Saturday, October 17, 2009

garden in a box


I am 10 (!) years into living in a space with no garden. Periodically, I have thought wistfully about the joys of snipping rosemary for dinner, muddling mojitos when I fancy, and blending up pesto galore, only because I have so much basil I don't know what to do with it.

(Though I never did successfully grow anything when I had wide open spaces available to me, with perhaps the exception of the violets that my best friend and I kept for our 8th grade science project. These we gassed on a weekly basis with pollutants ranging from her brother's deodorant to exhaust from her mother's Buick, though most still managed to fare pretty well. I digress. Delicious basil makes all the difference, as does a boyfriend who happens to have a green thumb.)

Cowboy has a deck. And we learned from the helpful folks at Yamagami's Nursery this summer that there are a great many botanical things you can do with just a deck.

We bought a large box planter, filled it with potting soil and fertilizer (yes it was organic - don't really want to think about what was in it). Then we dispersed within it - sweet basil, crawling rosemary, chives, three heads of red leaf lettuce, a villancho pepper plant, and a strawberry plant.

Care included watering 2 times per week and initial spraying with a diluted soap (Mrs. Meyer's Basil dish soap in low concentration) as a bug repellent for the lettuce. As the herbs grew, the strong scents of basil, chives, and rosemary kept the bugs away.

Summer is over, and our lettuces are gone, but the others are still growing (in fact, our garden in a box is getting crowded!). For next year, I have visions of a Meyer lemon tree, which I know can be planted in a big pot, and a fig tree, which I will have to inquire about.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

how to order Taiwanese brunch

(Xue Cai Rou Si Mian)

So, as many young ABCs (American Born Chinese) may attest to, it seems that there is one thing that we will never fully grow into as adults. We may figure out how to file our own taxes and buy a used car, but having that true Chinese restaurant experience - the kind we used to despise when we were dragged along by our parents - that's extremely difficult to achieve.

My goal with this post is to encourage and empower anyone who feels this way to rediscover that Chinese restaurant experience. I am focusing on Taiwanese brunch - my personal favorite - and please understand that I am only talking about the kind of Chinese restaurant that's known to have a following of Chinese people (in Boston, this would include Shangri-la in Belmont, Mulan in Cambridge, and Chung Shin Yuan in Newton. It would not include "The Kong" - home of the Scorpion Bowl - in Faneuil Hall).

Truthfully, the first barrier is probably your company. Most likely you are not arriving at the restaurant in the company of three generations of chatty Chinese/Taiwanese family members. Most likely you are with a diverse group of friends from school or work, or a significant other who may or may not be Chinese.

What will happen is that the restaurant's host/hostess - who likely also serves 6 tables and makes the dumplings - will give you a once over, determine there is no Chinese-literate person in the group (correctly, in my case), and grab a handful of "American menus".

When you sit down, you must ask. "Do you have a Chinese menu? Can I please have one?" (Say it in English, if you'd like.) And it's ok to ask for glasses of water all-around. We all know Taiwanese brunch can get spicy, and it is difficult to chug hot tea (though no, Chinese people don't really drink glasses of water, especially not with ice in it). Also, don't forget to ask for chopsticks if they were removed from your table before you sat down.

The reason you want the "Chinese menu" is that it has more delicious stuff...the good, the interesting, the authentic stuff. I still haven't figured out why they leave all this off of the American menu, but in most places I've seen, they do (I hardly ever see preserved duck egg with tofu on the American menu). Note: the "Chinese menu" often has English words on it, too - you will know that you have the "American menu" if it is Saturday brunch time, and your menu has something like "Stir-fry Beef with Broccoli" on it.

So now you have the Chinese menu, which, of course, presents all types of potential language problems. Most often, the menu items will be written in Chinese characters, with English descriptions to the right. The issue is that the English descriptions are not very helpful - for instance, steamed pork bun could mean little steamed buns with translucent wrappers (xiao long bao), or big steamed pork buns with vegetables and fluffy white exterior (cai rou bao). Some restaurants excel at the first (xiao long bao done well means the bun actually bursts with broth when you bite into it), and it's a must-order. But if a restaurant is not known for this dish, you can rest assured it won't be pretty - better not to order it.

