March thru Europe: Week 4

Waaaaaay back in November 2004, I went on a week long trip to Belgium & England with friends, to visit a friend who was doing a study-abroad in Mechelen, Belgium. Looking back, I don’t remember at ALL how we made it happen. Did Travelocity exist? How did we know if our flight changed? How did we know where to go without a smartphone? I found my photo album from this trip – complete with paper airline tickets, and I’m kind of amazed we knew how to plan and execute such a trip.

There were 4 of us that spent a week checking out Antwerp, Brugge, and Brussels, Belgium, and then we also took a train to London, England. This trip is where I discovered Hoegaarden beer. For a 24 year old (shhhh…no need to do any math here) used to garbage beer like Nati Light and Bud Light, Hoegaarden was a sophisticated treat! I loved it SO much that I brought home a 6 pack of it. You guys, this was when you could still carry liquids in your carry-on. I brought home a 6 pack of BOTTLES in my carry-on. Then when I got home, I realized that Kroger carried this delicious nectar of the Gods. Who knew?

My scrapbook page – complete with non-digital photos!

I remember very little about the food on this trip. I wasn’t a foodie at the time. But I do remember the Chicken Parmesan we had for Thanksgiving dinner (which I referred to during Italian Month!), and the waffles. OMG the waffles. Not your average breakfast waffle, covered in syrup and served with eggs and bacon. These waffles where thick and sugary, with a crispy exterior. They were basically the most amazing thing I’d eaten in my life at that point. I remember getting them on the street corner, with the waffle covered in Nutella and whipped cream.

Since then, no “Belgian” waffle ever stood up to what I had experienced in Belgium. I’ve ordered them for breakfast, I bought a waffle maker and made all kinds of waffles, and I’ve eaten the hotel-lobby waffles when traveling. NONE of these waffles were good enough. Until now.

Enter, the liège waffle! Unlike the waffle most Americans know, made with a “batter” that’s ready to use almost instantly, the liège waffle is made of a thick yeasted dough. It’s actually a brioche dough, which is thick, ultra buttery, and requires two rise times. And there’s another very important ingredient – pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is basically just giant clumps of sugar. I bought mine at Sur La Table (my favorite store ever!!!).

After making the dough and letting it rise appropriately, I added a copious amount of pearl sugar and divided my dough into 8 balls. The recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, actually makes 16 waffles, about 4″ each. To preserve butter & flour, and to prevent me from eating the entire batch in one sitting, I only made half the recipe.

One word of caution – cutting recipes in half, or doubling them, can be a challenge for your stand mixer. There may either be too little dough to mix properly, or too much, which can cause unnecessary stress on the motor. I did find that my mixer struggled to incorporate the butter properly since I had so little dough at the bottom of the bowl. Next time I’ll just make a full batch and hopefully be able to share.

Each waffle only took a few minutes to cook in my waffle maker – and then my husband & I promptly devoured them. While I’ve run out of Nutella and couldn’t fully replicate the street food I had in Belgium, these waffles are 100% amazing with no toppings. The crunchy bits of hot sugar replace any need for syrup or peanut butter or even Nutella – which are necessary on a regular ‘ole waffle.

It’s almost the end of March, and the end of #marchthrueurope! I have ONE more stop to make – a repeat of a country we’ve already visited. While I had a theme picked out for April, I am making a new plan to be a little smarter with the food I already have on hand, and less trips to the grocery store (or less Shipt orders!). I’ll be announcing that theme next week!

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