If you love Belgian waffles as much as I do, then you’ll love this podcast by The Sporkful that I listened to awhile back. I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to their shows while I drive back and forth between Knoxville and Nashville. It’s just enough time to get in about 2 of them, and they are chock full of stories, interviews, history lessons, and fun facts…all about food.
I recently listened to an episode named “When Belgian Waffles Came to America”. You can listen to it here. So, for those of you who don’t have 45 minutes to listen (although you should make time) I’ll give you some takeaways:
Belgian waffles came us in America in the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York. MariePaule Vermerch and her family, all Belgian immigrants, saw an opportunity to build a business and simultaneously share a piece of their life.
They served their “hand-held waffle with deep wells and crisp crust”, and the reception was overwhelming. The eager eaters were delighted by the taste of novelty of these treats. Throughout the show, they interview and discuss with Marie about her experiences and opinions, which is fascinating to me and makes for a great show:
“The line never ended…we had 24 machines that never stopped running,” MariePaule says. At the end of the day, she explained that, “Sometimes we had fights, we had people fighting, ‘one more, one more!'”
She explains with a heavy heart that her father was never able to capitalize on the stand’s popularity. The family seems wounded by this fact, as they should be. There has been a slow, but steady decline of the waffle, which Marie says adds salt to the wound. “There’s this misconception about Belgian waffles, that it’s just the shape,” says Steve Lipschutz, general manager of Wafels and Dinges in New York. “And it boils down to much more than that: the ingredients, the irons that it’s baked on, the preparation, how you eat it, and we found that wasn’t being respected.”
Listen to the rest of this show to hear the comparisons between different original Belgian waffles, opinions on waffles and pancakes, and more from Marie’s story.
They go on in the broadcast to debate what makes a good waffle. Here’s what I learned about traditional Belgian waffles: there are two kinds, which neither are probably one you have tasted. These aren’t your “hotel free continental breakfast” Belgian waffles. They are Liege style waffles and Brussels style waffles.
There are the true differences between the two. The Brussels style are rectangular in shape and are often served with a light dusting of powdered sugar or perhaps topped with whipped cream and strawberries. They have a light texture and taste that comes from the yeast-leavened batter they are made from.
Liege style (Gaufres de Liege) traditionally served from street vendors and eaten by hand, you will find a number of shops and bakeries selling them with oodles of toppings – my first one was whipped cream, bananas, and strawberries, with drizzles of chocolate on top.
When compared with the Brussels style waffle, Liege waffles tend to denser, a bit chewier, and certainly sweeter. The dough is much different than Brussels style – almost like a brioche style bread. Liege waffles are believed to have been developed by Liege’s Prince-Bishop’s chef back in the 18th century.
These pictures bring back good memories of when I took a day trip with my cousins, Sarah and Ellen, to Belgium when they lived in the Netherlands. The smell of these treats filled the streets. If you have your own Belgian waffle maker, here is the original Belgian waffle recipe I’ve used every time I’ve made Belgian waffles. The difference is vast, and its a VERY positive difference. IF YOU USE PANCAKE OR BISQUICK MIX TO MAKE WAFFLES, DO NOT SPEAK TO ME. EVER
2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup milk
4 Tbs melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
any toppings you might want (I like sliced strawberries and bananas with some powdered sugar)
In a bowl, sift to combine flour, sugar and baking powder
In another bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is a light yellow
Add milk, butter and vanilla; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (in an electric mixer); fold into batter (do not whisk or combine thoroughly at all)
Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown. Serve with whatever toppings you have gathered, and enjoy 🙂