Liège Waffle Recipe / Gaufres de Liège
When I began working on my Liège waffle recipe, now 7 years ago, I just wanted to develop a solid recipe of my own — something I could enjoy at home, any time. As my work on the recipe continued, I got deeper into the history of the waffle, deeper into the technique, deeper into sourcing the finest pearl sugar and the most exquisite Mexican vanilla, and deeper into the equipment necessary to craft them to perfection. I became obsessed, not just with the Liège waffle, but with all waffles.
My recipe work eventually lead me to start a blog just for the Liège waffle, and it’s long been Google’s top Liège waffle recipe search result. People clearly enjoy it. The only problem with that recipe is that it’s not where my work stopped. It’s just where I realized people’s appetite for OCD would hit a wall.
For purists, the recipe that follows is as close as you’re likely to get to a true Liège waffle. It marries modern techniques and equipment with ingredients and proportions as painstakingly period-correct as possible. In fact, I had worked out the flour/butter/egg ratio thoroughly, only to then discover Louis XVI’s chef, Louis Eustache Ude, had committed to paper virtually identical proportions for his brioche, back at the dawn of the 19th-century. Talk about validation for my hard work; I don’t think it could get better than that. The only great exception to full authenticity may be the use of dry ale yeast, versus a wet ale barm.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that my use of honey, vanilla, and cassonade are speculative. There’s literally no way to know exactly how these waffle’s were first done. No old recipes have survived. That said, honey was a very common waffle/wafer ingredient for hundreds of years, and it’s a common ingredient through many modern takes on the recipe. It’s a reasonable inclusion. Vanilla is certainly part of the legend of these waffles, and Mexican vanilla is likely the only type widely available at the time of their invention, yet it’s impossible to say if was indeed used or to what extent. And cassonade is the most controversial of my choices here. If these waffles were invented after Belgium had sugar beet factories (1836), then any sugar in them would likely have been white beet sugar. Had they been invented from the 1810s onward, the pearl sugar would most likely have been beet-derived and from France, but any other sugar in the dough could have been beet-derived from France or cane-derived, imported by way of The Netherlands – though this is unlikely, given the Atlantic naval blockade that was in place. And if the waffles came before the 1810s, all of the sugar would have come from cane, and the chef may have chosen to offset the pearl sugar expense by using a lower grade of cane sugar such as a light muscovado/cassonade. While I don’t believe the legend of these being invented and popularized in the 18th century, if they were, that muscovado/cassonade may have been a common choice. Essentially, by using both beet pearl sugar and cane brown sugar here, I’m splitting the difference on these various scenarios.
As a final note, for the truly obsessive, who happen to have access to a flour mill and bolting equipment, you can get even deeper into these waffle with my fresh flour version of the recipe. That’s how I make them, these days.
- 162.5g unbleached white pastry flour
- 2.3g T-58 Belgian ale yeast (or instant yeast)
- 50.0g egg (heated in a very warm water bath to 43°C/110°F and then lightly beaten)
- 47.5g egg (room temperature)
- 49.7g mineral water at 43°C/110°F
- 29.5g whole wheat pastry flour
- 3.9g dark rye flour
- 14.0g cassonade (light brown sugar)
- 3.7g fine sea salt
- 13.6g orange blossom honey
- 4-6 Mexican vanilla pods (to yield 2.8g seed paste)
- 147.0g European-style butter at 10°C-/50°F
- 135.0g Belgian pearl sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together 80.0g of the white pastry flour and the yeast.
- Add the 50.0g of warm egg and mineral water. Mix to blend.
- Cover the flour/yeast/egg/water mixture with the remaining white pastry flour, whole wheat pastry flour and rye, but do not stir.
- Cover the bowl in plastic wrap, and let it stand for 90 minutes
- Add the remaining 47.5g egg, cassonade (light brown sugar), salt, and honey, along with the seed paste from the 4-6 Mexican vanilla pods (enough to get 2.8 grams of paste).
- Affix the paddle attachment, and mix on speed #1 (the "stir" setting) — scraping every few minutes — until the dough forms a ball on the paddle. This should take about 15-17 minutes.
- Begin adding the butter, 15-20g at a time, over the next 5-7 minutes, scraping the bowl every few minutes.
- Once all the butter is completely added, continue mixing, scraping occasionally, until the dough again balls on the paddle. From beginning the butter addition to the dough balling again, this mix will take 9-11 minutes.
- Scrape the dough into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 4 hours.
- REFRIGERATE FOR 90 MINUTES BEFORE PROCEEDING. This is essential. The yeast’s respiration must be slowed before continuing.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap (about 60cm/24in long) on your countertop, and scrape the dough from the bowl onto it. Press it into a long rectangle (about 30cm/12in long), then fold it over in thirds, like a letter, before wrapping it tightly in the plastic wrap. Place it in the coldest section of your refrigerator overnight. It can help to weight it down with two heavy pre-chilled dinner plates.
- The next day, take 100g pieces of the dough and mix each with 27g of pearl sugar. Shape them into oval balls (like a football without the pointy ends) and let them rise (covered loosely in plastic wrap) for 90 minutes.
- Cook each waffle at exactly 182°C/360°F for 2 minutes. Once off the iron, allow the waffle to cool for several minutes, and then enjoy.
- While 19th century European bakers would have used the equivalent of modern pastry flour, store-bought pastry flour does not have same physical properties as stone-milled and hand-bolted pastry flour. So even as the above recipe is technically correct, using all-purpose flour for the main 162.5 dose of flour may get the dough to behave closer to how it is intended.
- This waffle dough is ideally prepared at 21°C-23°C/70°F-73°F. Once the dough is refrigerated (in step 11), it will keep for up to 5 days, although it's best if used within 3 days.