I bookmarked the recipe for Liege waffles ages ago, but never got around to making them– probably because I have my own family recipe for yeast-raised waffles that I love, and I’ve never seen the necessity of straying from it. However, the idea of a caramelized, sugar-studded, butter-enriched waffle stayed with me, and when I came across the recipe in my bookmark file I realized that it was time for me to give it a try at last.
Whose recipe was it? Smitten Kitchen’s, of course– it seems that all of the “I need to try those someday” recipes I have come from there. There’s just something about the gorgeous photography and tempting prose that gets me every time. Anyway, her description of warm, chewy, sugary, brioche-based waffles won me over (despite the two-day rising requirement), and here’s the result.
I will say that these are tasty– they’re buttery and yeasty and there’s a nice, lightly caramelized crust on the outside. That being said, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. After the first few waffles, the oozing melted sugar burns black onto the waffle iron and coats later waffles with a bitter-tasting burned crust.
I had to take two breaks during my waffling to pour some water over the waffle plates and try to remove some of the worst of the burnt sugar. On occasion a waffle would stick so badly to the top and bottom of the waffle iron that it would pull itself apart, leaving me to scrape waffle bits out from between the bumps and troughs of the waffle plate– not particularly appetizing. And when I was done, the whole iron was coated in burnt, blackened sugar that took FOREVER to clean off. And did I mention that the waffling process produced so much smoke that I had to preemptively disable my smoke detector to avoid disaster? Yeah, that happened.
So as much as I adore Smitten Kitchen, this recipe isn’t going into the permanent rotation. The waffles are good and I’m sure I’ll be dipping a few in Nutella over the next few days to savor, but once they’re gone, they’re gone. Never again.
Liege Waffles (from Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, whole is ideal
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2 tablespoons raw sugar, brown sugar or honey
1 packet (7 grams or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 2/3 cups (460 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
14 tablespoons (200 grams or 7 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups pearl sugar (see Note 2)
1. Warm milk and water together to lukewarm, or between 110 and 116 degrees F, and place in the bottom of a large mixer bowl. Add sugar and yeast and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes; the yeast should look foamy.
2. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then stir in all but 1 cup flour (you can eyeball this) using a spoon or the dough hook of a stand mixer. Add the salt and mix to combine. It’ll look more like batter than like dough at this point.
3. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, thoroughly kneading in each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed before adding the next until all of the butter has been mixed in. This takes FOREVER. The batter is so loose that the butter doesn’t really get smacked around that much, so even soft butter just goes around and around in the batter without really incorporating for a while. Get a book to read while you wait for everything to smooth out.
6. Add remaining cup of flour and knead with dough hook on low speed for 5 minutes, or until glossy. The dough will finally start to look like a loose dough, rather than a batter, at this point. The added stiffness will also help disperse any remaining pieces of butter.
7. Let dough rise for two hours at room temperature (covered in plastic wrap), then punch down and let chill in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 24 hours. You can also reverse the process and do the overnight chill first, then bring the dough to room temperature before punching down and letting it rise for two hours. Though I’m not sure why you would want to do it in that order– assuming you make these for breakfast, why would you choose to wait an extra 2 hours in the morning before cooking?
8. To cook: Knead the pearl sugar into the prepared dough– it’ll seem like a LOT– then divide it into 16 pieces and form into balls. Heat the waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. Remove carefully with a fork to cooling rack (the molten sugar will be hot).
9. Keep waffles warm in a 200 degree oven– if they cool off they’ll harden up, and you want them to be warm and tender when you eat them. You can also freeze the cooked waffles for future reheating in a toaster oven.
- For those of us without removable waffle iron plates, cleanup is easiest if you pour a small amount of warm water into the still-warm waffle iron, letting the moisture dissolve any burnt-on sugar. Scrub vigorously with an old toothbrush or paper towel, then repeat. And repeat, and repeat, and REPEAT.
- The original recipe used a Belgian waffle iron– I don’t have one, so I used a regular waffle iron. I honestly don’t think it made much of a difference, though I suppose theoretically the deeper waffle would have prevented quite as much oozing out and burning of sugar. I’m not going to buy a new waffle iron to find out…
- While I did have pearl sugar in my pantry, I realized that it was Swedish pearl sugar– the kind that’s designed not to melt– rendering it useless for the purposes of this recipe, which relies on caramelization. I opted instead to go with the suggested substitute of crushed sugar cubes. It worked perfectly– I just put the cubes into a quart bag and smashed them with my marble rolling pin.