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Things to be grateful for when travelling with small children

Travelling with little kids is tough and stressful. As such, it would be easy to kvetch about the monkey wrench in our travels to my cousin’s wedding in New Mexico last weekend – the storm that delayed our flight from Buffalo, meaning the folks at Washington Dulles didn’t have our gate ready, meaning we missed our connecting flight to Albuquerque, meaning we had to stay overnight outside DC and had to take an itinerary “through” L.A. to get to NM the next morning, meaning we missed almost a whole day we could have spent relaxing with family members we see far too rarely. I can’t deny it was a shame that we missed that time.

But just prior to our departure, I had finished reading Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. It’s about a young girl who escapes to the U.K. from war-torn Nigeria and then spends two years in a refugee detention centre and then escapes from there illegally (don’t worry, I’m not telling you anything you don’t find out straightaway). Great read, and it really puts things in perspective. It reminded me how easy things like travelling are for me, being legal, Canadian, white, financially stable, etc.

And overall, even with the glitch, things went well.

First, a few Things I Was Grateful to Have Along:

  • Travelling companions. On the way to New Mexico, our kids had two aunts, two uncles, and two grandparents around in addition to their parents. This made unexpected waiting times in airports MUCH more manageable.
  • The Ergo (baby carrier). Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done without it. Baby AB napped in it many times in five days, and even when she was awake, it would calm her down to be in it. LOVE our Ergo.
  • Baby Mum-Mums. I can’t deny they work in a (hungry/fussy/wiggly) pinch: distracting and edible. And she’s neater with them these days.
  • Other airplane snacks. The penguin crackers, trail mix, etc. ended up being even more important than we’d predicted, since we had that much extra airplane and airport time. And a very picky four-year-old.
  • The iPad. E spent a rather excessive amount of time playing Angry Birds, but it sure smooths things out when you have an immediate activity that requires no other equipment (doesn’t even need a tray table) and completely engages the little guy.
  • The regular pad. I am very much torn when it comes to screen time for kids (but that’s another blog post). Suffice it to say, I was happy E spent some time with his notepad and coloured pencils too.

Other Stuff I Was Grateful For During Travel:

  • My parents – and grandparents – who made it affordable for us all to come.
  • My dad, who organized and booked almost everything, figuring out best options for hotel and car rental, and braving the cruel arbitrarity of flight prices.
  • Nice border guards – in both directions – who wished us well as we crossed with zero hassle.
  • E’s enthusiasm, which really kept us all going when things went wrong. He was a total trouper, despite a couple of short nights in a row. It’s hard to be too upset when your preschooler is hopping with joy at the moving walkways, escalators, shuttle trains, and – oh yeah – airplane rides. All the airports’ decorative elements (art, rainbow walkways, light-up floors) are worth double with a little kid. Even at 11 p.m. on the bus to the hotel in DC, when Baby AB had finally had enough and indulged in a good howl, E was comforting her: “Isn’t this amazing??” When we finally arrived in NM, having spent most of two days doing the plane thing, he said, “I wanna go on some more planes!!” He is now an expert. He can talk with ease about departure gates, and refers to planes as “aircraft”.
  • The charismatic rationality and politesse of Uncle D, who, when we missed our flight, decided not to bother with the giant grumpy Customer Service line, and instead charmed vouchers for food and hotel from some staff at the United gate. (They were going to say it was on us, because it was a weather-related delay, but he diplomatically pointed out that if our gate had been ready, we could have made our connection.)
  • A voucher-funded cheese quesadilla at Fuddrucker’s, served by a sympathetic staffperson even though it was closing time.
  • A voucher-funded stay at the Westin Washington Dulles, a seriously swanky hotel with pillow-top mattresses, leaf-shaped soap, and lovely-smelling lotion that lasted me for the rest of the trip. Even if we only had about seven hours to enjoy the place.
  • My endearing baby. She was a trouper too, beyond all expectations. On every flight, people commented on how well she did. You know how air travel can be a tricky-yet-boring exercise in pretending other people aren’t in your personal space? Impossible with a baby. She stared directly into the eyes of my seat-mates, sometimes even reaching out to caress or whack their arms, and they all succumbed. Don’t know how I got so lucky.
  • The Magic Boobs. They helped immeasurably with avoiding screaming-baby syndrome. TOTALLY worth any awkwardness at whipping out the nipple in very close proximity to strangers.
  • The Sky Mall guy. I think Baby AB got a crush on him. She told him “Hi!” a bunch of times, and then there was some pretty heavy licking. She learned to look for him in the seat pocket on every flight.

