St. Maarten's have their own charm; they're fluffy, tender and can be outfitted with the most exciting bursts of flavor: whipped cream, fruit, chocolate syrup...you name it.
But it's the suikerwafel, or sugar waffle, that sets itself apart. The dough is yeast-based, vanilla-infused and eggy and creates a beautiful chewy, heavy waffle that holds delicious pockets of crumbly sugar. It is a waffle that you can hold with both hands. It does not need any decoration or external frills to be best at what it is: a sugar waffle.
These waffles were originally known as Luikse Wafels, waffles from Liège (Belgium). Just like the stroopwafels vendors in Holland, you can find small food trucks throughout the various cities in Belgium that sell suikerwafels. They (the waffles) made their way to Holland and are now a standard fare in the cookie aisle, but are also sold at the oliebollenkramen during the wintertime.
4 cups of flour, divided
1 cup of milk, warm
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/2 cup of pearl sugar*
Put the flour in a bowl, saving one cup for later. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, set it aside for a couple of minutes, while you add the salt to the flour. Pour in the yeasty milk, stir until the dough comes together, then add an egg at a time. Carefully stir in the soft butter, slowly adding a tablespoon or two from the cup of flour to help everything blend, you may not need the whole cup. When all has come together beautifully, put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise until it's doubled in size.
Punch down the dough, then knead in the pearl sugar so that it's well distributed across the dough. Cut and roll 2oz pieces of dough. Place a ball of dough on the griddle, push down the lid and bake until they're done. Depending on the waffle iron, this can take anywhere from two to 5 minutes. I happen to have a two rectangles kind of waffle maker. If you have a round one that breaks the waffle into four sections, measure your dough out to 6 oz so that it'll make four smaller waffles at once.
Place a dough ball in the middle of the iron, push down the lid and bake as usual. Be careful, as the melted sugar is extremely hot and can cause severe burns. Let the waffles cool on a rack before eating, and cool the waffle maker (the machine, not you!) before cleaning. The burnt sugar is best wiped off with a damp cloth.
Makes approximately fifteen waffles.
*If you can't find pearl sugar in the store, take the equivalent amount in sugar cubes, put them in a towel and give them a couple of good whacks with your rolling pin. Same thing!