Liège Waffles {a love offering}

Today when I was reading through the Saveur 100 {February + March issue} I got stuck on no. 92, submitted by Isabelle Zgonc of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Her ode to the Chicken Paprikash her mother used to make began like this...

"In the minds of some of their Eastern European immigrant neighbors, my parents, Lester and Olga Kolozy, had a mixed marriage: he was Hungarian and she was Slovenian. It didn't get in the way too much, though; they were married for 60 years. They fell in love after my father spotted my mother at a Valentine's Day dance in Cleveland, Ohio; her parents told her not to marry a Hungarian, because all they think about is their next meal." 

I was not given such similar warnings before marrying András, who is also Hungarian, but if I had, like Olga, I doubt I would have listened. I read on to learn that Olga became an accomplished Hungarian cook and made her husband's mouth water for the flavors of home. Like Olga, I learned quickly that sometimes the best way to show a Hungarian man, or any man for that matter that you love him is with a plate full of his favorite food. This is true on any day, but especially on Valentine's Day.

Though András loves the food of his homeland and seems to feel extra loved when I sprinkle paprika on anything from fried eggs to fish, his favorite food as of late hails from Belgium —Gaufres de Liège, or Liège style waffles.

Gaufres de Liege are the crisp, sweet, dense and chewy waffles you find in the street stands in Brussels, Brugge or the city of Liège. There they are served simply with a dusting of powdered sugar,  a far different thing than the oversized, airy waffles we see on breakfast menus here at home.  According to legend, Liege waffles were brought to New York via The Waffle Guy, by appointment of the Belgian Ministry of Culinary Affairs. András fell in love with "the chewy ones" as he calls them, at the hands of the Wafels and Dinges truck who serve them at his cycling races, and has been asking me to make them ever since. 

We make standard Belgian waffles regularly, but the two of the three ingredients that give Liège waffles their distinctive texture—bread flour, large amounts of butter kneaded into a yeasted dough {like brioche} and pearl sugar that caramelizes on the hot iron—aren't things I always have on hand. But thanks to the internet and a little advance planning, I was in the running for wife if the year. 

After the dough was made, butter and pearl sugar kneaded in, and iron pre-heated, I set a simple table with the tulips he'd brought me and useless forks, and cooked up batch after batch of hot "chewy ones." {recipe hereWe ate them by hand, one after another, first with sugar then Nutella, as I pulled them hot from the iron. András lapped me several times, rubbed his belly, kissed my hand and retired to the couch where he seemed contended for about a half hour before he asked, 

"Are there any more?" 

In a world of glass slippers and glittering castles, a question like that might make a girl feel forlorn. In the world of Lesters and Olgas, the world to which I belong, that's a question that sounds a lot like love.


Erin said...

OH, Sarah!!
These are just like the ones in Heerlen near Valkenburg. My mouth still waters for these...and now to have the recipe...You are definitely my hero for the day....miss and love you....

Anonymous said...

Hey... I just had my Liege waffle lesson the other day from Bobby Flay! Sounds delish!!

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Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.