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  • The kindness of strangers. The lady who let Baby AB play with her bracelets, the young woman who held her when I needed to find something in my bag, the different men who brought out their inner dads to flirt with her, the guy who changed seats so our family could sit together, the flight attendant who chatted with E and gave him a set of gold pin-on wings to match the blue ones Grammie gave him. People were really, really nice. It made everything easier. (MOTL.)
  • The vigilance of Donna, sole flight attendant on the little plane between L.A. and Albuquerque. Thanks to her, we now know ALL the rules: no carry-on straps in the vicinity of feet for takeoff/landing (lest they become entangled during taxiing); baby cannot be in “harness” during takeoff/landing; if you’re at the front of the plane with no seat in front of you for stowing things, overhead bins are the only option; baby must be in (the lap of the person in) a certain seat because of something about oxygen masks, and if you forget and start to pass the wiggly thing across the aisle to Daddy to give your arms a break, DONNA WILL REMIND YOU. NO BABY-PASSING. We were SO SAFE on that flight.
  • Arriving at our destination! Especially after the slick L.A. airport, it was a relief to get to Albuquerque where everything’s all granoladobe. (That’s my new term for the appealing mix of New Mexican and hippie culture.)
  • On the way home, getting to see Kevin McDonald (of Kids in the Hall fame) was a thrill for us – no question, it was DEFINITELY him – even though we couldn’t get up the gumption to talk to him. Shoulda put Baby AB on the job.

Other Stuff I Was Grateful For:

  • Wonderful extended family – both genetically related and assimilated – who make it worth the trip. You are fantastic and I love you all.
  • Staying at the America’s Best Value Inn (four stars) on Alameda, not the one on Paisano that Sean and I found first (three stars and quite sketchy).
  • Not being actually sick. I felt really ill on the Saturday morning and had visions of trying to sit through a wedding with a stomach bug, but then I had a nap with my daughter and felt all better. It must have been exhaustion/stress.
  • Hot tub and swimming pool at the hotel, where we all got to witness Baby AB going French.
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Stylin’ baby suit.
  • Bugs Bunny, for giving cachet to the concept of making a wrong turn in Albuquerque. Because by Jove, every time we went anywhere, that’s what we did. (Well, almost every time.)
bugs bunny albuquerque
Yep, you shoulda.
  • Albuquerque’s charm. It’s not like I know the city well, but I was immediately captivated by the colourfulness. From parking meters to license plates to whole buildings, stuff is painted fun colours. (Or colors. Or colores, I suppose.) Then there’s all the adobe and an obvious effort to make things harmonize with the New Mexican style. Also, having lots of Spanish names to say is fun.
albuquerque rainbow fence
Rainbow fence (photo from flickerhivemind.net) that made me think of popsicles, obviously.
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You think it’s someone’s living room… but it’s our gate at Albuquerque Sunport.
  • New Mexican food! And Old Mexican food. I love real corn tortillas and pinto beans and red chili sauce and cheese. We got a ton of delicious, authentic food from El Modelo and now I really wish we had such a place where I live.

    IMG_4261
    What to look at while waiting for Mexican food.

