Waffles, sweet crispy dessert or breakfast items, are basically thin cakes or bread baked in a waffle iron that imparts a typical shape to the baked products. Made from batter or dough, simply irresistible variations of the waffles include the Brussles waffles, the Liege waffles, American or Belgian waffles, Hongkong waffles, and Stroopwafles. Waffles are believed to have their roots in the wafers of the middle ages.
Waffle is a light puffed up sweet bread or cake prepared using a flour-based batter in a waffle mould that gives it a distinctive shape and pattern with a soft interior and a slightly crisp golden exterior. It is usually served with a choice of toppings such as honey, maple syrup, cream, fruits like strawberries, blueberries or their preserves, chocolate, ice-creams and many more. A waffle iron is used to confer the characteristic pattern, usually a chequered design, although there may be other variations depending upon the type and form of the iron used.
Waffles are enjoyed throughout the world, but they are particularly famous in Belgium as well as the United States.
The modern day waffles have their ancestors in wafers which were generally thin but heavy crisp cakes baked employing wafer irons, during the Middle Ages, particularly in the Province of Brabant (which is today known as Belgium). Wafer irons, in those days, consisted of two metallic plates attached by a hinge, with each plate having an arm ending in a wooden handle. The batter was poured onto the iron before it was placed over a direct fire and turned over in order to cook both the sides of each wafer. Thus, these irons were used to produce a different variety of flat, unleavened cakes. In the initial days, a mixture of barley and oats usually formed the basis of the batter, and not the white flour normally used these days. It may be said that the modern-day waffle is a leavened version of the olden-day wafer.
Waffle and its Varieties
Belgian Waffles or Brussels Waffles
These are prepared using a yeast-leavened batter to begin with. They are generally thicker, but not necessarily lighter, and crisper with larger divisions and compartments when compared to other waffle varieties. These are quite easy to differentiate from the Liège Waffles due to their rectangular sides. Waffles are generally served warm by street vendors, through the day and may be dusted with confectioner's sugar for greater appeal. At tourist spots, the waffles might be vended topped with either whipped cream, soft fruit, preserve or chocolate spread (which may be a modern twist to the traditional waffle as this practice is considered 'unauthentic' by local connoisseurs).
The Liège waffle, originating from the city of Liege in eastern Belgium is a far sweeter, richer, denser and more chewy waffle variety. Invented by the Royal Chef of Prince-Bishop of Liège during the 18th century as a variation of the brioche bread dough, this waffle is characterized by chunks of pearl sugar that caramelize on the outer surface of the waffle when it is baked. As such, this is the most common style of waffle accessible in Belgium and is generally prepared in a choice of plain, vanilla and cinnamon variants by street vendors across the country.
These waffles from Berg County, are a specialty belonging to the German province known as Bergisches Land. These waffles are heart shaped, crisp and less dense than typical Belgian waffles. Bergische waffles are served with cream, cherries and sometimes rice pudding as a course during the traditional Sunday afternoon feast held in these regions.
These are variously shaped spherical, square, or rectangular, most often made using batter leavened by baking powder. American waffles are usually presented as sweetened breakfast food item, with various toppings such as butter, honey, maple syrup, powdered sugar or other fruit syrups. Waffles form part of different savoury dishes too, like fried chicken and waffles or waffles topped with bacon or kidney stew etc. Like elsewhere, they may also be put together as desserts, topped with ice cream or other toppings.
Hong Kong Style Waffles
Known in Hong Kong as the much-liked "grid biscuits" or "grid cake", these waffles are usually made and sold by street vendors as a snack and eaten warm as part of the famous street food culture. Although similar to a traditional waffle, it is larger, spherical shaped and sectioned into four large quarters. Butter and sugar or peanut butter are spread on one side of the cooked waffle, which is then folded into a half moon while eating. Evaporated or condensed milk, eggs and sugar are used in the waffle recipes, making them quite soft and sweet. Traditional Hong Kong style waffles are bursting with the flavor of egg yolk. At times, different flavors such as honey melon and chocolate, are used in the recipe for creating multi-colored waffles.
Originally from Vietnam, these are characterized by the use of traditional pandan flavoring and the use of coconut milk in the batter preparation. The pandan flavoring imparts the batter a distinctive spring green color. On being cooked, the waffle turns brown and crisp on the outside while it stays green and chewy towards the inside. Pandan waffles due to their intrinsic flavours are typically eaten plain with no added toppings.
Stroopwafel (Dutch: stroopwafels)
Basically these thin waffles with a syrupy filling in between were first produced in Gouda in the Netherlands sometime during the 18th - 19th century. A stiff batter made using flour, butter, brown sugar, milk, yeast, and eggs is poured on the hot waffle iron. After the waffle is baked and when it is still warm, it is divided into two equal halves. The warm filling, made with syrup, butter, brown sugar, and finally flavored with cinnamon, is layered in between the two waffle halves. This binds them together. They are very popular both in Belgium and the Netherlands and sold commonly in pre-prepared packages.
Basic Waffles Recipe
- sifted flour
- baking powder
- powdered sugar
- eggs, yolks separated
- melted shortening
The dry ingredients are mixed by sifting together through a fine sieve. Beaten egg yolks, milk and shortening are combined together. This blend is slowly added to the dry ingredients mixture, whipping constantly until smooth. Lastly, the stiffly beaten egg whites are folded in to form the batter for waffles. This batter is poured into individual sections of the hot waffle iron and the waffles are cooked until they turn crisp, fluffy and golden brown.
A serving of ~ 220 g of plain waffles on an average supply-
· 382 calories
· 21.6 g fat
· 76 mg cholesterol
· 390 mg sodium
· 38 g carbohydrates with 1.1 g dietary fibre and
· 8.7 g protein
1. Use of whole wheat flour in place of white flour improves B-vitamin and fibre content.
2. Splenda or more natural Stevia may be used as sugar substitute to reduce the calorie content.
3. Optionally, brown sugar may be used.
4. Cinnamon powder may be added not only for a unique flavour but for the fact that it helps keep blood glucose levels in check.
5. Fat content maybe reduced by opting for low-fat variants.
6. Addition of fresh fruit toppings increases vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content.
While this is the most basic recipe for making waffles, numerous alterations can be made with addition of other ingredients to alter the taste, texture and appearance.
· Savoury Waffles can be prepared in a similar manner reducing sugar and adding little salt. These may be served alongside poached or scrambled eggs and bacon for a luxurious breakfast.
· Waffles may be enjoyed plain or sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with honey or maple syrup.
· These options apart, they may be eaten with an array of toppings ranging from –
· Cream, Ice-cream, Jams, jellies, preserves, fruit compote, peanut butter, chocolate or other flavoured syrups, fruits such as bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
· Another unique and classical variation is waffle topped with cheese and kiwifruit.
· Further in specialty restaurants in the US, fried chicken served alongside waffles often coated with butter or syrup is classified as a ‘soul food’.