She is conspicuous by her absence. While France loves pancakes, how could it ignore its cousin, the waffle? This pretty Belgian has everything to please: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, it warms our winter, burning the fingertips and smearing the tip of the nose with icing sugar or chocolate. Fine or plump, filled or plain, sweet or salty, round or rectangular: everyone has their own waffle.
There is moreover not just one waffle. It is obviously in Belgium, of which it is the culinary emblem with fries and mussels, that we learn the difference: there is a Flemish waffle and a Walloon waffle. That of Brussels, with its rectangular shape and its low sugar dough, risen with egg whites, plays the support to accommodate a garnish (sugar, whipped cream, fruit) and become a dish in its own right, often served on the plate in restaurants. or in pastries. The Liège waffle is self-sufficient: thin, sweet and round in shape, it comes from a brioche dough (without egg whites). Its pearl sugar balls crunch under the tooth… Perfect for a snack.
This pioneer of street food is one of the oldest four-hours in the world. “Belgium and the Netherlands have been the centers of creation since the 13th centurysays Pierre Leclercq, food historian at the University of Liège. These are the origin of desacralized hosts, which were also found in Paris: the profession of “forgetter” consisted in cooking oublies (hosts) between two irons. With the generalization of metal, the practice became secular. » In the Middle Ages, the nobles of the North printed their coat of arms on these fine waffles and tasted them rolled up like Russian cigarettes, at the end of a meal, with hypocras, a wine sweetened with spices. In the Flemish paintings of the 16th century, they are already present, in Pieter Aertsen or Joachim Beuckelaer. Over time, they thicken and gain wider “cells” – hence their Dutch name wafel or “honeycomb”.
For snack and dessert
If, in Anglo-Saxon countries, we like to eat the waffle for breakfast or brunch, in Belgium we like it as a snack and for dessert. In France also. This winter, she invites herself to restaurants. And even on the two-starred tablecloth at Clarence in Paris: fine and round, simply accompanied by an airy whipped cream and hot chocolate. Chef Christophe Pelé also likes to treat it in a savory version, depositing a pearly and raw mackerel on a buckwheat waffle with buffalo milk cream, or associating it with bottarga, these luxurious dried fish eggs. At the Brigade du Tigre (Paris 10th), we offer a chilli Liegeoise served with a coconut sorbet. Still in Paris, you can also taste them in the three boutiques of the Comptoir Belge, at La Crème de Paris, or even at Yves Camdeborde, who cooks them by the minute in his Avant Comptoir.
A waffle, it does not heat up, it is cooked minute and basta
It’s because the waffle lends itself to spontaneous outbursts (like Captain Haddock’s famous “waffle iron!” curse) and can be eaten instantly. Dare to prepare it too in advance and the penalty is immediate: it gets scuttled while softening. “ A waffle doesn’t reheat, it’s cooked minute and basta! warns Florent Ladeyn, chef of the Bierbuik and Bloempot restaurants in Lille. The dough must remain fresh and light. A waffle in a plastic bag is therefore an aberration. »Not far away, the Maison Méert, a veritable institution in Old Lille (also present in Roubaix and Paris), draws out its fine oblong waffles filled with vanilla since 1967 and now with chicory.
Distributed to children for the new year
In Houplines, on the Belgian border near Armentières, artisan waffle maker Jean-François Brigant hatches his secret recipe, dating from 1933, made with a non-liquid dough then filled with vergeoise, vanilla or violet, speculoos or chicory, and even mojito! “The Flemish waffle was traditionally distributed to children for the New Year”says the man who also opened the Little Waffle Museum, around old renovated Flemish fires and a collection of waffle makers.
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When customers arrive at Florent Ladeyn’s Auberge du Vert Mont in Boeschepe, they are greeted by large round cast iron waffle irons humming on the coals: the young chef prepares dry waffles according to his grandfather’s recipe, which he made more local by replacing cane sugar and rum with beet sugar and juniper. At the table, he also offers savory appetizers: lentil flour waffles, for their spicy touch, accompanied by homemade mascarpone, herb mayonnaise or grated Flanders sheep tomme cheese (see recipe below). ). “The waffle has never disappeared with ushe says. These are my roots, my memories, it’s more important to me than truffle pasta! And it’s like fries: here, we don’t mess with waffles! »