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A few questions about an involved Belgian Liège Waffle recipe.
July 20, 2010 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I've been using this awesome recipe to make Belgian Liège waffles, but my results are never consistent. Could you guys help me reverse engineer the recipe a bit?

  1. During the butter-adding phase in step 5, my dough typically balls up on the paddle very early on, even before the second mixing. What could be the most likely culprit? It drives me crazy that I can never get this step right!
  2. What's the point of resting the dough for 1 minute between mixings in step 5?
  3. What's the point of letting the batter bubble up in step 3?
  4. Why refrigerate the dough overnight? Couldn't it be used to make waffles right after the 4-hour rising?
Thank you!
posted by archagon to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'll take a whack at it:

1) The phrase "If you measured your ingredients perfectly" is a joke. Flour is always going to act different depending on many variables like temperature and humidity. I'm going to guess you aren't quite where you need to be on your dry/wet ingredients ratio. Offhand I'd guess your a little dry. See what adding a little extra water (maybe a tsp?)does.

2) Dunno, might just be superstition. It might give some extra time for the wet & dry ingredients to mix.

3) That would be the autolyse step.

4) Dough loves to rest. Waffles made without that rest will be denser and tougher.
posted by Dmenet at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2010

Are you sifting your flour? Also,t o keep results consistent when I make bread, I weigh all my incredients.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2010

Right off the bat, I would measure the flour by weight instead of by volume. You could be off by several ounces, which makes it silly to then be so precise about the amount of water to add. Do you know if that blogger writes in metric and converts the measures with a computer program or something? I ask because the metric version calls for 240g of flour; that's only 8.5 ounces, which is pretty light to be translated to "2 cups."

I would also warm the mixer bowl if you're going to proof yeast in it. I usually run the outside of the metal bowl under the hot tap for a bit. Otherwise, there's no point in getting the milk & water to 115 degrees as it will drop to 80 as soon as it touches that cold metal bowl.
posted by bcwinters at 1:08 PM on July 20, 2010

I agree w/bcwinters re:the conversion from metric. 240 grams of flour is probably just under 1 3/4 cups, not 2. The extra flour could be a factor in your question#1.

To your question#4, refrigerating a yeast dough for a long period is called "retarding." It allows flavor to develop.
posted by jon1270 at 1:24 PM on July 20, 2010

1. This could be a bunch of different things and it isn't necessarily a problem.
1.a. Different mixers behave differently. Your mixer may be more efficient than the one the recipe was developed on, or the batch size may be just right for your mixer, or med-low on your mixer is faster than med-low on their mixer. Maybe you're adding the butter too slowly so the dough is more developed when the 4 minutes of med-low starts. You might be measuring your flour differently than the author, less hydrated doughs develop gluten faster than wetter doughs. Weigh your flour! (check out the metricversion of the recipe, it's in grams.) If it's done, and it feels right, it's done. Don't sweat it. (on preview, the above posters are probably right, your dough is probably too dry.)

1.b. Another possibility is that the dough is under fermented (step 3). As the yeast grows it breaks down the bonds that hold the dough together, if it's over fermented the dough looses strength and collapses. If the dough is under fermented it will come together quicker during the butter and sugar adding phase. Where are you fermenting your dough? Is it warm? cold? Does it look the same each time? Buy a digital thermometer! Yeast likes heat and moisture, 75-80 degrees F is a pretty good fermentation temp.

2. This rest allows the gluten in the dough to relax, which allows you to stretch it without breaking it. This is most obvious in an autolyse step, where the flour and water, (no leavening!) are mixed together and left alone for 15 minutes or more. The flour hydrates, even though there is no mixing action and the resulting dough can mixed without fear of tearing the gluten strands you're trying to develop.

3. This is either the primary fermentation or the pre-ferment. I'm leaning towards calling it a pre-ferment, since there is no an overnight cold fermentation that could be called the primary one. What you're doing in this step is developing the gluten in the flour, the rising potential of the yeast, and the flavor of the dough. The reason you hold back the butter and the sugar until step 5 is that they both inhibit the growth of the yeast and the development of the gluten. Yes, yeast likes a little sugar, but too much will hinder its growth and the butter coats the gluten strands and keeps them from bonding together. Think about pie crust. All those flaky layers are formed by layers of fat, which keeps the layers of flour from bonding to each other.

4.a. Anytime you're dealing with fermented foods, time = flavor. Even though the action of the yeast is retarded by the refrigeration, it continues to work. Because it's working more slowly there is more time for the enzymes in the dough to convert starches into sugars, which the yeast can then ferment. This is a common technique in pizza dough and in bread baking. I can't give you a better explanation than that without doing some more in depth research, but trust me, you don't want to throw this right in the waffler.

4.b. Cold dough is easier to work with.
posted by clockwork at 1:36 PM on July 20, 2010

Just so you know: I speak as someone with a lot of home baking experience, a little bit of commercial baking experience, and no formal baking training whatsoever (other than obsessively reading and re-reading The Bread-Baker's Apprentice). These are the things I'd try if I were you -- I have no guarantees about the results, but I think they'd be worthy experiments!

