This last Saturday was perhaps the first time in my life the 4th of July didn’t feel like something to be celebrated. So instead of celebrating a hypocritical idea of freedom, my son and I celebrated a Saturday morning tradition long held in my family—waffles.
Dark chocolate & Molasses Liège Waffles to be specific. I was introduced to liège style waffles last October in a conversation with a friend before I went on a road trip through Colorado. While on my road trip I had breakfast one morning at a place in Steamboat Springs called The Iron Waffle, where I got to taste these amazing pastry waffles with pearl sugar for the first time as the base for eggs benedict instead of an English muffin.
After returning home from my trip, I ordered some Belgian pearl sugar and looked up this recipe from Malin Elmlid at foodandwine.com. There’s a funny story here about how the shipping company delivered my order of pearl sugar to my neighbors on accident and I eventually ended up with 4 lbs. of Belgian pearl sugar. After 10 months, and a lot of waffles, I still have about a pound and a half left.
The most challenging part of making this style of waffle (other than finding Belgian pearl sugar) is the waiting time. The batter is basically an enriched dough and because it uses yeast, has a rising time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. For this reason, I will often make the batter the night before and refrigerate it overnight.
Over the last several months I’ve altered the recipe a few times to attempt a gluten-free version and an egg and dairy free version, which can get complicated quickly. I try to stick with simply substituting the problem ingredients for alternatives like gluten-free pancake mix (the time I used a gluten-free pizza crust mix turned out well), egg substitute, and coconut oil or other non-dairy butter substitute. I haven’t experienced any need to alter to recipe for high altitude, though if I were to make these at a higher elevation then I might make some adjustments.
The creation of these dark chocolate and molasses waffles came out of simple necessity. I was out of brown sugar and vanilla as the original recipe calls for. Since making extra trips to the store for a single item or two is frowned upon these days to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 and vanilla extract hasn’t been available my last couple visits to the store, I decided to use what I had. I dug through the cupboard for the jar of molasses and put the leftover chocolate bars from a recent camping trip to good use.
Starting with Elmlid’s original recipe, I substituted roughly 2 tablespoons of molasses for the 1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar and followed the original recipe through step 1. Elmlid makes a note that the batter can be prepared the night before and refrigerated until morning. I’ve done this several times, and I would add that the batter usually requires about 20 more minutes to rise if it’s been refrigerated overnight. I also like to use the proof setting on my oven because it creates a temperature-controlled space for the batter to rise. During step 2, when I added the pearl sugar I also added the chopped chocolate bars (½ cup). Due to the warmth of the batter and chocolate, the chocolate pieces started to melt as I stirred the batter creating a beautiful swirl pattern.
Now we come to the waffle iron, which is where the magic truly lies. When I stated at the beginning of this post that Saturday morning waffles have been a long-held tradition in my family, I meant it. My waffle iron is 112 years old, cast iron, and has been passed down generation to generation since it was new in 1908. It’s been used on every kind of stove and even a few campfires (yes, campfire waffles are the most amazing thing ever).
***Side Tangent Warning*** If I may take a moment to point out how this is an example of my white privilege—not because I have this cool waffle iron, but because of how it’s been handed down to me and how privileged I am to know it’s history. My grandmother has spent most of her adult life dedicated to genealogical research (without the use of computers or the internet). I have two binders she’s gifted to me that trace back my ancestry to the 15th century. Research that was only possible because my white, European ancestors mattered enough as human beings that there were records kept of their names, where they were born, whom they married, the children they had, and when and where they died. Or at least most of them…revisionist history out of shame for what ancestors did is a real thing. There’s an entire branch of the Putnam family excluded from my genealogy charts because they were the main accusers during the Salem Witch Trials that resulted in the execution of 20 people. When I asked my grandmother about it she was very adamant that our family had nothing to do with the Salem Witch Trials. At all. In any form. Though it’s not a direct family tie (because priority in tracing bloodlines is given to males instead males and females—ah, patriarchy) I wanted to mention it here because I think acknowledging that my ancestry includes people responsible for creating mass hysteria about witchcraft while writing a blog post titled Magic Waffles creates some delicious irony. ***End Side Tangent***
Back to the waffles, this waffle iron comes with a steep learning curve in timing. It’s the kind of waffle iron that you flip over for it to cook evenly, and the timing of that flip must be exactly right. Otherwise you risk having waffles that are half burnt and half raw. With these waffles the timing is even more crucial, because the molasses and the chocolate make the batter darker and therefore harder to judge when they are finished. On my glass top stove with the cast iron it takes a considerable amount of time to heat up, but once it’s hot it’s easy to overheat. After adding the pearl sugar and chocolate to the batter, let the batter rest for 15 minutes—this is when I turn on the stove to a medium-low setting under the waffle iron. Keeping the heat low and allowing for ample preheating time will prevent the iron from overheating and burning what you put on it. After approximately 1 ½ minutes per side for each waffle, put them on a plate, add some sliced strawberries or any topping you prefer (though there’s really no need for syrup or powdered sugar on these beauties) and ta-da—Magic Waffles!!!
Dark Chocolate and Molasses Liège Waffles
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 3/4 teaspoons (or one ¼ oz. packet) active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup lukewarm water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (about 1 cup)
- ½ cup chopped dark chocolate (I used a combination of Alter Eco’s Dark Salted Brown Butter, and TCHO’s “Toffee + Sea Salt)
- 1 cup Belgian pearl sugar