What helps the situation is that many of us ABCs, while illiterate, do a decent job of listening and understanding Chinese. As such, we can read and decipher Pinyin (the phonetic approach to Chinese using, well, our Roman ABCs). True, no restaurant would ever bother to write out their menu items in Pinyin, but I also have very nice parents who have done exactly this for the Taiwanese brunch menu at one of their favorite restaurants:

Please click here to download three pages (PDF) of delicious Taiwanese brunch menu items, written in Chinese characters, and translated into Pinyin with English descriptions.

So with this handy guide, you can be totally self-reliant the next time you need to order yourself some tasty Taiwanese brunch. For anyone who can read Pinyin, this reference tool should be very helpful; for those of you who are English only, hopefully this will be somewhat helpful (should you ever end up at a place with a Chinese-only menu).

Crispy Sesame Pan Cake and Chinese Fried Dough, anyone? (Yep - that would be shao bing, you tiao - yum).

Thursday, July 02, 2009

why I am not cooking with bobby flay


Last month I had a big chance to meet Bobby Flay.

It started like this. My Twitter "following"/"follower" list of people is alarmingly short, and I wanted to build my network. Ashton Kutcher and Shaq didn't feel quite right - no personal connection. Jack Johnson: no Twitter. George Clooney: couldn't tell if it was the real deal. Bobby Flay: "Soft shell crab season is open at Mesa Grill NY. Tonight with red chile-cilantro sauce and they're crispy!" SCORE.

And previously, a tweet on April 29...
"Win a chance to cook with me at". Win a contest to meet Bobby Flay?!

The rest of the story goes like this. Should I do it? Should I not do it? Or should I? On Saturday evening I said to Cowboy, I'm gonna do it. I went to Berkeley Bowl for fresh blackberries, sweet red onions, halibut, hazelnuts, and a bottle of Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay (ok - I picked that up at Safeway on my way home). Columbia Crest was the sponsor, and the theme was Washington state ingredients (i.e. FLAYvors).

I finished my original creation just after 10:30pm - a pecan crusted halibut fillet with braised fennel and sweet red onion served with a blackberry-shallot wine reduction. The sauce was a bit unusual-tasting, so I ended up juicing a whole lemon into it, and tossed in the zest as well. The fillet fell apart in the pan, but I salvaged a large enough piece to make a pretty plate for the camera.

I put on a dress and re-did my make-up.
I went to the contest's website - only two videos entered so far! And neither particularly impressive. I poured myself a glass of Chardonnay. Fruit-less, wet cardboard notes - corked (no wonder my sauce was so awful to work with!). Then Cowboy filmed 12 takes of me enthusiastically describing my dish to Bobby Flay, and we hungrily ate our cold dinner. I realized I had neglected to put any type of chilies in the dish...that was going to work against me.

When I woke up the next day I uploaded all my videos and watched them through, wishing I could just look normal and comfortable on camera. I tidied up my jumbled recipe notes, and I went online to enter my video.

Click - "Enter Contest".

Contest is void for residents of California, Tennessee, Utah, Puerto Rico, U.S. territories, possessions and commonwealths, and where restricted or prohibited by law."

WHAT?! California? Why?! California is the biggest wine-drinking foodie state in the whole country!!

Add then I remembered the agony of being a wine marketer. Any promotional offering used by a wine company in the state of CA cannot be worth more than $1 to the consumer (hence the hokey things you often see attached to the neck of wine bottles at the grocery store). California Alcoholic Beverage Control Act Section 160.

The average retail value of "the opportunity to cook with Bobby Flay" was $5,764.95. (No!!)

The most embarrassing thing about all of this is, yes, I did work for over two years at a wine company in the Marketing department. Yes, I did sit down on multiple occasions with our VP Legal Affairs to discuss what can and cannot be done in various states, and I whined about the strict codes in California.

I guess I just forgot.

