October 14, 2013
gaufre de Belgique
It’s the worst earworm I’ve ever had. Now, a half a century after I first heard the song, it can still haunt me for hours. From what I’ve read, I’m not alone. Songfacts suggests that It’s a Small World
is the greatest earworm
of all time. Just to write about it now, I have to blare loud melodies through my headphones so I don’t start humming that wretched tune. (If you are stuck with the melody in your head for the rest of the day, I sincerely apologize.)
I first encountered It’s a Small World during the 1964 New York World’s Fair at the UNICEF pavilion. It was designed for Pepsi by WED Engineering (Disney), which explains why now there’s a version at every flavor of Disneyland around the world. During the two days I spent at the fair, I think I rode the boat through the exhibit at least a couple of times. Not because I liked looking at the dolls, but because the song made me feel good.
One other thing about the World’s Fair stays in my memory from long ago: Belgium waffles. (Sold as Bel‑Gem Waffles because Americans had no idea what or where Belgium was.) That year wasn’t the first time that the confection was served at a world’s fair, but it was my introduction to them. I only ate one. I purchased it from a push cart. At a dollar each, it consumed my food budget for the day. These were the days when I could purchase a pack of cigarettes for 25¢. A gallon of gas was about the same price. I loved the flavor, but as a 16‑year old with no real income, four packs of smokes lasted much longer and satisfied a different addiction.
That summer day in 1964 was the one and only time I ever ate a Belgium waffle. I wonder if I would like that original version if I was served it today. My tastes have changed a lot in fifty years. The original Belgium waffle would probably taste too sweet today.
Recently, I was killing an hour at a professional kitchenware store in Paris and saw a mold
designed to small round waffles. The price of the mold seemed quite reasonable, and it would easily fit in my luggage, so I bought it. As often is the case with cooking tools, I had no idea what I was going to make with the mold when I purchased it.
Although the mold has a waffle‑like pattern at the base of each cavity, there is no way that a silicone‑rubber mold can be used the same as a standard, preheated, two‑sided, metal waffle iron. I wanted whatever I made with the mold to be related to a waffle in some way, but I would have to allow for a different method of cooking.
A riff on chicken and waffles quickly came to mind, but the thought of a miniature Belgium waffle soon because an oral version of an earworm. The strawberries and the whipped cream would be no problem, but the waffle would take some thought. I looked at some old recipes. I looked at some very old recipes. I looked at some modern recipes. I looked in books. I looked on the Internet. No recipe really caught my imagination until I stumbled across one
on belgianwaffle.org. The recipe reportedly is from Liege. (A curious fact since the website is registered in Australia, and I think that the operator is actually in Malaysia.)
The recipe attracted my attention because it’s a simple yeast dough rather than the typical baking powder‑ and or baking soda‑leavened batter. Waffle batters depend on the hot iron to quickly seal the crust so the gas created by the leavening is trapped within the waffle. A yeast‑leavened dough seemed like it would rise better in the silicone‑rubber molds.
The recipe also looked simple to minimize. Even after dividing all the quantities by three, some seemed to large. I reduced the yeast by another two‑thirds and the finishing sugar by about four‑fifths. The final recipe produced 24 waffles.
10 g (1⁄3 oz)
active dry yeast
6 g (1⁄2 T)
60 ml (1⁄4 c)
whole milk at 40 to 43 °C (104 to 109 °F)
38 g (1⁄6 c)
140 g (1 c)
20 g (2⁄3 oz)
pearl sugar [see note]
1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the milk. Set aside for a few minutes until the yeast starts to foam.
2. Mix the egg, butter, and vanilla into the yeast mixture. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Pour the liquid mixture into the center. Stir until the combination forms a soft dough.
3. Set the dough aside to rise. The time will depend on the weather in your kitchen. When doubled or so in volume, mix in the pearl sugar.
4. Preheat your oven to 180 °C (355 °F). Spray the silicone‑rubber mold with a light coating of baking spray, and set the mold on a baking sheet.
5. Fill the cavities of the baking sheet with the dough. Bake the waffles until they rise, and their tops are starting to brown, about 18 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
6. If not using right away, freeze the waffles until needed.
Note: If pearl sugar, sometimes called nib sugar, is unavailable, use another large crystal sugar.
To complete the Belgium waffles, you’ll need a few strawberries and some sweetened whipped cream. Put the whipped cream in a pastry tube with a small star tip to make it more convenient to apply to the waffles. Slice hulled strawberries lengthwise into 2‑mm (5⁄64‑in) thick slices. About an hour before you need them, sprinkle the slices with a little powdered sugar.
When it’s time to serve the waffles, use a gas torch to quickly “toast” the ridges of the waffle pattern. Cut a very thin slice from the opposite side so the waffle will sit level. Slice each waffle crosswise in half. Give each half a light topping of whipped cream. Arrange a couple of slices of strawberry on the bottom half. Place the top half, cream side down, on top.
It’s actually possible to eat this waffle stack without all the cream squeezing out, but then it isn’t as much fun.