1. The folks above have covered it beautifully.

2. Recipes that use a kitchen mixer will often direct you to pause between mixing rounds, both to (1) avoid heating up the dough too much, and (2) allow time for the gluten to develop. It's really easy to overmix in a kitchen mixer -- if you were doing it by hand, there probably wouldn't be any need for this.

3. Not sure. The most useful thing I can imagine is that it's a quick sponge (a very wet dough made ahead of time, usually the day before, and added to the next batch to extend the effective rise time -- a good thing for flavor). This, by the way, is the step that sounds wackiest to me -- I've never heard of this "dump the flour over the batter" thing before, and I can't think of what purpose that might serve. If it were me, I'd try modifying this step in various ways -- leave out the flour sprinkle, make it the day before, etc.

4. I will answer your final question with a paraphrase from my favorite, favorite, favorite bread book of all time, The Bread-Baker's Apprentice (seriously, if you want to answer all these questions and more, go get it and read it now. It is so worth it). An extended fermentation (in other words, cooling and slowing down the yeast's rise) frees more of the sugars in the flour and makes them more available when the batter is finally cooked. This will make for a crisper crust and a more flavorful waffle. Seriously, though, I am not doing this concept justice with my brief explanation -- go get the book and read it!
posted by ourobouros at 1:49 PM on July 20, 2010

When they turn out well are they perfect? I've never had a good waffle that didn't require folded egg whites at the last possible minute. I know it's unlikely but if what's missing sometimes is a delicately crunchy exterior you may want to try this.
posted by Mertonian at 2:11 PM on July 20, 2010

While some of these steps makes sense to me, some are probably just based on superstition.

I likewise scoff at the "if you measured perfectly" line, especially in a recipe given with volume measurements! That's just lazy recipe writing, likewise with the "I've done so much research...blah blah blah, if you fail it's your fault". You're probably doing nothing wrong. You say inconsistent, do you mean the end results? or the intermediate stages?

With step 3, I'd guess that this is to keep you from developing too much gluten at this step.

Resting, then restarting kneading will actually allow you to develop more gluten, as the dough will be more pliable, and you can agitate it further. Likewise if you kneaded pizza dough for 10 minutes straight, you'd get something different from 5min, 1 min break, 5 min back on.

Refrigerating the dough, loaded with butter, is crucial. You'd have a greasy flour ball otherwise. This process is kinda like making a croissant-brioche hybrid.
posted by fontophilic at 5:56 PM on July 20, 2010

Thanks, guys! I tried measuring my ingredients by weight, and it turned out that I only needed 1.5 cups of flour, even though it's exactly the same kind of flour that's mentioned in the recipe. The batter stuck to the walls of the bowl and balled up at approximately the right time (I think).
posted by archagon at 12:42 AM on July 23, 2010

The flour weight per cup has more to do with how you measure the flour than it does with the brand. Do you scoop and level? Or do you spoon the flour into the measuring cup? Are you getting flour from the bottom of your container where it's been packed down? Are you sifting the flour? Since the recipe writer doesn't give you any guidance here you can only guess what 2 cups of flour means.

orobouros, sprinkling the remaining flour over the top of the preferment is similar to a technique commonly used with stiff rye levains. The layer of flour is food for the preferment, keeps it from developing a crust or drying out, and keeps unwanted organisms out of the preferment (this technique dates, no doubt, to the days before cling film). It also gives a visual indicator that the preferment is ripe enough for baking. In this case the preferment bubbles through the flour, in the case of a rye levain it will rise up and form cracks in the layer of flour.

If you do decide to do a longer preferment, say overnight, cut the amount of yeast back accordingly. If I were to make a ballpark guess, I would say 1/2 tsp of yeast for an 8-10 hr ferment at around room temperature (75 F). I doubt if you'll notice a major difference in flavor with all the sugar in there, but I might be surprised. Happy waffling!
posted by clockwork at 6:13 PM on July 23, 2010

Hey, if there is anybody out there I just made this recipe and have the following observations:

- The amounts are way more precise then they should be. When you are dealing with volumes of flour instead of mass everything goes out the window anyway.

- These timing given is way too specific. Wait EXACTLY 90 minutes? Come on. Do I have 5 waffles irons ready to go exactly 90 minutes after my waffle balls are rolled out? I sure don't.

- These waffles are small because they are so filling that you won't want anymore. They are quite good, though.

- I am sure as hell not paying $14 for a pound of Belgian pearl sugar. I stole the idea from the comments section to use sugar cubes.

- Holy vanilla. I'd cut it down by half.

- This recipe needs streamlining. I'm not going to spend 5 hours the night before preparing for waffles. I bet ~90 minutes the day before and ~90 minutes the day of would be good enough.

In conclusion, this recipe has more superstition then I care for & could be simplified.
posted by Dmenet at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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