So, I am not going to be cooking with Bobby Flay. And, no. I don't think he'll be following me on Twitter anytime soon, either.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

comida in costa rica


Costa Rica, the travel books say, is no place to visit if you are interested in food. But let me tell you - you can have fun eating and drinking in this country. Here is a guide to some of the best food and drink that any visitor should check out:


Beans and Rice
Gallo pinto. If you are trying to stay "tipico" with your food selections, likely you will be presented with beans and rice - if not with your meal, then as your meal. I encourage any traveler to experience as much and as many types of beans and rice as you can. Think about it like wine - when you first start drinking, any old bottle tastes the same. You try more and more, and you begin to appreciate the nuances. It's the same here - red beans, black beans, fried together/separately, different combinations of will quickly appreciate the restaurants that have really got their gallo pinto figured out.

Lizano Sauce
Or Salsa Lizano. For classic condiment lovers, this is the Heinz ketchup of Costa Rica, and you will quickly find yourself consuming embarassing amounts of this delicious dark brown concoction (or is that just me?!). It is all at once sweet, salty, and spicy, and ubiquitous at restaurants throughout Costa Rica. Delicious with gallo pinto and eggs. (Yes - it even beats Busha Browne's Spicy Tomato Love-Apple Sauce from Jamaica!)

If we all could get our hands on Guaro here in the U.S., I swear the Guaro Sour would be the next caipirinha (which some predict to be the next mojito). Like Brazil's cachaça, the primary ingredient in caipirinhas, Guaro is made from sugarcane juice. It is 30-35% alcohol and has a subtly sweet flavor. Cacique is currently the only legally produced brand and unfortunately is not widely distributed in the U.S.

Guaro Sour
from Dowd's Spirits Notebook

2 ounces guaro
2 ounces simple syrup or 2 teaspoons raw sugar
5 to 6 lime wedges
Ice cubes
Sugar cane stick for garnish

Put guaro, sugar and lime wedges in a rocks glass. Muddle all the ingredients until you get lime juice. Add ice cubes.

Tropical Fruit
Fresh pineapples, papayas, coconut, mangos, and starfruit are so readily available that you could be at an American tourist trap ordering a $5 piña colada in a plastic cup, and the bartender would grab a handful of fresh pineapple spears, blend it with fresh coconut cream (plus rum and ice), and top with a slice of starfruit for a fresh, frothy, and tropical experience. (And the ice, by the way, is safe. We applied our "don't drink the water" practice rather inconsistently, particularly when it came to the ice used in our Guaro Sours, Pina Coladas and the like. We were OK.)

Regarding bananas - the bananas in Costa Rica are incredible, superior to any Costa Rican banana you might buy in the States. Why? Our tour guide at El Trapiche in Monteverde believes that it is because bananas in Costa Rica ripen naturally after being picked, whereas bananas in the U.S. undergo refrigeration while in transport (which halts the ripening process), followed by rapid ripening in rooms where they are sprayed with ethylene (a naturally occurring chemical that serves as a ripening agent). While I haven't been able to find any scientific evidence, it makes sense to me that this unnatural process would not do any favors for taste.



And finally, of course, the café. After tasting local offerings from various parts of the country, I am convinced that the best stuff comes from the Central Valley, around San Jose (regions: Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Herediá, Alajuela and Alajuela Poas Volcano). This area is known for its high altitude terrain, which supports growing high quality beans that make a coffee smooth, full bodied, with balanced acidity. I was interested to learn that the Costa Rican government only allows arabica (premium) beans to be grown, and only the highest grade is allowed for export. That's why the Costa Rican beans we are familiar with in the U.S. are generally very, very good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cupcakes to buzz about


Powdered green tea - best known as matcha green tea today - originated in China and traveled to Japan with the spread of Zen Buddhism in the 12th century. Matcha tea ceremonies grew popular among the Japanese upper class, and continue as a cultural tradition today.

In the 21st century, not monks but rather bakers, baristas, and ice cream makers have popularized matcha in the U.S. You can find matcha in green tea ice cream, green tea smoothies, green tea lattes, green tea donuts...

