Pearl Sugar & the Liege Waffle: A story of sweet obsession

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

I have always been a waffle lover. I remember my mom making them for my friends the morning after slumber parties and as an adult, they remain a favorite of mine.

While nothing beats the beautiful simplicity of a buttermilk waffle with melted butter and real maple syrup, I have branched out quite a bit in the waffle department: gingerbread waffles, corn waffles with pork belly, waffles with berries soaked in vanilla rum. Heck, I even threw a Waffle Party once, a slightly crazy soiree filled with fruit curds, compound butters, whipped cream and lots of sparkling wine.

But, sadly, I didn’t discover the reigning ruler of waffles until a few years ago — the liege waffle, made with Belgian pearl sugar. The specialized pearl sugar is added to the unsweetened batter before cooking and melts in the waffle iron, creating crispy crunchy pockets throughout the waffle.

Belgian Pearl Sugar

Belgian Pearl Sugar

The sugar also caramelizes the entire outside of the waffle, making it sweet enough to eat on its own. In fact, these are a popular street food in Belgium where people often buy a waffle to snack on while they walk. The sweetness of the waffle negates the need to dress it up with messy toppings (though that’s part of the fun!) making it a great thing to eat on the go.

I had my first liege waffle after my friend Oliver gave me a gift certificate to The Gaufre Gourmet, a Portland food cart that serves up “wonderous waffles” in an array of sweet and savory ways. Since that initial introduction, I have also enjoyed several liege waffles at the Waffle Window, a bustling little spot with oodles of waffle options.

And with every crispy, crunchy bite I took, I vowed to learn how to make these addictive waffles myself. (If you haven’t noticed, my main cooking motivation seems to be to recreate things I love — probably hinged on a combination of frugality and laziness!)

The first step was finding the special sugar, which I bought at an upscale grocery store, though you can find pearl sugar online very easily as well. Lars Own seems to be the most popular brand. They do a larger Belgian sugar (which is what I used) and a smaller Swedish sugar (which I have in my cupboard, stashed away).

I’ve read in a pinch you can also use broken up sugar cubes, which I find intriguing. Might have to try it out sometime just for kicks!

Belgium Pearl Sugar

Once the pearl sugar was procured, I moved on to finding a recipe. I had actually intended to use this one but ended up going with the one of the back of the box due to the shorter rising time.

What sets these apart from any of the waffles I’ve made before is that the batter is a yeasted dough. This means that these waffles require some forethought and time because they will need about 30-60 minutes to rise depending on the recipe used.

Yeasted Dough for Liege Waffles

Yeasted Dough for Liege Waffles

Once the dough is ready to roll, stir in the sugar. The recipe called for the whole 10 oz package to be thrown in. In hindsight I’d say you could use half of that and they will still be plenty sweet. These waffles were very, very good, but they quite certainly would have been just as tasty with less sugar.

Adding the pearl sugar

Adding the pearl sugar

Then put the dough in your heated waffle iron and you’re ready to go! They will take about 3-5 minutes to cook.

You can just see the caramelized sugar coating shining through!

You can just see the caramelized sugar coating shining through!

When I made my first batch I was with Oliver, a fitting coincidence given his role in leading me to the world of liege waffles. We topped ours with fresh berries (which gave the dish some much-needed tartness) and slight dusting of powdered sugar.

They were crack on a plate. I kid you not.

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

We also made a few with crispy bacon crumbled in. Normally I am a bacon purist, I like bacon on its own but not really in things. But the batch of bacon waffles were shockingly good — the salt, smoke and generally savoriness of the meat made the sweetness of the waffle even more delicious.

Craving that sweet but salty balance again, I re-heated some of the leVeggies and cheeseftover waffles the following night for dinner.

* These waffles keep great by the way — the melted sugar keeps them crispy and a quick trip in an oven or toaster is all they need to be just as tasty a second time around.*

After they were heated through, I topped them with fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, caramelized onions, queso fresca and some grated Parmesan.

Pure. Bliss.

DSC_3722

I seriously can’t wait to make them again!

Liege Waffles

Liege Waffles with Bacon

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13 thoughts on “Pearl Sugar & the Liege Waffle: A story of sweet obsession

  1. Oh my. I want to run out for pearl sugar right now! Beautiful pics, and I like the new look. (Am I like one of those people who weeks after seeing you every day with new glasses or a new haircut says: “Oh, you look different”?)

    • Thanks on both the waffles and the new look. =) It is fairly new — I always try to make a header I love enough to keep but I get bored about every 6 months. One of these days it’ll happen… Anyways please find some pearl sugar and make these! They will make you so very happy.

    • The bacon was such a good idea! I normally really hate bacon in things (it so often just gets limp and sad) but it really added a necessary savory touch to these. We also took thawed tater tots and made “waffles” out of those. That was actually the best idea of the night! SO good.

  2. Yes to bliss! I have a friend who makes these when we go on ski weekends. Though your toppings go further than ours do. Another friend once threw a Waffles & Whiskey party and she had quite the topping buffet, sweet and savory. Seems you have good company in the waffle lovers club.

    Have you seen these Waffles of Insane Greatness? http://apuginthekitchen.com/2014/05/11/happy-mothers-day-blueberry-waffles/ The name cracks me up, though don’t know if they’d be as good as your yeast-leavened recipe. Loving your photos and here’s to another obsession 🙂

    • Waffles and Whiskey?! That is awesome. I’m not much for the brown liquor as you know, but I can appreciate any party theme where sweets and booze mix and mingle. Also I am TOTALLY making those waffles of insane goodness! I have heard the name around the internet but had forgotten about them. These will be my next waffle experiment! (and down the waffle rabbit hole I go…)

  3. Now I am craving waffles even more! Had a waffle sandwich a little while ago and been having some sort of waffle at least once a week for a couple of months. All of these look delicious. I really like the yeast dough based recipes.

    • A waffle sandwich sounds awesome! Was it savory or sweet? I’m imagining all kinds of goodness you could hold between two waffles. 🙂 I also like a yeasted dough — it was the first time I had ever made one for waffles so I was a bit nervous but it turned out great. Normally I do a basic buttermilk, but this was certainly worth the extra time.

  4. These look amazing! I love a good waffle, but it’s actually not that easy to find a good one! The pockets of crisp sugar sound absolutely divine, and you photos made my stomach growl (again!).

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