Friday, March 30, 2012

3 days, 5 waffles, Liège me.

Actually, it probably would have only taken two days had I timed things better, but that's not important. The important thing is, that I succeeded at making the Liège waffle!

I was first turned on to this scrumptious indulgence after a visit to Bruges Waffles & Frites in downtown Salt Lake City. I had never seen nor heard of the liege waffle before but after hearing so much about this place, I couldn't wait to try it! I mean, a waffle is a waffle, right? Just throw some pancake batter onto a waffle iron and there you go, a waffle! Or is it just a pancake shaped like a waffle? If I threw ground beef onto a waffle iron would it be called a waffle as well, even though in reality, it's ground beef shaped like a waffle? You get my point right?

I went with my sister to try out this much-acclaimed culinary destination and while I begged and whined to have my waffle with strawberries and whoop cream (or Crème fraîche as the Europeans call it), Rachel insisted the waffle stands alone on its own. I took her word for it and toppings or not, she was totally right.

So, where's the syrup? And don't I need a knife and fork? Well, you could use utensils especially if you did get any toppings, but alone, the waffle comes in a simple, no mess, no fuss, wax paper sack or small paper tray. Feeling totally out of sorts with my waffle inhand, and the thing practically burning the prints off my fingers, I gingerly tore off a square of the waffle. Immediately, steam rose from its innards as the unique texture of the dough revealed itself. It wasn't like bread, it wasn't like a cookie, but it was kind of something in between, more leaning towards the texture of bread. I put it in my mouth and wow, it was like nothing I had ever tasted before, at least nothing like in the bakery-type items category. It was so sweet with bursts of sugar crystals and a sweetness not as overpowering as a cookie. The texture was my favorite part, crispy on the outside and soft and sticky on the inside. I was immediately in love.

Any time any of my friends come into town, I encourage them to try a Liège waffle at Bruges. They are just taste bud heaven!

So, of course after having eaten so many waffles, I thought I would try to make them on my own. Just looking at the construction of the waffle itself, I could tell that it was probably no easy task. I could only assume that some of the ingredients would be hard to obtain, the waffle iron probably plays a big role in how the waffle is cooked through, and of course, I ain't no chef so what would I know about Belgiumese cooking? Well, good thing I know how to follow a recipe!

Reality hit when all of the pieces of the possibility of actually making the waffle fell into place. I had heard that IKEA sold the unique pearl sugar that is essential in cooking the waffle and while visiting Matt's parent's vacation home in St. George, UT, low and behold on their counter, was a professional-grade waffle iron. The waffle gods were summoning me...

Rachel turned me on to this blog post with a recipe for the Liège waffle after my first tasting and just this week, and with all tools in hand, I decided to finally give it a shot.

I started making the dough Wednesday evening and finally was able to cook and serve the waffles this morning. Thanks to my trusty Mandarin Orange KitchenAid, the WaringPro WMK300 waffle iron and the pearl sugar, my waffles turned out perfectly! They had the texture and sweetness of the Bruges waffles and although Bruges' are definitely better, mine were a very close second, if at all discernible.

So, after having completed the process, here are my tidbits of glory to remember for next time:

1. Unfortunately, the grueling recipe only yields five waffles. Hopefully doubling, tripling and quadrupling won't adversely affect the outcome.

2. Temperature control is key to a well-cooked waffle. On the WaringPro WMK300, setting #4 for 2-minutes seemed to work well.

3. If you use the recipe in the link I included, start the dough at least 6-7 hours before bedtime to maximize prep time.

4. Web search indicates that any IKEA will carry the pearl sugar. Not the case in Utah, and maybe not as well in other places. Check around. We were able to find it at Pirate O's Gourmet Foods in another part of Draper. (Worth a visit in itself whether you're looking for pearl sugar or not.)

5. Waffle makers are hard to clean, especially with hardened sugar. Try to wipe down the sugar crystals while the griddle is still warm.

The process was long and tedious but that might be because I am inexperienced and not super intuitive, but I was so pleasantly surprised when they turned out just right! So happy with a happy stomach!