Liège Belgian waffles have a rich, chewy texture and a sugary crunch that can only be achieved when prepared with an authentic recipe and careful temperature control. They take a bit of planning ahead but will bring a touch of decadence to your Mother’s Day this year.
Note: As anyone who has ever had authentic Liège waffles knows, they are more like a dense cake than breakfast waffles. You won’t need syrup for these. We added some chocolate hazelnut spread, berries, and whipped cream as finishing touches. Delicious!
Liège Waffle Temperatures
Temperature control is important from start to finish with these waffles. First with the preparation of the ingredients, then a refrigerated fermentation, heating the waffle iron, and finally cooking the waffles to the proper internal doneness temperature.
1. The Ingredients: 60-65°F
You’ll want your ingredients to be the same temperature when you start: about 60-65°F (16-18°C) is ideal. Yeast doughs ferment best in the temperature range of about 70-80°F (21-27°C). The friction of mixing the ingredients will increase the dough’s temperature 5-10°F. The ingredients need to be at a lower temperature so the final dough is in the proper temperature range for fermentation.
- Water: Spot-check the temperature of your tap water. You should easily be able to get water in the range of 60-65°F (16-18°C) from your kitchen faucet.
- Eggs: Warm whole shell eggs in hot water for several minutes before mixing the dough.
- Butter: Cut the butter into small chunks and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to mixing the dough. The butter should be a malleable consistency. Prior to mixing the butter into the dough, double check the butter’s temperature with your Thermapen.
2. Fermentation: Room Temperature (70-75°F) and Refrigerated (Less Than 40°F)
There are actually four different fermentation periods in this recipe, one of which is refrigerated:
- Making the sponge
- First dough fermentation
- Refrigerated fermentation
- Final proof before cooking
Manipulating the fermentation temperatures of yeast doughs controls the final result. When a yeast dough is refrigerated, fermentation slows (referred to as a retarded fermentation), and it develops characteristics that will yield more flavor and a chewy texture in the final product. For more information on chilling yeast doughs, see our post Temperature Tips for Thanksgiving Rolls.)
3. Cooking: 355-360°F & 190-200°F
With these two target temperatures, you are guaranteed not to burn or undercook your waffles.
Waffle Iron Temperature
Just the right cooking temperature is important when cooking yeast-leavened products. You need enough heat for rapid oven spring (the immediate increase in volume before the protein and starches coagulate and “set” the structure of the dough). But a temperature that is too high will cause the exterior of the waffle to finish cooking before the interior is cooked.
The ideal moderate cooking temperature for these waffles is 355-360°F (179-182°C). If the waffle iron’s temperature is higher than 360°F (180°C), the pearl sugar will caramelize too quickly and end up burned and bitter by the time the waffle is finished cooking. Use an infrared thermometer like the ThermoWorks® IRK-2 to check the surface temperature of your waffle iron so you know exactly when it’s perfectly preheated.
Waffle Internal Temperature
Since these decadent waffles are made from a rich brioche-type dough, their doneness temperature will be the same as any other rich dough. The interior of a Liège waffle is perfectly done at a temperature of 190-200°F (88-93°C). Use a Thermapen Mk4 to quickly spot-check the internal temperature so you know it’s done. If the reading is too low, close the waffle and continue to cook.
What is pearl sugar, anyway? It’s something that really sets these waffles apart from other varieties. The compact bits of sugar resist dissolving so it remains whole during the cooking process, giving the interior of the waffle a pleasant crunch. Pearl sugar on the exterior of the dough caramelizes when cooked and gives the outside of the finished waffle a sort of candy coating.
Pearl sugar is made by compressing sugar crystals to form larger, round particles that won’t dissolve in baked goods. —Cook’s Illustrated
Liège Waffle History
Pearl sugar has existed since the mid-17th century but was prohibitively expensive. By the late 18th century it was widely known across Europe but was still only used by those who could afford it. The legend of the Liège waffle is that the Prince-Bishop of Liège requested that his chef create a new pastry with pearl sugar. The chef mixed the pearls and vanilla bean with a rich dough (brioche) and cooked it as a waffle.
It didn’t take long before the popularity of this new pastry spread throughout Europe. In 1958 Liège waffles became a hit at the World’s Fair in Brussels. The next 3 World’s Fairs were held in the U.S., and the rest is history. The Liège waffle remains a favorite across North America today.
Liège Waffle Recipe/ Gaufres de Liège
Based on a recipe from Waffle-Recipes.com
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsp. instant yeast
- 4 eggs
- (warmed in hot tap water for several minutes for a final temperature of 60-65°F [16-18°C])
- 1/2 cup water at 60-65°F (16-18°C)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 4 tsp. honey
- Pulp from 4 scraped vanilla beans
- 10.5 ounces butter cut into small cubes (60-65°F [16-18°C])
- 1-1/2 cups pearl sugar
- Dissolve the instant yeast in the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand for about 5 minutes.
- Mix in 1 cup of the flour and 2 of the 4 eggs. Mix by hand to blend well.
- Cover the wet mixture with the remaining flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (70-75°F [21-24°C]) for 60 minutes (use a TimeStick®!).
- The yeast will actively ferment and begin bubbling through the surface of the flour during the 60-minute rest.
- Add the remaining eggs, brown sugar, honey, salt, and vanilla bean pulp. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment (scraping every few minutes) until the ingredients are well incorporated into a dough.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment and begin adding the butter one small chunk at a time while the mixer is running on low speed. Scraping down the bowl every few minutes.
On Incorporating Butter into Rich Doughs…
Butter is added tablespoon by tablespoon only after the mixture begins to develop into dough. This is a long…process. it’s an important one, too: If the butter isn’t added slowly, the dough can break into a greasy mess. —Cook’s Science, Cook’s Illustrated
- After the butter is fully incorporated, continue mixing the dough on medium speed until it forms a ball on the dough hook. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment (rise) for 4 hours at room temperature.
- After the 4 hours, punch down the dough, cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and mix in the pearl sugar until just incorporated.
- Scale dough into 12 pieces of equal size.
- Shape each piece into a loose oval. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise (final fermentation, or proof) at room temperature for 90 minutes.
- Heat waffle iron to 355-360°F (179-182°C).
- Verify the surface temperature of your waffle iron with an infrared thermometer like the IRK-2.
- Cook each waffle for about 2-4 minutes.
- Verify the doneness of the waffles with a Thermapen Mk4. The internal temperature should be 190-200°F (88-93°C).
- Serve for dessert, or as an indulgent snack anytime.
Serve with chocolate hazelnut spread, berries, whipped cream, ice cream…really anything you can think of! These waffles are delicious enough to enjoy alone, not just as a vehicle for toppings. They’re great cold, too.
Careful temperature tracking and control are the keys to proper fermentation when making the dough, and achieving the best results. Give this recipe a try and serve a piece of decadent Belgian cuisine on Mother’s Day.