Authentic Liège waffles are one of life’s great indulgences — caramelized sugar glistening on a tender, buttery, vanilla-laden joy for the senses. Unfortunately, the “original recipe” has been long lost, and virtually all contemporary recipes use ingredients with little connection to what 19th-century bakers would have employed. Even most restaurants and chains that now sell the Liège waffle have taken it far afield from its early roots.
The recipe that follows isn’t an adaptation of any other. It’s a reconstruction based largely on 18th and 19th-century brioche — which indisputably forms the basis of the Liège waffle. The flour/butter/egg ratios mirror those of Louis Eustache Ude, former chef to Louis XVI, and ingredient choice is rooted in hundreds of years of waffle traditions. And while the full effect of those is best felt in my advanced professional metric version, the recipe below is a simplified take that has their spirit fully in mind. The intent of both recipes is to get as close to how these were originally made and, arguably, should still be made. However, modern techniques and equipment are used.
Before you dig into the recipe, please know that a big part of what makes these waffles special is pearl sugar. There’s no good substitute, but The Waffle Pantry offers the real deal (straight from Belgium) at reasonable prices. And for those of you who don’t want to mix your own batter but who do want commercial quantities of the dough, ready to bake, check out The Belgian Kitchen. Unlike most other producers, they use butter (not margarine), real vanilla and authentic pearl sugar. Having tasted them first-hand, I can assure you they’re a fine pre-made option.
In developing this recipe, I clawed my way back through time to find out how brioche and brioche-based desserts would have been made and, in fact, how waffles even came to be. It’s been a years-long effort that’s led me to purchase several professional irons, find the first use of the word waffle in the English language (currently in review by Merriam-Webster and the Oxford-English Dictionary), effectively refute the “Prince-Bishop of Liège” legend behind these waffles, rewrite the entire Wikipedia history of waffles, begin a waffle history book, and to disprove the two most popular narratives for the invention of the Brussels waffle. Sometimes I feel like I’ve become a waffle, but I digress…
What I discovered is that the bread flour, milk, and obscene amount of yeast you usually see for Liège recipes would have never been used. Never. Literally, if you see a recipe that calls for bread flour, milk or more than a ½ teaspoon of yeast per cup of flour, it still might produce a waffle, but it won’t be a Liège waffle.
Technically, pastry flour, fresh Mexican vanilla beans, and ale yeast would have been in the mix of the originals. But I realize most people don’t want to go to that extreme or that expense in baking these, so this version of the recipe keeps it much more sane.
And yes, there are 10 steps in what follows, but they’re all pretty simple. Seriously. As long as you have a stand mixer, prepping the dough is a snap. Yet it’s also a 2-day process. So I often start my Day 1 mix at 2 in the afternoon and finish it up at 10 at night. The dough is all ready to bake the next day.
Now start mixing, and enjoy!
Liege Waffle Recipe / Gaufre de Liège Recette
By Adam Wayda | Published: January 30, 2016
Prep time: 12 hours | Cook time: 2 minutes | Total time: 12 hours 02 mins
This is an excellent Liège waffle recipe that will get you closer to the 19th-century style than all others but my metric version. | Yield: 6
3/4 teaspoon of instant yeast
1/4 cup of warm water at 105°F-110°F
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs (warmed for several minutes in hot tap water)
2 Tablespoons of packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of honey
11 Tablespoons of butter (slightly cooler than room temperature)
3/4 cup of pearl sugar
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water and allow it to stand for several minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of your flour and 1 egg. Mix to blend.
2. Cover the mixture with the remaining 1 cup of flour, but do not stir. Then cover the bowl in plastic wrap, and let it stand for 60 minutes (by which time the wet batter will be bubbling up through the flour).
3. Add the second egg, light brown sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and honey.
4. Affix the paddle attachment, and mix on speed #1 (the “stir” setting) — scraping every few minutes — until the dough forms a ball on the paddle. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
5. Begin adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time, over the next 5-7 minutes, scraping the bowl every couple minutes.
6. Once all the butter is completely added, continue mixing, scraping occasionally, until the dough again balls on the paddle. This should only take 2-6 minutes.
7. Scrape the dough into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 4 hours. Then put it into the refrigerator to rest overnight.
8. The next day, take the bowl of cold dough straight from the fridge and add all of the pearl sugar. It will seem like a lot of sugar, but it’s supposed to be Mix it into the dough, by hand, until the chunks are well-distributed. Once mixed, divide the dough into 6 pieces of equal size.
9. Shape each piece into an oval ball (like a football without the pointy ends) and let it rise (covered loosely in plastic wrap) for 90 minutes.
10. If you have a professional waffle iron (meaning: it’s cast iron and weighs over 30 pounds) cook at exactly 355-360 degrees for approximately 2 minutes. If you have a regular home iron, it may take 4 minutes or longer.