The story of the Waffle is a tale that stretches back to the Middle Ages; a story with an uncertain origin, which reflects the history of Belgium and its regions.
Over time, waffles have become a regional speciality, particularly in the north of France and in Belgium, where they exist in many variations, such as the famous Liège waffle.
Let's face it when you think "Belgian waffles" you have a picture in your mind: a thick, dense, fluffy square of baked dough covered with confectioners sugar. But did you know there are three main types? And what is the real difference between the Liège, Brussels, and Lille waffles?
Three different waffles, one origin.
The waffle has an origin story that is as rich and diverse as the waffles themselves. The word waffle comes from “walfre” which means “honeycomb” in Old French from the 12th century.
According to paintings and stories from the period, we can trace its roots back to Brussels in the 16th century, when it was created as a feast day delicacy. The waffles were inspired by crepes, but they had a more virtuous purpose: they were eaten during prayers and religious festivals.
It wasn't until two centuries later that waffles came to Liège. This time, they were inspired by Brussels' own speciality and offered to good children in exchange for their good behavior.
There is no precise date on which to place the first Lille or Flemish waffle, but we know that it also dates back to medieval times—we suspect it may have originated even earlier than the Liège's version did!
Brussels, Liège, or (Flemish) Lille's waffle, what are the differences?
If their origins are common, never insinuate in front of people from Liège, Brussels, or Lille that their waffles are alike, otherwise you risk triggering a diplomatic incident.
The Brussels waffle: is the one you know best from fairgrounds, it is blond and light. It's made from a batter. When cooked, the traditional recipe calls for the waffle iron to be turned over on both sides so that the batter disperses evenly on both sides. Strawberries, whipped cream, and possibly savoury, the Brussels waffle can be eaten accompanied by all kinds of delicacies. It owes its reputation to its light, crispy and sweet texture.
The Liège waffle: is denser and above all its dough contains pearl sugar which caramelize during cooking for an incomparable flavor. Unlike the Brussels waffles, it's made from a dough, not a batter. Its shape is rather oval, and its edges are very irregular. Firmer and very vanilla-flavoured, the Liège waffle is self-sufficient, plain and hot. (No need to add maple syrup!)
The Lille waffle or Flemish waffle: is made from a dough more or less similar to the Liège waffle. Smaller and thinner, it is cooked in a flat "squared" iron before being split open, filled - most of the time with vanilla, speculoos, or brown sugar buttercream - then closed.
So there you have it, folks, a brief history of the most popular treat on the planet. There's plenty of discussion to be had here, and even more to be discovered.
If you're still not sure which you prefer, we suggest you try one of each. Either way, enjoy them while they last, and don't forget that there's always room for a waffle.