Liege Belgian Waffles for my Baby Boy

When my son was in first grade, we used to spend time at lot of time at the Border's Book Store at our local shopping center.   There was a quiet little man who had a cart stand, where he'd sell freshly made Belgian Waffles.  He'd take a square of dough and make a fresh, hot "Liege Belgian Waffle" and my son would happily receive it with a hop, skip and a jump.  As the mother of an only child, the price was worth the smile on my son's face as he chewed on this special treat.  I remember that I was a divorced mom at that time, so affording this treat meant that I wouldn't buy one for myself.  My son would give me a bite, and I remember that the waffle had a rich taste of butter, with a hint of vanilla. The caramelized sugar left a chewy and sweet mouth feel.   One day, we realized that the man with the cart no longer set up business at the shopping mall-- sadly, we never saw him again.   Every so often my son-- who is now 22 years old-- would ask me if I remembered those delicious waffles.  Yes, I did, but my memories are more connected to that sweet little boy who delighted in his special treat. I miss those years, but I don't miss those teen years!

This  waffle is different from our traditional American Waffles. The Belgian Sugar (or ?Liege? Waffle) is a popular street-food across Europe. Served warm, plain or garnished with chocolate, Nutella, fruit, ice-cream or whipped cream, it is enjoyed by thousands of shoppers and sight-seers.  I decided to do a little internet research on the history of the Liege Waffle and this story is consistently shared:
 "According to legend, it was invented in the 18th Century by the Prince of Liège's cook. At the Prince's request, he experimented with cooking a kind of bun by adding polished sugar to the dough. Seduced by the appetising odour of vanilla that emanated during the cooking, the Prince fell for the new cake's charm." Source
I did most of my Christmas shopping on Amazon, and I stumbled across this Belgian Pearl Sugar.  Since I qualified for free shipping I decided it was time to see if I could recreate a childhood memory for my son.  After looking at several different recipes, I decided to use the one on the very back of the box of pearl sugar.  You might wonder if you can just crush sugar cubes.  You could, but I wanted to be authentic.  Having read other recipes, I'm told that there's something special about this Belgian Pearl Sugar.  You really want the sugar to melt, and get that wonderful caramelization, don't you? The ingredients are: milk, yeast, eggs, butter, flour, salt, vanilla and eggs.  Cinnamon is optional, but I decided to skip that.

For those of you who are afraid of working yeast, this is a great beginner recipe.  I used Rapid-Rise Yeast.  They key is that you don't heat the milk to be scalding hot.  Using my beloved therma-pen, you can see that 96 degrees was just right.  You also want the butter and eggs to be at room temperature. Yeast likes warmth!
Begin by dissolving the yeast in the milk.  That's easy enough, right?

Gradually add all the ingredients to the flour, except for the pearl sugar. (My stand mixer works great to do this.)

Let the dough double in size (about 30 minutes). I let mine sit for about an hour. (Bottom right corner photo.)
NOTE: I turn my oven on to WARM for a few minutes, then turn it off. I cover the dough in a bowl, and place it into the warm and cozy oven to help proof the dough.

Gently flatten the dough into a rectangle and add the pearl sugar.Fold the dough over, in thirds (my own technique to distribute the sugar throughout). Divide the dough into small patties, about 3-4 oz each.
NOTE: To be more traditional, Liege waffles are shaped into a rectangle.

I have an inexpensive non-stick Belgian waffle maker. Yes, there are special waffle irons for this, but I didn't want to invest in one.  To prepare: Bake in a greased and heated waffle iron. Be very careful, as the sugar will caramelize and can be extremely hot. Allow them to cook for a few minutes, before biting into them.

I presented these to my son and waited as he bit in.  Ah!  That beautiful smile of his grew wide, and he said that these were exactly as he remembered!

TASTING NOTES: The are rich and buttery.  You need to be careful to not eat them the very second that you remove them from the waffle iron.  The sugar has melted and can be very hot.  I tasted vanilla and the yeast is very subtle. The texture is moist, a little dense and did I mention how rich these are?  I ate a half of one, and my son polished off two-- and my other half.  So, what was I supposed to do with the remaining five pieces of dough?

SOLUTION:  I figured that if that cart vendor could pull out a package of dough and make fresh waffles, then he must prepare them in advance. I wrapped each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerated them.  The next day, I brought them to room temperature (about 30 minutes). 

I greased the waffle iron and watched the steam as the sugar began to melt...

Does this picture need words?  Really? Look at that bubbling sugar!

...and these were delicious!  In fact, I think they tasted even better!  Of course, I only took one bite (this time, because I'm cutting back on my sweets to lose weight). My son loved these.  I made the rest on Day #3, and they turned out perfectly.
VERDICT: I can see why Liege Belgian waffles are a special treat.  I can't imagine adding anything extra to these, but go for it if you want ice cream, or nutella, or fresh whipped cream.  I recommend a fresh cup of coffee.  A cup of Belgian Hot Chocolate would be even better!

I'll make these again as a special treat for my boy grown son. Something tells me that when he's older, and married and has started a family of his own (in about 20 years) -- that I can lure him over to visit mom with the promise of these treats.

It's what mother's do for their boys.  

A printable recipe is at the bottom of this page. 

From mom's kitchen,

                                Belgian "Liege" Sugar Waffles        <p>This waffle is different from our traditional American Waffles. The Belgian Sugar (or &#8220;Liege&#8221; Waffle is a popular street-food across Europe. Served warm, plain or garnished with chocolate, Nutella,  fruit, ice-cream or whipped cream, it ...             See Belgian "Liege" Sugar Waffles on Key Ingredient.    
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