Matcha is made from shade-grown green tea leaves ground into a superfine powder with a stone. Only the youngest leaves are picked - new leaves are brighter in color and less tannic (thus producing a less bitter tea). Because of the high level of quality and great amount of labor that goes into matcha production, we see matcha priced relatively high, compared to other types of green teas.

When we consume matcha, we consume the entire tea leaf, and so the belief is that we benefit far more from the antioxidant quality of the tea.

I like matcha, because it is an exuberantly happy shade of green. I love the bright, clean green tea flavor, and how well it pairs with creamy textures, adding complexity to everyday treats.

My matcha cupcakes came from a recipe I found on eat, me delicious, which, I believe, came from Cupcake Bakeshop.

Green Tea or "Matcha" Cupcakes
1/2 sheet pan or 24 cupcakes
350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons matcha

1. Prepare sheet pan by rubbing with butter, covering with parchment, rubbing with more butter, and dusting with flour. Or, prepare cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
2. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
3. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs/egg yolks one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to batter and mix to combine.
6. Mix matcha in with the milk. (A bamboo matcha whisker is helpful for getting rid of clumps.) Add to the batter and mix until combined.
7. Pour into prepared 1/2 sheet pan and smooth flat or cupcake pan.
8. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

I topped each cupcake, once cooled, with a basic vanilla egg white frosting and sprinkled some toasted coconut on top.

PS - Each cupcake should contain about 20 mg caffeine from the matcha powder (a can of Coke is about 35 mg).


Friday, March 06, 2009

retro chic cream puffs


There are some baked goods and pastries whose names simply say delight - sticky bun, muffin, cream puff...And then there are some that call for thoughtful enjoyment - eclair, croissant, macaron...

Names matter. I prefer the former. So fun, so approachable.

Yet most "fun" pastries can't quite seem to earn the appreciation that say, a good croissant might command. You read heated debates about who makes a better croissant in the East Bay (Masse's or La Farine) - but no one can be bothered to comment on who makes a decent muffin.

The same is true for the cream puff, the ol' profiterole that's somehow made its way onto Bertucci's dessert menu. For the cream puff, raves are rare, the buzz factor, not so high. Which is why I was surprised to come across a Cream Puff recipe from who else but Thomas Keller of The French Laundry (Yountville, Napa), Per Se (New York), Bouchon (Yountville, Las Vegas), and seven-Michelin star fame.

So I made it for Valentine's Day.

Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce
1 cup water
5 1/3 tablespoons (about 3 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Chocolate Sauce (see below)
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Ice Cream

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Line one baking sheet with a Silpat and a second one with parchment paper (or line both sheets with parchment if you don't have a Silpat). Set up a heavy-duty mixer with the paddle attachment.

Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean, with no dough sticking to it. The dough should be glossy and smooth but still damp.

Enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Continue to stir for about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring. A thin coating will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and there will be the nutty aroma of cooked flour.

Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix for a few seconds to release some of the heat from the dough. With the mixer on medium speed, add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one; scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Turn off the machine. Lift some of the dough on a rubber spatula, then turn the spatula to let it run off: It should fall off the spatula very slowly; if it doesn't move at all or is very dry and falls off in one clump, beat in the additional egg.

Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 15 disks (this will give you 3 extras for testing) about 1 1/2 inches across and just under 1/2 inch thick on the Silpat-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them, as they will expand when baked. Pipe the remainder on the other sheet. (You will have about 4 dozen in all.) Bake the 15 puffs for the recipe and freeze the ones on the second baking sheet until firm, then transfer to a freezer container and freeze for another time.

Bake the puffs for 10 minutes, turn the sheet around, turn the oven down to 350°F, and bake 15 minutes more. Remove one puff and break it open: It should be hollow inside and not gooey or eggy; if it is still moist, return it to the oven and check in 5 minutes. Cool the puffs completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container until serving time.

Chocolate Sauce
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Equatoriale, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup

Place the chocolate in a metal bowl.

Combine the cream and corn syrup in a small heavy nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour the liquid over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted. Whisk to combine. Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then pour into a bowl or other container. (Stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, the sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks.)

