“Belgian” Waffles are All-American
I always tell people that were you to go to Belgium and ask for a “Belgian” waffle, they’d either have no idea what you meant, or they’d ask, “What kind?” The Belgians actually have over a dozen regional varieties, the two most popular being the Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle.
Our American concept of the “Belgian” waffle stems from the Bel*Gem brand of Brussels waffles. However, what started in the 1960s as a fairly true, rectangular, yeast-leavened Brussels Bel*Gem waffle quickly morphed into our round, baking soda/powder leavened “Belgian” waffle. The only true connection a “Belgian” waffle has to a Brussels waffle is its thickness/depth. It’s otherwise indistinguishable from waffles and common waffle recipes made in shallow irons, throughout America, over the last 200+ years.
Ever the purist, I long ago stopped using the term “Belgian” waffle. It’s meaningless and confuses the rich tradition of waffle varieties that come to us from Belgium. A better term is simply “American” waffle or “American-style” waffle. I don’t use the term out of a sense of arrogant American ownership. On the contrary, I use it simply because you’d be hard pressed to find a big round waffle iron in Belgium itself.
Given that I’m writing in America — and since all of these recipes can also be made in a Brussels iron — most of my recipes use a round, American-style iron. I’m also developing mostly modern, 21st century spins on the waffle, while borrowing heavily on 16th, 17th and 18th century French, Dutch and German ingredients and ratios. The mid-19th century birth of the Brussels waffle was more of a swan song for waffles than a true zenith, so I don’t feel bound to irons of that era. Most importantly, in the hunt for hyper-precise temperature control, I prefer to only use digital irons. Nemco is the sole high-end digital producer, and they only offer the round format.
As has long been the case, the edge of waffle iron technology and the region in which recipes are being most aggressively developed has dictated the format and the naming of the waffles themselves. The more things change, the more they stay the same.