A very different beast from Belgian waffles, sweet and deeply flavorful. Eat these warm to keep the sugar from hardening!
I’m pretty sure these waffles can be described with a Zagat-style collection of every one of my dessert trigger words and phrases: caramelized, chewy, burnt sugar caramel, stretchy, buttery, reminiscent of a croissant, doughnut and brioche at once. But don’t let that convince you; try them for yourself. I did my best to streamline the ingredients and processes in a way that would make these doable but also uncompromised in flavor and texture, making them two ways: one with a countertop rise followed by a long nap in the fridge and one in the reverse, in hopes to accommodate all of our schedules. While the process could be sped up further by skipping the cold overnight rise, you will be absolutely bowled over by the depth of flavor (and aroma, swoon, of the steam releasing from your waffle maker alone) that comes from giving the yeast more time to develop. Finally, I did not try this with instant yeast, but have found in other recipes that you can replace one with the other, but that instant yeast takes a little longer. However, you do not need to warm the liquid.
Makes 16 thick waffles, just about 4 inches across each.
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, whole is ideal
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2 tablespoons raw sugar, brown sugar or honey
1 packet (7 grams or 2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 large eggs, ideally at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 2/3 cups (460 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
14 tablespoons (200 grams or 7 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups pearl sugar (see Note at end for sources)
Make the dough: Warm milk and water together to lukewarm, or between 110 and 116 degrees F, and place in the bottom of a large mixer bowl. Add sugar and yeast and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes; the yeast should look foamy.
Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then stir in all but 1 cup flour (you can eyeball this) using a spoon or the dough hook of a stand mixer. Add the salt and mix to combine. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer, add the butter, a spoonful at a time, thoroughly kneading in each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed before adding the next until all of the butter has been mixed in. This is always my least favorite step in brioche because it feels like it takes forever to get that butter worked in, but it pays off in a stretchy, layered dough, promise. Add remaining flour and knead with dough hook on low speed for 5 minutes, or until glossy.
Set dough to rise twice: You can let the dough rise two ways, first at room temperature and then in the fridge, or vice-versa:
For room temperature first, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours; dough should double. Stir with a spoon or spatula to deflate into a mound, re-cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours.
For fridge first, cover bowl with plastic warp and leave in the fridge overnight, or up to 24 hours. The dough will not look fully doubled when you take it out. The day you’d like the make the waffles, bring the dough back to room temperature for 60 minutes, stir to deflate, and let rise again for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
To cook the waffles: For both methods, on the day you’re ready to make the waffles, knead in the pearl sugar. It’s going to seem like way too much for the dough, but it will taste perfect once cooked. Divide dough into 16 mounds. If it’s rather warm and greasy, you can return these balls of dough to the fridge while you cook them off, one or a few at a time.
Heat your waffle iron — I use a deeper Belgian-style one here, which is ideal, but I’d expect these to work with all types — over medium heat. No need to oil or butter if it’s nonstick in good condition. Place first ball of waffle dough on grid and cook according to waffle maker’s instructions. Cook until deeply golden all over, which will take approximately 5 minutes, then carefully transfer with tongs or a fork to a cooling rack. Remember, they’re loaded with molten sugar; they’re very hot. Repeat with remaining balls of dough, adjusting temperature of waffle iron as needed to get the color you want. You’ll likely find that the waffles look more caramelized and glossy as you go on, as bits of melted sugar stay behind and gloss the next waffles; this is the best part.
Keep waffles warm in a 200 degree oven if you plan to eat them right away. As the waffles cool, they will harden and you will likely think “what a ruse! What a terrible recipe!” but the hardness comes from that melted sugar firming up, and will soften again when you rewarm them. These waffles should always be eaten warm.
To serve: You can serve these any number of ways: with ice cream or whipped cream, Nutella and/or sliced fruit but I adore them plain and always warm. There’s so much flavor, they don’t even need a dusting of powdered sugar to feel finished.
Keep leftover waffles, should such a thing exist, in the freezer. If you’re making the full batch with the express intent of freezing them, you might want to cook them to half-a-shade lighter, so that when they’re reheated in a 200 degree oven, they won’t get too dark.