 

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Chilies and ivy at El Pinto – a very pretty restaurant with apparently so-so food that we passed up in favour of El Modelo.
  • A lovely wedding. Even though it’s harder to relax and enjoy an evening celebration with (jet-lagged) kids in tow, it was a moving ceremony, with a personal blessing from each of the parents, followed by original, individual vows from bride and groom – each of whom has a wonderful way with words. They are clearly an amazing team. Plus, thumbs up for the delicious dinner, beautiful private space, decorations, dancing… And the rain even held off.
  • The seemingly effortless friendship between E and his birthday-buddy cousin (their birthdays are one day apart, and this year she happened to be exactly twice his age): tag, hide-and-seek, exploring, pillow fights, and a trip to the zoo = best buds.
  • A bit of quality time with some of the best people I know, whom I am proud to call family. Especially great getting to know (a little) the bride, the groom-to-be in the upcoming September wedding, and the mama of the next baby cousin-to-be. Extraordinary people.
  • My amazing husband. This trip was a LOT of stress and hassle to deal with for such a brief weekend. Wonderful as my family is, he is not as dearly attached to them as I am. He never complained about the delays, the heat, the things that didn’t go right… On Father’s Day, he stayed behind with the napping baby so I could hang out with my relatives at the post-wedding brunch, and then he took his son to the zoo (which was apparently fascinating but also sweltering and very crowded). He’s a fantastic dad.
What a guy.
What a guy.

BTW. Baby AB cut her sixth tooth on the trip, AND invented a new smile. She is now favouring what I call “the squinchy smile”. She practiced it on a young guy eating a hot pretzel in the Houston Airport, and as he grinned back he commented, “That’ll make your day.” Then she used it on a twentysomething couple at our gate in Chicago, and she and the guy ended up making all kinds of cool tongue-faces at each other. (She has good taste. He looked remarkably like Ryan Gosling.) ALSO, the clan taught her to say “Bye-bye.” It’s winsome.

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Baby AB’s Fashion Blog – Issue #9: Jet-Setter-Wedding-Guest Edition

Airports visited by Baby AB and entourage between last Thursday and Monday on our trip to a family wedding in New Mexico:

buffalo niagara international airport
Buffalo Niagara International: manageable size, pretty floors in security, pleasant rocking chairs. Flight delayed due to inclement weather.
iad_dusk
Washington Dulles (actually located in Virginia): good eatery selection, cool light-up floor section, exhibit of Mars photos, general hugeness. Gate not ready for our delayed flight = missed connection + overnight stay at nearby Westin hotel. (Image from metwashairports.com.)
LAX
Los Angeles International: palm trees, nutritious food available for insane price, quirky bedsheet art, approximately 1300 extra km west of our destination.

 

6.20.08AlbuquerqueSunportByLuigiNovi1
Albuquerque International Sunport: warm earthy vibe, hippie eateries, artful decor… and FINALLY OUR DESTINATION. Arrived Friday afternoon, departed Monday morning. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)
houston-airport
Houston/George Bush Intercontinental: good running-around spaces, pecan pralines in the news shop, NASA-themed kiosk, reasonable attempts at colourfulness, remarkably dirty carpet at gates. (Photo from centrasecurity.co.uk.)
chicago_tunnel_of_light_p1030622
Chicago O’Hare: general hugeness, amazing rainbow walk-through, checkered floors + skylights in C Concourse, tight connecting flight that we miraculously made in plenty of time. (Photo by messersmith.)

… AND back to Buffalo.

A sampling of fashions worn by Baby AB during our 5-day odyssey:

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Something for every occasion.

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Adorable flowered onesie. Comfy, yet flattering. Worn for two days straight because of flight delays without checked baggage – no complaints though. Hangin’ with Auntie Em.
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Green gingham onesie-dress with darts, bows, embroidered flowers (sister outfit to I Heart Butterflies). Hangin’ with her beautiful great-grandma Wina.
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Gussied up for the wedding in an A-line dress with matching bloomers.
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Embroidered flowers, fooler camisole… and those frilly cap sleeves just kill me. Please also note monkey toes.
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Sleeveless raspberry-striped mini-dress with side pockets and matching bloomers. Very relaxing.

There is so much more to tell about our epic trip. Please stay tuned.

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Glennon Melton, Vampire Weekend, Iron Man 3, and other news bites.

