Crisp and caramelised on the outside, soft on the inside, Belgian Liege waffles are superior to normal waffles in every single way. Served up with a delectable speculoos spread, waffles can’t get much better than this.
Country Number 16: Belgium
We have finally made it to the land of fries, beer, chocolate and most importantly… Waffles! Since undergoing this cooking challenge, we have loved the journey of discovering different cuisines. Whether it is draniki from Belarus or mahjouba from Algeria, we’ve been adding so many new and exciting dishes to our cooking repertoire. However, there is something nice about cooking something with a bit familiarity.
Ever since we began this around-the-world cooking challenge, we have been looking forward to Belgium popping up. Basically, we’ve been dying for excuse to make proper Belgian Liège waffles. But more about that later. For now, let’s dive into Belgian cuisine!
History of Belgian Cuisine
Belgian cuisine is said to be served in the quantity of German food with the quality of French food. Quality and quantity? That does not sound like a bad combination to us. Belgian cuisine features many regional variations, meaning you’ll find unique dishes throughout the country. For instance, Wallonian cuisine focuses on fresh ingredients and rich sauces, while Flemish cuisine is a little more simple.
Regional and seasonal ingredients are heavily featured throughout all Belgian cuisine. Typical produce includes potatoes, leek, white asparagus and endives. A lot of seafood is eaten in Belgium, particularly mussels (moules) and grey shrimp (crevette grise). However, just like its European neighbours, meat, cheese and butter form the staples of the Belgium diet. There aren’t many purely vegetarian dishes in Belgium, which means you can save your stomach space for the four key food groups; fries, beer, chocolate and waffles.
Popular Belgian Vegetarian Dishes
- Pomme frites (fries)– One of the most popular street snacks of the country, Belgian fries are a cut above the rest. The secret lies in the soft variation of potato used and also the cooking technique of double-frying. Traditionally, they are served in a cone with mayonnaise.
- Stoemp- A very popular side dish in Belgium, stoemp is a creamy dish consisting of mashed potatoes blended with other vegetables such as carrots, leeks or brussel sprouts.
- White asparagus- During asparagus season, Belgium goes crazy for this vegetable. You will find them in all kinds of forms (even in ice cream!), but the most common way is boiled, baked in butter sauce and covered with hard-boiled eggs.
- Speculoos– A delicious spiced biscuit which is typically served around Christmastime in Belgium and surrounding countries.
- Waffles– Belgium are famous for two different types of waffles: the Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle. The Brussels waffle is rectangular and flaky, and often comes topped with whipped cream, chocolate or fruit. On the other hand, the Liège waffle is much denser, with rounded edges and crystallised sugar baked into it.
Vegetarian rating of Belgium Cuisine:
Making Belgian Liege waffles with speculoos sauce
It was a freezing cold day in New York. We braved the blistering wind for a dozen blocks until we reached Union Square. Our hands may have turned into icicles but our hearts were warm. It was Christmas time, so the park was filled with Michael Bublé music and people happily cradling mugs of mulled wine. A bustling ice skating rink reflected the sparkling lights of the giant Christmas tree that stood behind it. The plan was to go ice skating. After all, that’s what everyone does in the movies when they visit New York at Christmastime. As we went to join the insanely long cue to get our skates, two things filled the air. The first was the chorus of screaming children who filled the ice rink. The second was the smell of freshly made waffles. We turned to one another, and it dawned on us that the idea of ice skating in New York was probably a lot cuter than the reality. Ins seconds, we had ditched the line and were making a beeline for the waffle stand.
A few minutes later, we were sitting on the edge of the ice rink, consuming some of the best waffles of our lives. We knew we had made a great life decision. Crisp and caramelised on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, they were the perfect waffle texture. Plus, they were topped with the most delicious speculoos sauce that we could have eaten by the jarful (and may have done since). These weren’t just any waffles; they were Belgian Liège waffles, the most superior of the waffle family (we will explain why soon).
The pursuit of Belgian Liege waffle
Since our New York experience, we’ve been disappointed time and time again by a series of flat, floppy and flavourless waffles. We searched high and low for a place that make Belgian Liege waffles in Auckland, but have been unsuccessful in our pursuit. We knew we had to take things into our own hands.
Earlier this year, we finally bought a waffle maker. Now, there was nothing that stood between us and a plate crisp, golden Liège waffles. Or so we thought. As we began to search the internet for a recipe for the perfect waffle, we encountered a new hurdle. The key ingredient that gives Liège waffles their delicious, sugary crunch is the elusive pearl sugar.
