Happy Third Anniversary to Sourdough Surprises! I haven’t been participating that long, so I was happy that the challenge this month was to go back and pick a challenge that we missed. I decided on waffles, but not traditional waffles. Instead, I decided to try my hand at Sourdough Liege Waffles.
Liege Waffles are native to Belgium and are made from a vanilla-flavored yeast dough similar to brioche (a sweet dough rich with eggs and butter). What really distinguishes the Liege Waffle from regular Belgian waffles is that they are studded with Belgian Pearl Sugar which caramelizes as the waffle cooks, creating glistening and flavorful pockets of flavor in and on top of the waffle. I’ve had them off of a street cart in Portland, OR, but never seen them anywhere else. Since that experience, I’ve been wanting to try making them myself.
I didn’t have quick access to Belgian Pearl Sugar, so I took this recipe a step further by making the pearl sugar myself. It turned out to be pretty easy to do so – basically try on purpose to fail at making caramel! Instead of letting the sugar melt into the water and then cooking it until browned as with caramel, you stir continuously and don’t let the sugar melt while the water boils off. This creates crystallization and makes clumps of sugar similar to Belgian pearl sugar. It worked beautifully. If you don’t want to make your own, you can supposedly order the pearl sugar online or buy it at IKEA.
The tricky part of this whole Liege Waffle process turned out to be the cooking of the waffle. The recipe suggests that the preferable tool is a professional iron Belgian Waffle maker that has adjustable temperatures. I don’t have one and wasn’t going to buy one for this challenge. I went with the alternate method which was to start with a regular Belgian Waffle maker but unplug it after adding the dough and letting the residual heat cook the waffle. It became very apparent on my first waffle that my ancient $20 waffle machine was not at all up to this task. Nice crisp and brown exterior, completely raw on the inside. With a little trial and error, I found that 3 minutes in the machine with it turned on and 6 minutes unplugged got me a fully cooked waffle with nicely caramelized (not burnt) sugar on the outside. This takes a long time, though. After a couple waffles I decided to get my panini maker out, set the temperature to 375F, and cooked the remaining “waffles” in 3 minutes each. They’re not as pretty, but came out much better in texture and time spent.
It’s been too long since I had real Liege Waffles to really compare my home version to those, but my home version was absolutely delicious! The texture is crispy on the outside and a little fluffy and chewy at the same time on the inside. The faint sourdough flavor combined with the buttery dough and caramelized accent of the sugar was addictive. I will be thinking of these waffles as I spend the next few days at the gym…
- 60g scaled milk, cooled to just warm
- 40 g water
- 20 g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 100g unbleached bread flour
- 1 large egg at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 140g unbleached bread flour, plus extra
- 20g light brown sugar
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 120g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ¾ cup Belgian Pearl Sugar
- Combine the starter, milk and water in the bowl of a mixer. Add the flour and stir to combine.
- Cover and let sit until bubbly, 8-12 hours.
- Add the egg and the rest of the flour and combine.
- Add the sugar and salt and mix well.
- With the machine on, add the honey and vanilla and then add the butter, one Tbsp at a time.
- Mix 4 minutes at medium-low. Let rest for 1 minute. Mix for 2 more minutes.
- Sprinkle the dough with flour and then cover and let rise until doubled, 4-8 hours.
- Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a rectangle on a piece of plastic wrap. Fold each end up to form a square. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight weighted down with a plate.
- Mix in the pearl sugar and shape the dough into 6 oblongs. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 90 minutes (no more).
- Here's where it gets a little tricky and may need some adjustment for your waffle maker!
- If you have a professional cast iron waffle iron with adjustable temperature settings, cook at exactly 365-370 degrees (max temp before sugar begins to burn) for approximately 2 minutes.
- If you have a regular waffle iron, heat the iron , place the dough on the iron, and immediately unplug it or turn the temp dial all the way down. Many waffle makers go so high in temperature that the sugar will burn, so turning it off and letting residual heat cook the waffle or turning the temperature down is necessary. Some experimentation is required!
- Be sure to let the waffle cool a for a few minutes before eating it - the caramelized sugar is HOT!