Belgian waffles are waffles made with a crispy golden brown exterior and a light, fluffy interior. In actuality, the waffle which many Americans call a “Belgian waffle” is a “Brussels waffle.” They were referred to as Belgian waffles at the 1964 World's Fair, when a Belgian man introduced the concept to the United States. Like other European nations, Belgium has a long waffle making tradition which stretches back to the Middle Ages, and many varieties of Belgian waffles are available in Belgium.
The roots of the waffle lie in “wafers,” unleavened bread which was made in the Middle Ages by pouring batter into a predecessor of the waffle iron. The two halves of the iron mold were pressed together, searing the outside of the wafer and leaving the inside softer and more pale. Over time, the technique gave birth to an assortment of waffles, including Belgian waffles. Other relatives of the wafer can be found in the form of pancakes and crepes.
The Brussels waffle is characterized by the dough, which uses yeast, eggs, and melted butter. As a result of the yeast and eggs, the dough is light and fluffy, rather than dense like other Belgian waffles. A Brussels waffle is also made in a deep waffle iron which makes large divots in the finished waffle. After it is cooked, the waffle can be dressed in fresh fruit, syrup, powdered sugar, butter, or chocolate. Brussels waffles are very popular in Belgium, and are often served as dessert.
The other famous Belgian waffle is a Liege waffle, which is much more dense than a Brussels waffle. The batter for a Liege waffle is made with chunks of sugar, which caramelize to form a crispy and slightly burnt coating. These waffles are designed to be hand held and eaten like street food. Many bakeries carry this type of Belgian waffle, and some street vendors sell them as well. They can often be seen cooling on large racks in bakeries, as they can be eaten warm or cold.
Depending on where you go in Belgium, various cooks have different recipes for an assortment of Belgian waffles. The Brussels and Liege are the two most popular kinds of Belgian waffles, however, and both are worth experiencing. If you want “Belgian waffles” for breakfast in Belgium, you may find it helpful to be specific and ask for Brussels waffles. Otherwise, you may be served with something unexpected, although probably equally delicious.