Belgium is best known for its gorgeous chocolate and beer products, but another key culinary delight is the humble waffle. If you really want to get to know the food favourites of a country, then the best way of doing so is to try them yourself.
On a recent trip to Belgium, we found that you can’t go far without coming across waffles in all the major towns and cities. They’re for sale in bakery shop windows, on the menu at cafes and restaurants and are being sold by vendors on the side of the street. Known to Flemish speakers as wafel, waffles or suikerwaffels, and the French Belgian speakers as gaufre or gauffre, waffles are mostly eaten as a dessert or form of casual snack food.
At its most basic, a Belgian waffle is a light and crispy type of sweet cake, made of batter or dough that can be eaten hot or cold. A waffle is cooked in a waffle iron to give it a characteristic ‘holey’ look and is often served with a dusting of sugar, or topped with indulgent cream, fresh fruit or chocolate sauce.
Types of Belgium Waffles
The two main types found in Belgium (although there are others) are the Brussels waffle and the Liege waffle, named after the places in which they were originally baked.
The Brussels waffle is a golden brown coloured rectangular waffle, that’s quite thick and deep, yet crisp and light when eaten. It’s made with a yeast leavened batter. These waffles are usually eaten with a knife and fork and come served with a delicious variety of toppings, such as lashings of cream, sprinkled sugar, fresh fruits, ice cream or chocolate.
The size of a Brussels waffle can vary considerably, from a substantial dessert plate size, to a massive small cereal box size. Although the latter would seem ideal for sharing, we spotted them being eaten single-handedly – who needs a main course when you can fill up on this!
In comparison, the Liege waffle is a golden yellow coloured waffle that’s more rounded (sometimes almost hexagonal) in shape. The Liege waffle tends to be sweeter, richer and chewier than the Brussels waffle and is made from a brioche bread dough type mixture. Its other key characteristic is that it has pearls of sugar added to it, which caramelize when cooked and creates the golden hue on the outside. Different flavours of Liege waffles are commonly available, such as plain, vanilla or cinnamon.
This type of waffle is commonly sold on the streets, as well as in supermarkets. Although it can also be topped with sweet extras, such as a sprinkling of sugar, cream or ice cream, the caramelized sugar makes it delicious when eaten on its own.
If you want to sample the delights of Belgian waffles for yourself, then cafés and restaurants in all the major towns and cities tend to be awash with waffle offerings. Plus, you may well find vendors selling waffles on the street.
Do be aware, however, that not all establishments will have waffles available all day, especially in smaller towns. Waffles are often regarded as an afternoon snack, so some cafes won’t sell them until the afternoon onwards, so plan your waffle eating needs accordingly!
Written by Rachel Newcomb for EuropeUpClose.com