Liège waffles are my favorite waffle type recently as I like the crispy shell and the soft and slightly chewy center. The crunchy caramelized sugar and rich flavor make the waffles very tasty on its own without any extra topping. Unlike American waffles that are made with baking powder-leavened batter, these waffles are made with yeast raised, buttery brioche-based dough. I tried a few Liège waffle recipes available on the internet and let me share with you my afterthoughts. Feel free to jump right down to the recipe if you don’t like reading.
I played with different types and states of butter (melted, softened, regular, cultured and European) and softened European butter is what I prefer most. European butter, despite its higher price, produced the most flavorful waffle because of its higher fat content. In terms of butter temperature, when I tried to incorporate melted butter into my dough, it often splashed out of my mixer bowl during mixing and created a big mess. It also seeped out of my dough during proofing at room temperature. It didn’t seem to affect the taste of the waffles but it just made the process super messy. If you look at the recipe below you will notice that there is a lot of butter in it. Yes it is a lot of butter. It is a brioche-type dough after all. I tried adding less butter but, to be honest, the waffles didn’t taste as delicious. If you are concerned about eating too much butter, decrease the amount of butter by 30% (I have provided a range in my recipe).
There are recipes that involve chilling the dough overnight to create more depth of flavor and some other recipes that knead the dough in two stages that resemble the sponge mixing method. I just go for the straight dough method to knead the dough all at once and use the dough right after the first proof. The dough can be mixed by a mixer, bread machine, or even by hand. Mixing by hand would be the messiest due to the extensive use of butter so I won’t recommend it. Bread machine is pretty handy because of its non stick bread pan. However, make sure you do not use the proofing function of the bread machine to proof the dough. There is too much butter and the heat would just melt it, leaving you with a sloppy dough submerged in a pool of oil at the end of the cycle (yes I learned it the hard way). After learning this lesson, I would only patiently wait for my dough to rise in a cool room temperature. No matter what appliance is used, stop mixing as long as all butter is incorporated and a sticky dough has just started to develop. It is not necessary to knead the dough until it forms a membrane as in bread making. Too much mixing will make the waffles too chewy.
What makes Liège waffles special is the addition of pearl sugar which caramelizes and make the exterior extra crisp. Belgian pearl sugar is made from beet sugar that is heavily compacted together to form sugar granules. Pearl sugar, because of its density, doesn’t melt easily under high heat during baking. Melted sugar forms a crispy thin crust atop the waffle and the granules that stay put add some crunch to the waffle. Pearl sugar is an essential ingredient for Liège waffles so cannot be omitted. It is not a common kitchen commodity in Toronto and I purchased it online. It is a bit pricey but since I am not adding much each time, I could divide a 1-lb bag into 8 to 9 uses. If pearl sugar is unavailable, I have seen some recipes that use crushed sugar cubes as substitute. I have never tried this method personally. But since pearl sugar has a much higher melting point than regular sugar cubes, I would expect a difference in terms of the waffle texture.
Waffle makers come in different brands and functions so the heating process would more be like a trial and error. The goal is to find the correct temperature setting and time to cook the dough thoroughly and to caramelize the sugar without burning it. When I made Liège waffles the first time I set the browning to medium. My waffle came out golden brown but when I took a bit into it, the center was still uncooked. So begin with a lower temperature and increase gradually to find the ideal setting. I also tried with my older Belgian waffle maker which had deeper pockets. It made waffles extra fluffy but the down side was that the temperature was not adjustable and my Liège waffle was burnt within 3 to 4 minutes. To fix that, I unplugged the waffle maker after two minutes and let the residual heat carry on the cooking. It was bothersome (and foolish) to put the plug on and off; however, to cope with waffle maker that doesn’t come with adjustable temperature, this is the only solution that I could think of so far.
不同牌子和型號的窩夫機在功能上有别， 因此初次烘窩夫時也許要做幾次實驗才能掌握到準確溫度和時間。溫度要足以將麵糰徹底烘熟和令珍珠糖焦糖化，但同時又不能將其烤焦。 EC第一次烘列日窩夫時使用窩夫機的中段溫度設定，烘好的窩夫外表金黄，但咬下去之後才發覺中央仍是未熟透的！因此EC建議初試時可使用低一點的溫度做實驗，然後才逐漸將溫度調高。EC另外有一個較舊款的比利時窩夫機，坑紋比新的更深，烘出的窩夫份外鬆脆，只是機身不能調節溫度。用此機做烈日窩夫時因為鐵板溫度非常高，麵糰不消三，四分鐘便烤焦了。後來EC想到在兩分鐘之後關掉電源然後用餘溫繼續把麵糰烤熟和焦糖化。這樣把插頭又插上又拔掉的方法極其麻煩(和愚笨)，可是對於不能調節溫度的窩夫機來說，這是EC暫時想到唯一的解決方法。
If you have any more tips and trick be sure to leave a comment below!
230 g bread flour
15 g granulated sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
100 g milk, lukewarm
1 large egg
10 g honey
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
70 to 100 g unsalted European-style butter, softened
60 g pearl sugar
Notes: The eggs I use are 50 to 55 g each without shells
無鹽歐式牛油 (室溫放軟) 70至100克
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add milk, egg, honey, and vanilla. Attach the dough hook and knead on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. (Note: according to King Arthur Flour, it is no longer necessary to dissolve active dry yeast in warm water before using due to the much gentler modern manufacturing process).
攪拌盆中先加入麵粉，糖，鹽和酵母拌勻，之後加入牛奶，蛋，蜜糖和雲呢拿醬，裝上麵糰勾後以低速把所有材料攪拌成糰(註：King Arthur Flour提及由於現代生產酵母技術已更溫和，因此活性乾酵母現巳不需溶解活化已可直接使用)。
Gradually mix in the softened butter at medium-low speed in 4 to 5 additions while scraping the sides of the bowl a few times. Mixing is done when all butter is incorporated (it took about 10 minutes with my stand mixer). The dough will be soft and very sticky.
Scrape sides bowl clean with a spatula then cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours for me during the winter time.
Add pearl sugar and mix with a spatula until evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Divide the dough roughly into 6 portions. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat waffle maker for 5 minutes or follow the manual to preheat until the indicator light turns green. Open the lid, brush the plates with a thin layer of oil then place a dough in the middle. Close lid and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. My waffle maker has 5 browning settings and I set mine to the second lightest. You will need to do a test batch to determine the temperature setting and cooking time for your own waffle maker. Find the setting that will caramelize the sugar without burning it.
Remove waffle with a fork or a pair of tongs and place on a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining portions. Serve waffles warm or at room temperature. Waffles can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for one day and in the refrigerator for two to three days. To serve, reheat in the toaster oven using the toast setting.
Here are the smaller ones I made for my kids as snack. I divided the dough into 12 portions instead of 6.
I added extra pearl sugar atop the dough. Melted pearl sugar formed a shiny thin crust (you will need to look closely) and the white patches were the unmelted sugar granules that add crunchiness.
European butter (right) is richer than regular butter (left) and makes more flavorful waffles.
For bread machine, add butter after a shaggy dough is formed and knead until the dough just starts to ball up in the middle. Unplug the machine and let the dough rest inside at room temperature until doubled in size. Do not use the proofing function as the butter would melt.
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