Waffles can be eaten plain (especially the thinner kinds) or eaten with various toppings, such as:
- chocolate chips
- apple butter
- jam or jelly
- chocolate spread
- peanut butter
- whipped cream
- powdered sugar
American waffles vary significantly. Denser and thinner than the Belgian waffle, they are often made from a batter leavened with baking powder, which is sometimes mixed with pecans, chocolate drops or berries and may be round, square, or rectangular in shape. Like American pancakes, they are usually served as a sweet breakfast food, topped with butter and maple syrup, bacon, and other fruit syrups, honey, or powdered sugar. They are also found in many different savory dishes, such as fried chicken and waffles or topped with kidney stew. They may also be served as desserts, topped with ice cream and various other toppings. A large chain (over 2,100 locations) of specialty waffle diners, Waffle House, is ubiquitous in the southern United States.
Belgian waffles are a North American waffle variety, based on a simplified version of the Brussels waffle. Recipes are typically baking soda leavened, though some are yeast-raised. They are distinguished from standard American waffles by their use of 1 ½” depth irons. Belgian waffles take their name from an oronym of the Bel-Gem brand, which was an authentic Brussels waffle vendor that helped popularize the thicker style at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Brussels Waffles are prepared with an egg-white-leavened or yeast-leavened batter, traditionally an ale yeast; occasionally both types of leavening are used together. They are lighter, crisper and have larger pockets compared to other European waffle varieties, and are easy to differentiate from Liège Waffles by their rectangular sides. In Belgium, most waffles are served warm by street vendors and dusted with confectioner’s sugar, though in tourist areas they might be topped with whipped cream, soft fruit or chocolate spread. Variants of the Brussels waffles – with whipped and folded egg whites cooked in large rectangular forms – date from the 18th century. However, the oldest recognized reference to “Gaufres de Bruxelles” (Brussels Waffles) by name is attributed from 1842/43 to Florian Dacher, a Swiss baker in Ghent, Belgium, who had previously worked under pastry chefs in central Brussels. Philippe Cauderlier would later publish Dacher’s recipe in the 1874 edition of his recipe book “La Pâtisserie et la Confiture”. Maximilien Consael, another Ghent chef, had claimed to have invented the waffles in 1839, though there’s no written record of him either naming or selling the waffles until his participation in the 1856 Brussels Fair. It should be noted that neither man created the recipe; they simply popularized and formalized an existing recipe as the Brussels waffle.