I had a grand plan to craft a beautiful essay, rife with linkativity, proving the essential similarity of these three items:

Glennon Doyle Melton’s book Carry On, Warrior,

carry on warrior glennon doyle melton
A great read.

Vampire Weekend’s new album “Modern Vampires of the City”,

modernvampires
A great listen.

And Iron Man 3.

Iron-Man-3-IMAX-Poster-570x844
A great flick.

You see, this one time, in high school, I got perfect on an essay. Yep. My English teacher could find nothing wrong with it. (I am STILL proud of this, eighteen years later.) But I’m actually a little rusty, believe it or not. My skills have gone soft from too many bullet points.

Lacking the essay chops, I was gonna say something short but insightful about the use of irony or alliteration or metaphor, and the role of artistry in our modern lives. Then I thought that might cause a few too many folks to go Uggghhhh Dilovely, you’re scraping bottom, and proceed over here to cry with laughter.

Instead, we’re going to try a News Bites formula. For fun, because what could be funner than news bites? They’re like Fritos, without the fat content.

 

Blogger’s Book Insanely Popular Even Before Being Read

Glennon Doyle Melton is the creator/author of Momastery.com, a personal blog that exploded into the online world in January 2012 and became a community for people who passionately agreed with Glennon’s messages, including but not limited to “Love wins,” “Life is brutiful,” and “We can do hard things.” (I have been reading Momastery since then, and although I don’t usually participate in the comments, I have read some, and I am always gratified by the respectful, loving, open approach of those who identify themselves as “Monkees”.) I bought Glennon’s book, Carry On, Warrior, for myself and my mom on Mother’s Day. It contains some of her most popular blog posts and lots of new essays, forming a quasi-life-story that’s fascinating. Frankly, I ate it up. Loved it. Didn’t want it to be over as soon as it was. It’s funny, heartbreaking, wise, and deep without being heavy. Makes you want to be a better person, whilst also making you feel better about the kind of person you already are. WORD.

 

Household Attacked by Vampires

“Modern Vampires of the City” is the third album of one of our household’s fave bands, Vampire Weekend. We are listening to it obsessively around here, ever since Sean got it for me for my birthday. It’s a departure from their Africanesque/world sound; at first listen, it seems a bit more mainstream. Most of the lyrics are not as overtly oddball as those of the first two albums. But now that it’s becoming ingrained in the fibre of our lives, I can assure you, it’s just as original as ever. Maybe even more so. Their sound is simple but not. The lyrics completely baffle me but I love them anyway. As with the last album, Contra, my favourite song changes every day. (Currently it’s “Everlasting Arms”, but “Diane Young” is best for dancing to and “Unbelievers” is best for singing along to and “Yeah Hey” is the catchiest.)

 

Tony Stark Rendered Speechless by Pepper Potts

Sean wisely had me watch Iron Man and Iron Man 2 before we went to see Iron Man 3. They are all pretty epic and exciting, filled with witty deadpan remarks (mostly delivered by Robert Downey Jr.) at times of great stress and suspense. All the movies were good – I enjoy the scientific conscience and moral questions, as well as the effects so cool that you’re more than happy to suspend your disbelief. I think I have a bit of a crush on Tony Stark’s talking computer, Jarvis. But really, it’s all about RDJ and how he manages to portray an egomaniacal jerk who is also a heroic person with a lot of love in his precarious heart. This movie had it all: some slapstick, some suspense, some acrobatic midair humanitarianism, some laugh-out-loud moments, a small but great part for Rebecca Hall (whom I love), an evil part for Guy Pearce (who doesn’t love a Guy Pearce villain?), Gwyneth Paltrow kicking ass, a spunky little fatherless kid… And, forget about Gandhi. THIS is Ben Kingsley’s best role ever. Plus, the ending was very satisfying. {N.B.: I think there were just four of us left in the theatre by the time the post-credits joke scene came up. All those early leavers missed out on a good chuckle.}

 

