36 Hours to Your Best Waffle | Aerin Flaharty
Here’s the story of the time I flew all the way to Belgium just to get a Belgian waffle. Growing up in America, my only introduction to Belgian waffles was going to a pancake house where Belgian waffles were on the breakfast menu served with maple syrup. However, having a mother who knew otherwise, I heard a different story. She was somewhere between raving and crying about these petite Belgian delicacies and would refuse to eat the American version. I heard tales of unknown waffles with sugar crystals melted inside, or waffles baked with fruit inside. It wasn’t until my first trip to Belgium when I finally understood her obsession.
We visited her home town in the southern part of Belgium, Liège, in the region of Wallonie where they speak French. She made sure to seek out the vendor with the BEST waffles, known as les gaufres Liègoise. These waffles are known for being made fresh right in front of you, with a thick, buttery batter that has small crystallized pieces of sugar spread throughout. When the artisan puts the batter in the waffle iron, which is slightly thicker than the irons we use in the US, a sweet, buttery, yet indescribably irresistible smell seduces your senses. In just a few minutes, you are handed a hot waffle wrapped in thin paper to enjoy. The little sugar crystals create an amazing taste and texture because the sugar is partially melted within the batter but also remains a bit crystallized as well. These waffles are a bit more dense than American waffles, but are somehow uniquely light due to the butter. These were by far my Mom’s favorite waffles, and they quickly became my favorite as well.
The second waffle on our tasting spree was the fruit waffle. This one is less popular and was harder to find in bakeries. However, we did find them in a grocery store. Typically, you can find fruit waffles in a variety of flavors, including apple, raspberry, cherry, apricot and blueberry. After tasting the store-bought variety and comparing it to my first freshly made Liègoise variety, it’s hard to ever go back to the packaged kind. Homemade and fresh is the way to go!
Finally, we have the Belgian waffles that most closely resemble what we know in the United States, known in Belgium as Brussels waffles. These are lighter and fluffier than the Liègoise type and are most often enjoyed as a sweet dessert or snack. You may choose all kinds of toppings, from the ever popular Nutella, to strawberries and cream, to powdered sugar. It is also perfectly delicious in its purest form — plain.
If you ever have the occasion to visit the small country of Belgium, you cannot miss these fresh culinary delights! From Liège to Brussels to Brugges (known as the charming “Venice of the North”), you’re certain to be impressed with this traditional Belgian treat no matter where you go.