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Recipe Tue Feb 13 2007

Sugar Waffles, Belgian Style

In the U.S. we eat waffles on a plate, with a slathering of syrup and, often, a side of bacon. In Belgium, waffles are sometimes eaten on a plate, if they come from the northern part of the country, and they're covered in powdered sugar, whipped cream or fruit. But the better tasting version of the Belgian waffle is sold from trucks or out of pastry-shop windows, wrapped in paper and eaten on the go. These are known as Gaufres Liegeoises, or Sugar Waffles from Liege, a city in the southern part of Belgium. Unlike the cakey northern waffle, the sugar waffle is dense and sweet. No topping needed. They’re made with large sugar crystals, or pearl sugar, which caramelize on the outside and form a glaze, but stay crunchy on the inside.

I lived in Belgium for three years and, of course, fell in love with the cheese, the beer and the waffles. It's not too hard to find the cheese or the beer in the U.S. The waffles: not so easy. I brought back a cookbook, "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium," and the intention to make some sugar waffles of my own. But every time I'd look at the recipe (and it's been six years), I'd slam the book shut and back away from the kitchen. So it was a special treat for me when my husband brought me to the sugar waffle shop he’d discovered in Lake View, called Baladoche (2905 North Clark St.)

Both times my husband has been in he's engaged the guy that works there in a heated discussion on what constitutes a real gaufre. The inside should remain doughy, he insists. And the sugar should crunch. At Baladoche they use pearl sugar, but the waffle irons are so hot that the sugar melts. When you bite into a waffle, you get intensely sweet bites where the sugar pearls were, but you don't get to crunch them. According to the guy working behind the counter, this is because of a Chicago health code. They can't take the waffle out of the iron while the center is still doughy.

IMG_0548.JPGMy trip to Baladoche inspired me to go for gaufres of my own. I spent a few days touring the baking-goods aisles of several supermarkets. Dominick's and Jewel don't carry pearl sugar—no big surprise. But neither do Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. I finally tracked some down at Treasure Island; in the Swedish food section I found a box of Lars' Own Swedish pearl sugar. I discovered later that Lars makes Belgian pearl sugar, which is available by mail order from Deli Meyer.

The bits of Swedish sugar I brought home weren't as big as the pearls of sugar the guy at Baladoche had shown me. So I was a little worried. I was also worried about the recipe. It involves two batters, folded together to form dough rather than batter. But I soldiered on, with the help of my Belgian-born daughter. The first step, mixing together yeast, flour, sugar and water, yielded something that smelled a lot like Belgian beer, so I figured I was on track. Fifteen minutes into the recipe, we'd used four bowls and had only made the first batter. I put it in the warm oven to rise, my helper ran off to watch Hannah Montana, and I moved on to the second batter. An hour or so later I combined my batters, but didn't get the dough I wanted. I scooped the runny results onto the waffle iron anyway. Almost as soon as it hit the hot surface, my kitchen smelled like sugar waffles. What came out looked good, smelled delicious, but wasn't as dense and gooey as what I'd bought on the streets of Brussels.

I made another trip to Baladoche for some insight. This time I was able to talk to one of the owners, Terrence, who needs to keep his last name out of print for reasons related to his top-secret waffle recipe and his pearl-sugar source. Terrence says my main problem was the recipe I used: too much milk and too much egg. And he advises anyone who wants to master the sugar waffle to first master brioche, croissants and chocolate-chip cookies. The sugar waffle is like a combination of the three. And, don't use Teflon.

Sounds a little daunting. But for those of you who'd like to give it a try, here’s the recipe from "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium." (Adjust egg and milk amount as needed.)

Or, there's dough available by mail order from Belgian Iron Works.

Batter 1:
1¼ ounce fresh cake yeast or 2 ½ package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup warm milk

Batter 2:
9 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
½ cup pearl sugar or ¾ cup crushed sugar cubes

For Batter 1: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with 1 tbsp of the flour and the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.

Sift the remaining flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture, egg and milk. Mix to make a smooth batter. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until the batter has doubled or tripled in volume.

For Batter 2: In a medium-size bowl, mix the butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon (if using), granulated sugar and pearl sugar into a paste.

With hands, work the two batters together. Shape the dough into 10 balls; flatten each ball then dust lightly with flour.

Bake in a medium-hot waffle iron. If the iron is too hot the sugar will burn. Bake until the waffles are golden brown but still soft, 3 to 4 minutes.


Bryan Gruley / February 13, 2007 5:55 PM

Since your husband was having the heated discussions with the poor folks at Baladoche, I think you should make HIM try this recipe!

Susan / February 14, 2007 12:37 PM

Bravo for the attempt. I am going to try this recipe one day.. I do not have a waffle Iron... but maybe at my sisters next week...

Dave / March 12, 2007 3:38 PM

I have been trying to make these things for a couple of years now. I even had pearl sugar from Belgium brought over by a relative, but have not been able to replicate the flavor of the waffle. I have used fresh yeast, a must by the way, and commercial flour. Now, I have been using a teflon waffle iron and that may be part of the problem, but it's still missing something. You folks seem to be as close as anyone though. Any suggestions?

