Brussels waffles in the spotlight
This exponent of Belgium's culinary heritage does not easily reveal its secrets. What are the ingredients, what does the Brussels waffle look like, where did it first appear ... ?
We are known as a nation of gourmets and gourmands. The range of classic delicacies includes: waffles. Artists from the 16th and 17th centuries have already immortalised them in paintings, drawings, engravings, books of hours and calendars. You see women at markets, funfairs or in winter scenes busy with dough and waffle iron. The precursors to our tasty treats included a wide variety of styles - from very large and thick, crunchy to thin, limp and greasy.
In any case, the Brussels waffle as we know it did not exist at all at that time. The ingredients and the method of preparation were too different to create a modern waffle. Incidentally, major research into various written documents, including archival documents, old cookbooks, literature, etc. only dates the very first name 'Brussels waffles' to around 1842-1843. A certain Florian Dacher had amassed years of experience at a bakery on the Treurenberg in Brussels. On a so-called 'porcelain card', he subsequently advertised the specialities of the business he had recently opened with his wife, Mrs. Migeon, at the rue de la Comédie n° 2 in Ghent. At the bottom it says Grosses Gaufres de Bruxelles, 'thick Brussels waffles'. It is highly likely that the indication on the plaque, de Bruxelles, cannot be interpreted here as a promotional stunt or out of pomposity, but by Gaufres de Bruxelles he meant the specific pastry and added the adjective Grosses in order to point out to the people of Ghent that they were thick waffles. Incidentally, at the time some shops printed chic menus, advertising texts and the like on expensive porcelain cards made of paper with lead white in them, which gave them a silky shine reminiscent of porcelain.
The first recipe of Brussels waffles can be found in the cookbook La pâtisserie et les confitures from 1874 by the Ghent cook Philippe Cauderlier, who incidentally was a good friend of Florian Dacher. His basic ingredients and recipes are more or less the same as those of later leading professional chefs: dough made from butter, milk, flour, salt, egg yolks, egg whites whisked firm, and seasoning, fresh and home-made with a professional Brussels waffle iron. No yeast, no beer, little or no sugar. Traditional toppings are icing sugar, whipped cream and strawberries. The waffle usually has 15 or 20 deep square holes, is 2.8 to 3.2 cm thick, 17.3 to 18 cm long and 10 to 11.2 cm wide. Light and crispy.
From various eateries in Laken, at the old Lakensepoort, in the lost district Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Sneeuw with the Wafelgang, the ponds of Ixelles and the Ter Kamerenbos, they may have crossed over to peddlers, waffle women and funfairs, where, according to tradition, Maximilien Consael introduced them in his stall Max in 1856. With yeast!