Vampire Baby is Also Child Prodigy

So, not long ago, Baby AB cut her first two top teeth, and both were second incisors. If you got a view of her upper gums, she looked like a vampire baby. (Too much Vampire Weekend, undoubtedly.) Now, tooth #5 is coming in between those two, so she’ll just look like she was in hockey fight instead. BUT! The important thing is, she is totally talking, at eight months of age. When she’s in the mood (which is all the time except when you’re taking a video or otherwise trying to show her off) she waves her arm and says “Hi!” And I’m virtually certain she knows I’m “Mama” and Daddy is “Dada”, based on the frequency of those syllables in relation to who’s holding her. So she’s pretty much got the language thing in the bag. Amazing, yes??

 

Four-Year-Old Boy Becomes Father

E’s big birthday present from us, upon turning four, was a baby doll, as he had expressed interest in having one, specifically one whose clothes he could change. The search for, and subsequent giving of, that baby is gonna be its own whole blog post, but for now let me say: Awwwww.

 

Whole Family Flies Through the Air

On Thursday, my dad’s whole side of the family shall converge upon New Mexico (near Albuquerque) for my cousin’s wedding! First plane trip for the kids! (Trying not to think about how stressful that might turn out to be. I’m sure it’ll be nothing but fun, right? Especially the layovers.) We actually have passports for all of us! (Baby passport = ridiculously cute.) CAN’T WAIT to see the clan!! Two more sleeps, you guys!!!

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The Authentic (Belgian) Liège Waffle Odyssey

Get ready. This blog post REALLY IS AN ODYSSEY. If you make it to the end (which you should, if you care about waffles) and correctly answer the skill-testing question, you will receive a solid gold waffle-shaped medal, handcrafted at the Franklin Mint. Please allow 4-29 weeks for delivery.

Dilovely’s Personal Waffle History

As some of you know, after I finished my undergrad, I lived in France for the better part of a year, teaching English conversation classes at a high school. To be specific, I lived in Dunkerque, France, which is at the very top of the star, right next door to the English Channel and Belgium.

map-of-france-regions
Can you find it?

To put things in perspective, Belgium is close enough that we could take a city bus there when we needed a chocolate fix (a Leonidas shop was right on the border). In fact, three of my friends and I once walked to Belgium along the beach, just to prove that we could. It took about three hours, and when we got there, we wanted to have waffles, because obviously.

We sat in a cafe and ate waffles that were well-deserved and nice enough, but I remember thinking, What’s the big deal? I could get something identical at a pancake house back home.

That was because they were REGULAR Belgian waffles. Like what you can make yourself at the breakfast buffet at a Best Western – the kind you top with fruit and whipped cream.

Very soon after that, a friend bought me a waffle at the beach (on the French side, funnily enough) that demonstrated what the fuss was about.

They call it a Liège waffle, or gaufre liégeoise, and it needs no garnish. It’s small, chewy, sweet, and scrumptious. No plate required; you just hold onto it and nibble its crunchy, caramelicious edges. It changes your conception of a “waffle” forever.

The Christmas I was pregnant with E, we got a waffle maker. While I do enjoy a regular waffle, I wanted to make the REALLY GOOD ones – but I could not find an authentic recipe. I had no idea what made these waffles so good; I figured out quickly that adding toffee bits to your waffles, while yummy, does not come close to producing the Liège waffle.

The Secret (or part of it)

Finally, a year or so ago, I found this recipe, which revealed the secret to me: Belgian pearl sugar. NOT to be confused with Swedish pearl sugar, which does not produce the same results.

 belgian-pearl-sugar

Trouble is, you can’t just go out and buy Belgian pearl sugar at the grocery. Not even a European grocery.

When I finally got organized enough to order some online, because I wanted to make real Liège waffles for Auntie Em’s birthday in January, I went to belgianpearlsugar.com… and they were under construction. I tried to order Lars’ Own from Amazon.com, but they wouldn’t ship it to Canada. I ended up at The Belgian Shop, where I unfortunately had to order some chocolate as well, to make up the minimum order size. (We dealt with that ordeal like champs, though. Especially me.)