Pat / April 6, 2007 3:01 PM

Well I hate to blow the top off of this one, but it's killing me the way the owner lies to the public. There is no secret recipe. Belgian bottled water is not used to make the dough. The dough is bought from Belgium and sent over. The reason his last name can't be used is because he works for another company and could lose his job if they knew he opened a store. How do I know this? Terrence used and abused someone very close to me who helped him on the concept from the very beginning when it was just an idea. I could go on and list all the awful, disgusting manipulative things that have occurred, but I will leave with just one thing....those waffles that cost $5 plain cost Baladoche less than $1.50 each. It's amazing what greed will do to people.

Chris / May 29, 2007 12:52 PM

hey pat, wouldn't this guy's last name be mootoo. he works with me at BP, we are on the same bench at work. He is really lousy at work so i can not imagine how is this man going to run a business.

Krzysztof / August 13, 2007 8:17 AM

I came back from Belgium just this past March 07, I too fell in love with the luik waffle. Many searches later I too have found a recipe for said waffle, mine is a little simpler, but the result is very much a duplicate of what I ate in Belgium. The only thing that I think differ from your experience is all the waffles I had over there the sugar on the inside was also melted (almost like it was pre-syruped) for lack of a better term. The only time I had one that crunched was when we went to Lille France just over the border and this little shop had the waffles already made up and just popped them into a toaster oven to warm them up.

Doc / November 15, 2007 5:06 PM

In Brussels the Liege waffles that are sold on the street are both sweet and chewey, and are cooked from a soft dough rather than a batter. The guys making the waffles in the little street-side shops keep a few balls of dough in a warm place ready to pop into the waffle iron and you can see that they are loaded with butter but I have never seen any obvious sugar on the outside. Some places brush the waffle with something when it comes out of the waffle iron, either butter or sugar syrup, then wrap it in paper for you to walk down the street and eat. I have tried a number of recipes but don't yet have one I would publish with my name on it.

James / April 14, 2009 10:18 PM

I found your posting here while looking for a new source for pearl sugar. I had once made a mistake and bought the Swedish pearl sugar too. You really do need the larger Belgian pearls, but in a pinch, you can roughly crush regular sugar cubes and pick out the large pieces by hand. They work almost as well.
I've been using that recipe with great results. You might want to try it again if you haven't in a while. I only use 2 packs (or equivalent) of dry yeast and I reduce the cinnamon to only a pinch. I don't get a runny dough at all, but I live in dry Southern California.
I made them tonight, in fact, because we had been in NYC last week and tried a couple of sources but were disappointed. Mine came out great with the above recipe. My waffle iron is Teflon coated, but I set the heat setting on medium and only cook for a little over 2 minutes - before the alarm sounds. They got crunchy on the outside and stayed soft on the inside. They are lots of work, but to me, they're worth it!

Magan / October 26, 2009 4:17 PM

My recipe for the Liege Belgian waffle of which you speak, sold by the street vendors in Belgium, was provided to me by my Belgian cousin.

It is actually quite a simple recipe and yields a beautiful and sweet, crispy yet chewy result, just like the street vendors in Belgium.

While I will not divulge my recipe, you can find it or something very similar to it on line just by googling around. It will be provided to you in the metric system, which is easily converted. Pearl sugar may be purchased through Amazon. If you are looking to run your own business, I suggest you work through a food import business.

As for Baladoche in Chicago, my husband and I visited there before we started selling ours, and I was woefully disappointed in the product. Moreover, because our business is quite new and small, we are still able to use a Teflon waffle iron from William Sonoma and it produces perfect Liege Waffles.

Good luck!

Martine / December 30, 2009 11:23 AM

Belgian (Liege, actually) born and raised, been in US for 36 years. That first recipe is a joke. I would NEVER make my Gaufres de Liege/Gaufre au gros sucre if it was that involved. Simple yeast dough, with lots of butter and eggs and cinnamon if one likes it--we do. The cinnamon waffle is called Gaufre de Chasse, however (Hunter's waffle).

Frank / February 6, 2010 4:46 PM

Hey, Krzysztof, why not post your recipe?


Mahmoud Geramian / March 11, 2010 2:59 AM

Sugar cube Producer in Belgium or Author Production Line of this Supplement in the European countries

Waffle Master / February 5, 2011 3:50 AM

Lars own pearl sugar is not the good one for Liege Waffles. Use the Belgian one at the Belgian Pearl Sugar website instead...Don't over buy though, I don't want these guys to be out of stock...

Joelle / March 12, 2011 8:07 PM

Thanks Waffle Master, I was looking to purchase some Real Belgian Pearl Sugar online for so long, because the Sweden pearl sugar is not working for me. Crushed sugar cubes, Please!
Anyway My Liege waffles were perfect, I make a batch of thirty and they lasted 3 days! yep that good.
By the way I got my recipes at Get A Waff

Jeff / July 26, 2011 4:12 PM

$10 for 1 pound? Try for half the price. Love this recipe!

Nadine / February 2, 2013 6:51 AM

I am very happy with the they have a killer recipe and incredible Liege waffles, just like the one I ate in Liege!

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