To Serve:
Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Warm the chocolate sauce in a double boiler or a microwave. Warm the profiteroles on a baking sheet in the oven.

Split each profiterole in half and arrange 3 on each plate. Place a small scoop of ice cream in the bottom half of each profiterole and top with the lid. Spoon the sauce over.

I've made no changes to the recipes above. For some reason, I've got no qualms messing around with something from Alton Brown or Gourmet, but when it comes to something on the permanent dessert menu at Bouchon, I draw a personal line. I will mention, however, that things will still turn out great if you 1) cut down the butter by 1 Tbsp, 2) do not have a mixer (use a fork and mix in clockwise circles), 3) do not have a pastry bag (a heaping teaspoon gets the job done), and 4) choose to use agave syrup instead of corn syrup (that's what Omnivore's Dilemma does to you).

What Thomas Keller also does not note is that these cream puffs perform a most wonderful wobbly dance as you pull them out of the oven. And that those 25 minutes of baking fills your home with a sweet smell of eggy goodness that will last for at least 36 hours.

It seems that it's become increasingly trendy to appreciate a sticky bun or cupcake in recent years. Cream puffs may still be more retro than chic, but you just never know when the tipping point will come.

For me, I'm still waiting for muffins to re-emerge as the finest modern-day delicacy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

jamba oatmeal for a buck


Two summers ago I blogged about estate-grown cabernet sauvignon at Stags' Leap Winery.

Working in wine was good. I liked seeing the vines bud in the spring...I liked pumping chardonnay at high velocity into 59 gallon oak barrels..I liked training to identify the different flavors of unripe peaches, ripe peaches, canned peaches, and cooked peaches in blind tastings. I liked becoming an early-stage wine snob...and getting a peek into a most fascinating culture that I will most certainly never join.

I've since left wine, and I'm now writing about slow-cooked, organic steel-cut oats with apple cinnamon topping and brown sugar crumble...our newly introduced Hot Oatmeal at Jamba Juice! So far from instant, Jamba Oatmeal is slow-cooked in the store - meaning it has an intense creaminess and satisfying chewy texture that comes only with 45 minutes of stirring a big, bubbling pot. Jamba Oatmeal also comes with a Blueberry-Blackberry topping or Fresh Sliced Bananas for a quick and tasty on-the-go breakfast.

And for all who could use a bit of cheer and warmth in these cold, gray and wintry days - I'll let you in on a little secret. Print out a coupon and you can get Oatmeal at Jamba for just $1 until 3/31/09. The regular price is $2.95 (plus tax in some areas).

Organic steel-cut oats...I mean, as far as oatmeal goes, this is pretty much your estate-grown stuff.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

cooking with okara


When soybeans are made into soymilk (which can then be made into tofu), there is a byproduct created known as soy pulp or tofu lees - or okara in Japanese. Fresh okara is fluffy and white in color. It is low in fat, high in fiber, and also contains protein, calcium, iron, and riboflavin.

I discovered okara at San Jose Tofu over the weekend. (I may have found my Bay Area equivalent for Chang Shing Tofu back in Cambridge, MA.) San Jose Tofu is a neighborhood establishment in San Jose's Japantown district. The space is tiny - and expresses "open kitchen" in its truest form. Co-owner (I assume) Amy Nozaki collects orders three at a time (three is all that will fit inside), while Chester Nozaki busies among steaming pots behind her. Most regulars bring their own tupperware for Amy to fill. The tofu is pulled fresh out of its warm bath and sold at $2.00 a square.

A fluffy white mountain rises beside the register, next to the tofu bath. The couple in front of me informs me that the Japanese use this as a healthy ingredient in cookies and muffins. Muffins?? I ask for a small sample and am scooped a two pound costs me $0.50.

After perusing okara recipes of all sorts, I ended up adapting a simple pancake recipe. FYI - Okara Mountain is a great resource.

Okara Pancakes
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup yogurt or buttermilk
¼ cup oil
2 Tbsp honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

¾ cup fresh okara (lightly packed)

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients (except okara) in a medium size bowl, then add dry ingredients. Fold in okara.