Now I went back to recipe territory, and realized there are way more recipes for Liège waffles than there used to be (good ol’ internet – give it time and it’ll always come through). And they varied a LOT – from whip-these-up-whenever recipes to you-must-craft-these-like-an-artist recipes.

Thus began The Authentic Liège Waffle Odyssey.

Attempt #1: The Moderate Recipe

As you might have guessed, the inaugural attempt used a recipe that fell between the two extremes, entitled “The Best Waffles Ever.” The recipe takes a couple of hours, including rising time, so they were lunchtime waffles.

Emi and Sean and I agreed they were delicious, although I knew I still needed to tweak the cooking process. The pearl sugar still seemed mostly raw, not properly melty and caramelized. You see, I do not have a hardcore waffle IRON. I have a cute, lightweight “waffle baker” from Proctor-Silex. It has no temperature indications on it, just “Min – Max” and a light to say it’s preheated.

proctor silex waffle baker
This is my waffle baker. Well, a twin of my waffle baker anyway.

The other drawback with this recipe (and it may have to do with the type of waffle maker I have) is that it was MESSY. It left a veritable pool of melted sugar-butter on my counter. While this may sound like fun, it really wasn’t. Using a Q-tip to remove clumps of caramel from the crevices of my now-defiled Proctor-Silex felt like surgery, or perhaps archaeology.

I didn’t take a picture of the maelstrom. I knew I’d need to try a different recipe.

Attempt #2: The Most Intimidating Recipe

I figured I would eventually have to try the super-complicated recipe I’d found, just to see if it was worth all the trouble. I mean, it’s an overnight procedure. It’s also the most obnoxiously pretentious recipe I have ever read, but hey, that’s part of the fun. In fact, it’s so fun that I’m reproducing it below.

{Note to the Creator of this recipe, if you ever read this: Please understand, I hold you in the highest respect. I am in awe of your perseverance and your dedication to the cause, even if I imply that your diction is persnickety. My own diction is hardly above reproach. And I can hardly wait to try your Ultimate Pumpkin Waffle Recipe. Beau travail, mon ami.}

So here is the text from the blog devoted entirely to the Liège Waffle, in red. (It’s worth visiting the real site, to see the mouthwatering pictures.) In black, I’ve added my own thoughts as I was making this crazy recipe.

Authentic Liege waffles are one of life’s great indulgences — caramelized sugar glistening on the most delicious buttery-sweet treasure beneath. [Whew. First sentence and I already feel like I’m intruding on an intimate moment.] Unfortunately, they can be nearly impossible to find, even in their homeland of Belgium, where chains like Belgaufre have taken them so far afield from their 18th century brioche roots. Stateside, chains like Bonte (in Philadelphia) don’t use the right sugar and others like Wafels & Dinges (in NYC) simply import mass-produced substandard pre-made frozen balls of dough from Europe. Basically, to enjoy the ever-curiously oblong [is it really curious? ‘cuz later you instruct us to make them oblong] Liege waffle, you need to make one yourself.

Sadly, the vast majority of recipes found online and in cookbooks are appallingly bad. Some are over-yeasted. Many are just leaden or grainy. And, due to one factor or another, virtually all of them lack the smooth and complex flavors of a true Liege waffle. [Wow. I wonder what you’d think of the last recipe I tried, because those folks thought their recipe was perfect.]

The recipe that follows is a culmination of A TON of research into recipes of the last 200+ years, study of artisinal Belgian street vendor techniques, and a heavy investment in the right tools (including the above 35lbs. Krampouz Liege waffle iron). [Oh crap. I’m guessing my Proctor-Silex is not even in the right league.] Get ready to experience a perfectly traditional 18th century “Gaufre Liège”.

