When my Belgian grandma--bonne maman--made waffles, drafts of warm air would billow out of the kitchen, filling the house with a delicious smell. As she delivered happiness to her family one mouthwatering waffle at a time, she would beam with love and a pride in her mastery of waffle making. While leading Backroads Holland and Belgium biking trips this past summer, I encountered this familiar sweet scent in the Belgian city of Bruges. It instantly kicked my senses into a frenzy, renewing my love of waffles.
Bruges, an enchanting mix of medieval and modern scenery, was once the heart of European commerce. The cobblestone streets, quaint brick buildings, tall church spires and flowing canals lend a surreal ambiance. With horse carriages rolling through narrow alleys, hooves clacking rhythmically, it's easy to see why visitors are attracted to this well-preserved gem. And Bruges offers all of the usual Belgian delicacies: pommes frites (French fries), chocolate, beer and plenty of waffles.
Belgian waffles have a distinct connection to the city or town in which they were developed, and many families and regions guard their recipes as precious secrets.
While Bruges doesn't claim its own type of waffle, the diversity of this dish is an ode to this petite nation's creativity. All Belgian waffles are cooked in a hot griddle with a grid pattern, and sometimes the only distinction between types of waffles is the number of squares pressed into the treat. And while waffles may be more of a breakfast dish in the United States, in Belgium they're typically eaten as a snack or dessert. A seemingly endless assortment of toppings enhance the experience: strawberries, whipped cream, Nutella, powdered sugar, butter, ice cream, bananas, chocolate... the choice is yours!
The two main types of Belgian waffles are: Brussels waffles: Crispy on the outside, amazingly soft on the inside, the Brussels waffle is what most Americans picture when they think of Belgian waffles. Their fluffier texture comes from using leavened batter and larger, deeper squares. These rectangular treats are most commonly dotted with either 15 or 24 square pockets.
Liège waffles: These delicious and extremely popular waffles hail from eastern Belgium. Made with a thicker brioche batter that includes pearl sugar, Liège waffles have a rich and crispy caramelized sugar coating. Their distinctly rounded corners typically surround a 3-by-4 square pattern. Once the lingering scent of real Belgian waffles pulls you in, be prepared to sit back and indulge in tasty ride. Waffles can be found on nearly every street corner in Bruges and, paired with the exquisite scenery, can make your visit to Belgium a feast for the senses.