I’ve been thinking a lot about the Brussels waffle recently. It dawned on me what an absolutely peculiar variety it is. Bakers spent hundreds of years making cream, sugar, egg yolks, spices and flavorings central to their waffles; they were meant to be decadent. Then, all of a sudden, very mundane waffle varieties started to pop up in the 18th century – culminating in the Brussels waffle in the early 19th century. It’s a waffle with no flavorings, no sugar, and one that uses water in the batter – three elements that made it unlike any other. But what is extremely strange is that, while it used water, it also used milk – as if it were keeping its toe halfway in the waters of tradition. What may have been even more appropriate is a recipe that went full-tilt for the ingredients used in brioche: flour, water, salt, yeast, butter, and egg. Brioche back then typically only used water and no milk at all. And a batter-based waffle recipe meant to mimic brioche completely would only need to be a wetter version of brioche dough. It also would have been easier to produce without the need for fresh milk – something quite hard to find in cities in the days before refrigeration.

Knowing that there’s this odd gap in Brussels waffle history, where precursors of it circulated in the decades, if not in the century, prior to its popularization, a water-based waffle may be the truest root expression of the style. So below is a pass at what I’m calling the Liquid Brioche Waffle. I’ll make it a formal recipe, once I hash out the ratios to perfection.

0.40g T-58 yeast

45.0g warm water

37.0 cold water

62.0g freshly-bolted pastry flour

26.0g warm egg

1.3g salt

30.0 warm butter

1. In a medium bowl, place the yeast and then add 45.0g of warm water. Swirl to dissolve the yeast, and allow it to stand for a minute or two.
2. Sift 31.0g of flour into the yeast. Stir and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 1 hour.
3. Add 37.0g of cold water and then remaining 31.0g of flour. Stir, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate immediately.
4. Leave the batter in the fridge for 8 hours.
5. Take the batter out of the fridge, and let it rest for 75 minutes.
6. Then add the warm egg, salt and warm butter. Stir thoroughly.
7. Place the batter in a 500ml measuring cup. It should come to 190ml in volume.
8. Allow the batter to rise for about 3 hours, until it reaches 400ml in volume. Then pour your batter into a preheated iron at 202ºC/396ºF, and cook for 3 minutes 25 seconds.