Few foods have the versatility to take us on a journey of sweet and savoury flavours like the wonderful waffle
Think waffle; think a delicious rectangle of wheat flour, margarine, water, sugar, egg, milk and salt that’s been pressed into shape between two hot plates and cooked until golden and crispy on the outside, with characteristic indents, and light, fluffy in the centre.
Waffles have existed, although not exactly as we know them today, since the dawn of time, as far back as Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages, in fact. Historical records dating back to 1620 confirm that Belgium was the birthplace of the waffle and that Belgian settlers held on to their waffle tradition after arriving in America.
Different varieties of waffles are made all around the world, but what they all have in common is that they make mouth-watering bases for both sweet and savoury toppings. A thousand and one varieties of toppings aside, you can also let your imagination run riot with the ingredients for the base, opting for pizza dough waffles, vegan waffles, gluten-free waffles and waffles for coeliacs.
The waffle we’re most familiar with here in Europe is the Belgian variety, with its oval shape, rough edges, sweet taste and traditional 24 indents. The Brussels waffle tends to be much lighter with bigger indents, while the Liège waffle is sweeter because caramel is added during cooking and is not usually eaten with a topping.
American waffle batter is similar to pancake mixture and is usually unsweetened. The Virginia waffle uses rice flour instead of wheat flour. And in Hong Kong, bubble waffles are hexagonal waffles with holes that puff up into bubbles, maintaining a crispy outside and fluffy inside and can be both sweet and savoury. In addition to these, the UK serves up potato waffles while in Lille, France, their oval waffle is filled and topped with brown sugar or vanilla.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from combining sweet and savoury but for those with a sweet tooth, the usual sweet toppings include chocolate (dark, milk and/or white), whipped cream, Nutella, condensed milk, dulce de leche, caramel, ice cream and various syrups and fruits. For those who fancy something more savoury, topping ideas include guacamole, mayonnaise, sausage spread, melted cheese, caramelised or crispy onion, various sauces, ham, bacon, rocket, lamb’s lettuce, tomatoes, pâté… Basically, are no rules when it comes to waffles! So, enjoy and waffle on!