We began trawling supermarket aisles and specialty stores for this sacred ingredient. We soon came to realise why we couldn’t find anywhere that sold Liege waffles in Auckland. Pearl sugar is not an easy ingredient to come by. We had almost lost hope in our Liege waffle dreams, until this challenge came around. When we saw Belgium was coming up, we knew we had to make these waffles happen. After many a google search (and almost ordering a 5kg bag of pearl sugar from a wholesaler) we finally found a European speciality store that sold what we needed. Now there really was nothing that stood between us and that plate of Liège waffles.
What makes Belgian Liege waffles so special?
Before we go on, let us explain what makes Belgian Liège waffles so special. In Belgium, you’ll find two types of waffles: the Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle. The Brussels waffle is similar to what you’d find listed as “Belgian waffles” in many places around the world. They are generally soft, pale golden and rectangular in shape. On their own, these waffles don’t tend to have much flavour, and act more as a base to load up with toppings such as cream, fruit, chocolate and icecream. With the right accompaniments, Brussels waffles can be a tasty treat. However, in our humble opinion, they have nothing on the Liège waffle.
A proper Liège waffle is so delicious that is can easily be enjoyed without a single fancy topping. The rich, buttery dough is studded with dense pearl sugar, which half-melts to give a delicious crunch throughout the waffle as well as a caramelised finish to the outside. They are a lot sweeter than the Brussels waffle, but this just means you don’t have to drown them in syrup to make them taste good. Having said this, these waffles can be equally as good when paired with the right toppings, such as the delectable speculoos sauce we made with ours.
How to make Liege waffles
Unlike normal waffles, the batter of liege waffles doesn’t come together instantly, and requires a small amount of time to rise. However, the short wait is more than worth it when you bite into these heaven-sent waffles! Here’s a basic step-by-step of how to make Belgian Liège waffles:
- Add together yeast, sugar and milk and leave for 5 minutes to foam.
- Whisk in all other ingredients and use either a stand mixer or wooden spoon to combine mixture until smooth.
- Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat waffle iron.
- Fold in pearl sugar to mixture then break dough into 10 pieces.
- Cook each piece of dough in waffle iron for a few minutes until outside is crisp.
Ingredient notes for Belgian Liege waffles
- Pearl sugar- As mentioned above, pearl sugar really is the key ingredient to making Liege waffles. Therefore, you really can’t substitute this ingredient. If you can’t find it in stores, you can try ordering it online, or making your own at home.
- Speculoos spread– If you haven’t been acquainted with speculoos, you are seriously missing out. The word speculoos refer to a type of spiced biscuit that are typically Belgian or Dutch. Nowadays, many people know speculoos by the brand name Lotus Biscoff cookies. Similarly, speculoos spread is also simply known as spiced cookie butter. If you can’t find speculoos spread/ spiced cookie butter at the shops, you can make your own like we did. Just be warned, it’s very difficult to not consume a whole jarful in one sitting.
Serving suggestions for the Liege waffles
As we mentioned above, Liege waffles are so delicious that you could easily enjoy them on their own. Having said this, we love a good topping, so we couldn’t resist serving our liege waffles up with two of our favourite accompaniments: poached pears and speculoos spread. The poached pears added a really nice fresh element to the waffles, and the spiced speculoos spread just tastes good on anything and everything.
Other indulgent sweet treats to try
Belgian Liege Waffles with Speculoos Spread
- 3/4 cup milk (warmed)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup butter (melted)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 225 g Belgian pearl sugar
Speculoos spread (optional):
- 250 g speculoos biscuits
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter (melted)
- 375 ml evaporated milk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
To make waffles:
- Add yeast and sugar to warmed milk in a large bowl. Leave for 5 minutes until yeast starts to foam.
- Whisk 2 eggs and melted butter into yeast mixture.
- Add in 3 cups of flour, salt and vanilla essence. If using a stand mixer, transfer and mix with dough hook until mixture is smooth. Otherwise, mix by hand with wooden spoon.
- Once smooth, add in extra 1/2 cup flour and mix for another 2 minutes.
- Cover and leave to rise in warm place for 30 minutes.
- Once risen, fold in pearl sugar to mixture. Break dough into 10 pieces.
- Preheat waffle iron and grease with cooking spray.
- Place piece of dough into the middle of the waffle iron and cook one at a time, until centre is cooking through and the outside is crisp.
- Place on a wire rack in a warm oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the waffles.
- Serve with speculoos sauce and poached pear.
To make speculoos sauce (optional)
- Blend speculoos biscuits in food processor into fine crumb. Add in all other ingredients and process until smooth and glossy.
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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