Everyone loves a tasty waffle! These delicious treats are also known as wafers, waffles in the UK, gauffres in Belgium, gaufrettes and flaons in France. They’re made of light and crisp batter, cooked to perfection in a special iron that resembles a grid with deep pockets. Although the concept of this delectable piece of sweetened batter is thought to have been invented by the ancient Greeks, there’s evidence people from many other countries were enjoying waffles long before recorded history.
The waffle has a history. And that history is complex and many-layered! It is closely connected to that of its larger sibling, bread. Both are the descendants of bread cooked in a hearth, with waffles split from the loaf mostly due to their shape. The very word “waffle” doesn’t just come from the modern-day waffle we know today, but from any kind of baked food that has been squished out flat; these include ancient cakes and even pizza .
The earliest predecessor of the waffle is from around the 11th century, when it was known in Italy as the mille-farina (“one thousand flour”) until the 14th century, when the Dutch first began to fashion waffles in the form of the gaufre (literally “crescent-shaped”), a round this waffle.
The Original Belgische Waffel Iron is the oldest and most authentic waffle iron design in the world. The earliest known waffle recipe was written by Liege Belgian monk, Father Cornelius. He used a special nail to make “bread with holes” as he called it. After achieving success with that recipe he wrote the first book on waffle making, calling it Opus de Arte Coquinaria. Since then, waffle irons have come a long way. They are not only for breakfast anymore but are enjoyed as desserts and snacks and even modernized to satisfy any sweet tooth.
The spread of waffles around the world happened in the 16th century. It was in 1814 that Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York introduced a cast-iron stove with an interior iron griddle to bake waffles. Waffles became a popular breakfast item in America after the Civil War, perhaps because of their resemblance to blankets or the fad of serving them with dulce de leche.
Modern Belgian waffles are lighter and fluffier than their American cousins and are often served with a generous smattering of sugar and fresh fruit. Many bakers fill them with chocolate or cheese to make gourmet savory waffles that are perfect for a light dinner or a decadent dessert. Belgian waffles are also often coated in sugar that caramelizes when baked for extra sweetness: This thin layer of caramel creates the waffle’s trademark pattern.
The idea to create a waffle-like food came relatively late in history, but it didn’t take long for everyone to get on board with this idea. Seeing the love for waffles in the modern-day and age, we can’t complain, can we?