During my college years, my parents lived in Belgium so I would spend a few weeks there a year … some in the summers and some at the Christmas Holidays. While I looked forward to spending time with my family, there were a couple of other things that I just couldn't wait to have. One was Pralines Leonidas – fabulous chocolates that I managed to stash in my suitcase on the way back to school. ;) And the second was gaufres …
"Gaufres" are waffles. But not just any waffle and certainly NOT the "Belgian Waffle" that Americans know. When I see Belgian Waffles on a menu, I know they are probably just plain old waffles with larger holes, covered in strawberry puree (and real strawberries, if you're lucky) and whipped cream. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that the Belgians have never eaten strawberries on waffles. My Belgian readers can verify for us, right? (Yeah, like I have Belgian readers! Ha.)
Belgian waffles are a yeast dough and have pearl sugar in them which means that as they cook, the sugar melts a bit, creating a bit of their own syrup that then caramelizes and becomes a little crunchy.
The grocery store in the town of Charleroi had a "gaufres cart" just outside its doors. The fragrance created such a temptation as they cooked! It was really hard to pass them up and I think we rarely did!
Recently, I found pearl sugar in two different shops and I knew that I had to make Belgian waffles.
I had only a small waffle iron so I went to buy a larger one. I had two gift cards and a 20% off coupon and ended up paying only $1.23 out of my pocket for it!! Score!
About 22 years ago, Mom had sent me the recipe off the package of pearl sugar she had purchased in Belgium and I still have it, of course. The package I purchased here, the Lars brand, had a recipe on it as well, so I compared them. They were very similar and I decided to use the one on my new package. They turned out just like the ones at the Gaufres Cart in Charleroi. Very tasty. (The waffle iron was a mess with the burnt sugar, but I found that if I allowed it to cool a bit that the sugar held together and came off in larger caramely pieces.
Try to find this special sugar in your market, or order some online because you don't want to miss out on trying this treat. (For you Seattleites, you can find it at Central Market or the Sea Salt Superstore.)
The recipe is on the box, but in case you can't find the Lars brand or can only find the sugar in bulk, I've provided the recipe for you here.