Lightly grease a griddle and set over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the hot griddle and spread into a circular shape about 5 inches in diameter. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the batter bubbles and is golden brown. Flip over and continue to cook until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Serve hot with maple syrup and butter.

I like okara. I like it because it made our pancakes light and fluffy, and I imagine it would do the same for muffins, waffles, and even croquettes, meatballs, and falafel. If we ever make our own soymilk (which I imagine we will - once we get yogurt figured out) then I will surely Okara-ize some more tasty items.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

search for the "real" belgian waffle


During college I lived in Germany for several months. On a weekend visit to Belgium I bought a waffle from a street vendor. It was piping hot, thick and crispy, with a roughly textured, caramelly crust. I ate it out of my hand, from a folded triangle of wax paper. My aunt had told me to check out these things - she was right - it was nothing like I'd ever known.

That was six years ago, and, since then, I've attempted - on average - 2-3 times per year to replicate this waffle experience at home.

Nothing I tried worked. I used all manners of recipes. I rose the yeast overnight. I beat too many eggs to stiff peaks. I beat one lonely egg to soft peaks. I made any unhealthy adjustment that was remotely promising - whole milk...brown sugar...gobs of butter.

They all turned out like ordinary Belgian waffles - too light, sometimes fluffy, and always lacking in that rich caramel flavor. I was nowhere close to the crazy delicious "real Belgian waffle" that nagged in my memory.

And then, this past Christmas, I visited Wikipedia:

Varieties of waffle
  • The Brussels waffle or Belgian waffle is prepared from a yeast-leavened batter. It is often, but not always, lighter, thicker, crispier, and/or has larger pockets compared to other waffle varieties. It is often served warm by street vendors, dusted with confectioner's sugar, and sometimes topped with whipped cream or chocolate spread. It may also be served as a dessert, with fruits or ice cream.
  • The Liège waffle (from the city of Liège, in eastern Belgium) is a waffle usually bought and eaten warm on the street. They are usually freshly made in small shops, but it is also possible to buy them in supermarkets. They are smaller, sweeter, and denser than "Belgian waffles". The last-minute addition of nib sugar to the batter produces a caramelized sugar coating. This gives a distinctive flavor. Most are served plain, but some are vanilla or cinnamon flavored, and can be served with toppings like fruits, creams, and chocolate. The Liège waffle was invented by a cook of the prince-bishop of Liège in the 18th century.
Liège waffles?? Had I been pursuing the wrong Belgian waffle all along?

As it turns out, yes. I found a recipe for Liège waffles on the Cook's Illustrated message board posted by a kind expat from Belgium:

Sugar Waffles from LIÈGE

Batter 1:
2 1/2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water (about 100 degrees F.)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 c. warm milk (about 100 degrees F.)

Batter 2:
9 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 c. Belgian pearl sugar OR 3/4 c. crushed sugar cubes

1. Prepare Batter 1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with 1 tbsp. of the flour and the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.

2. Sift the remaining flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, egg, and milk. Mix well with a wooden spoon to make a smooth batter. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the batter has doubled, or tripled in volume (about 45 min).

3. Meanwhile, prepare Batter 2: In a medium-size bowl, mix the butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, granulated sugar, and pearl sugar into a paste.

4. With a hand-held mixer, work Batter 2 into batter 1 until well mixed.

5. Drop a large lump of batter into a medium-hot Belgian waffle iron. Don't let the iron become too hot or the sugar will burn. Bake until the waffles are golden brown but still slightly soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Serve the sugar waffles lukewarm or cooled to room temperature on a rack. They are best eaten warm!

Makes 10 waffles.

And voilà! The key to Liège waffles is the Belgian pearl sugar, which can be purchased at specialty food stores such as Sur la Table, or online ( However, for those of us in a pinch, I found that coarsely crushed sugar cubes make a great substitution. (I crushed mine in a mixing bowl with the handle of a large spoon - to square chunks about 1/8 inch on each side)

While the waffles cook, these sugar bits melt to create the sweet, caramelized crust that makes this waffle so outstanding and so memorable.


(for comparison)