I've always known waffles come in many varieties. There's the frozen Eggo-type with an artificial, cloyingly sweet crunch. There are the Waffle House style waffles with a darker golden crust and cakey interior. Then there are the yeasted 'Belgian' variety with deep holes for hanging onto syrup, butter, Nutella, or whatever. There's even the super-thin Italian cookie-type made with cast iron molds over an open flame.
At Taste of Belgium's two locations in Cincinnati, chef Jean-François Flechet serves what he calls "the authentic Belgian waffle." The recipe, which is native to Liège, produces a cake-like doughy pastry that reminds me of...well, it's tough to say. It's not like any waffle I've ever had. Unlike the ones I'm more familiar with, these waffles are made not with batter, but with thick, pliable, moldable, dough.
Tennis-ball sized hunks of rich, vanilla-scented dough are pressed in between a couple of well-worn cast iron plates and flattened into waffles where they bake for a few minutes at a time. As they cook, the large jagged crystals of beet sugar that are worked into the dough melt, some of them leaking out of the waffle where they caramelize on the surface of the griddle and form awesome crunchy bits, others staying in place inside the dough, turning instead into irregularly shaped pockets of sweetness as you bite into them.
Dense and rich, the waffles are surprisingly filling despite their small size and produce an amazing array of textures and flavors in your mouth—gooey, stretchy, tender, moist, cakey, doughy, and crunchy.
The Traditional ($3.50 each) is plenty rich and sweet on its own, though chocolate, whipped cream, and fresh fruit can be added for $1, making for a slightly less portable confection.
Can't make it to Cincinnati? Don't worry, Taste of Belgium ships to anywhere in the U.S..
Taste of Belgium
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