulting in a more chewy, crunchy bread-like texture. Because the Liege is a derivative of a brioche dough, it will be more bread-like and “yeasty” tasting. I don’t think you are doing anything wrong, although living in a humid and warm climate, you probably have more moisture in your flour and could be over-proofing because your proofing environment is warmer than where the recipe originated. You may want to try reducing your proofing times.” Hope this helps!

          • Faliming says:

            Thank you very much Beth, I will definitely try your suggestion. I also need your help with dough storage. I tried to mix the pearl sugar with the dough, and roll them into individual ball all at once and keep them in the freezer until I need them by freezing the dough ball and thaw it for 2 hours the next day before baking. Will this work? Will it affect the texture or the taste of the waffle?

    • Debbie Fleming says:

      These are not your everyday “batter” waffle! Yes they are more yeasty and almost bread-like. You also need to use a good Belgian waffle maker and use the sugar. That’s what gives it a caramelized crispness on the outside. It sounds like you are on your way!

      • Faliming says:

        Thank you Debbie for the feedback, you are right, It is confusing at first with so many batter waffle available compared to liege waffle. I am glad to find this site and meet someone to discuss it with.

      • Beth Price says:

        Thank you, Debbie, for chiming in! It is always so great when our readers can “speak” to one another.

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