Baking these waffles is involved and takes patience, but the result is well worth it. The only caveat I must give is that the iron’s temperature is very crucial [not just regular crucial] in making an exceptional Liege waffle. It helps to have an infrared thermometer handy [double crap, I don’t have that either], as there’s a fairly narrow range in which the sugar will caramelize perfectly and not burn. You can make do without one though. It may take some trial and error, but you’ll get it right. [Thanks for believing in me! :)]

INGREDIENTS
makes 5 Gaufres Liège [Okay. If you’re gonna geek out on authenticity, check your French: it’s Gaufres DE Liège or Gaufres liégeoises.]

• 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup scalded whole milk at 110-115 degrees
• 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. of water at 110-115 degrees [Those two extra teaspoons are very crucial.]
• 2 cups King Arthur Bread flour [I don’t have this brand, but it sure does sound “artisinal”, n’est-ce pas?]
• 1 large room temperature egg, lightly beaten [Sh*t. Room temperature according to whom?? We keep our thermostat at 20C, is that okay?]
• 1Tbsp. + 1 tsp. light brown sugar
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 8 1/2 Tbsp. soft room temperature unsalted butter
• 1 Tbsp. honey [Seriously. Just honey? Should it be pasteurized or not? Liquid or creamed? Clover or buckwheat??]
• 2 tsp. vanilla [Is that with meniscus or without? Screw it. I’m living dangerously and using a generous splash of rumnilla, baby.]
• 3/4 cup Belgian Pearl Sugar (“Lars Own” brand is an excellent choice) [Sure. Rub it in, Yankee.]

liege belgian waffle
This photo is from the original site. This person, unlike me, takes good foodtographs.

DIRECTIONS

1. Place yeast, milk, and water into the workbowl of a stand mixer. [Hey! You said “perfectly traditional 18th century”. THEY DID NOT HAVE STAND MIXERS IN BELGIUM IN THE 1700s. I’m sure of this. And despite ostensibly belonging to the 21st century, I don’t have one either. WTF.] Stir for a few seconds to moisten the yeast. [Using a SPOON.]

2. Add the egg and 1/3 of the total flour. [Oh no, math. Sigh. That’ll be 2/3 C.] Mix to blend. Scrape down sides of bowl.

3. Sprinkle remaining flour over the mixture, but do not stir it in. Cover and let stand 75-90 minutes (at the end of that time, you’ll notice the batter bubbling up through the cover of flour). [Yes, I do notice that! I AM ROCKING THIS RECIPE.]

4. Add brown sugar and salt to the workbowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed – just to blend.

5. With machine on low [yeah, I’m doing this with my hands, and it feels WAY MORE artisanal, by the way], add honey and vanilla. Then add 2 Tbsp. of butter at a time. Mix 4 minutes at medium-low speed; scrape down sides once or twice in that period. [Well is it once or is it twice??] Let the dough rest for 1 minute and then continue to mix for 2 minutes. [How many minutes when I’m hand-mixing?] If you measured your ingredients perfectly [HA], the dough will be sticking to the sides of the bowl in the last minute of mixing and then, in the last 30 seconds of so, will start to ball-up on the paddle. If this does not happen, let the dough rest for 1 more minute and mix for another 2 minutes. Whatever the outcome of the extra mixing, proceed to Step 6. [“Whatever the outcome”? Are we just flying by the seat of our pants here?]

6. Scrape the dough into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours. This step is crucial for developing the flavor. [Don’t you mean very crucial? And exactly four hours?]

7. REFRIGERATE FOR 30 MINUTES BEFORE PROCEEDING TO STEP #8. This is [very] essential. The yeast respiration must be slowed before continuing. [Respiration must be slowed. You may want to write to your MP.]

8. Stir the dough down (meaning: gently deflate the gases from the dough, by pressing on it with a [traditional Belgian] rubber spatula), scrape it onto a piece of [artisanal 18th century] plastic wrap, and then use the spatula to press the dough into a long rectangle. Fold that rectangle over on itself (by thirds – like a letter) so that you have a square of dough. [Hell. This does not look like a square. Effing geometry.] Wrap it in plastic, weigh it down a bit (I put two heavy dinner plates on top of it) [but – my dinner plates are circular! How does this work??] and refrigerate overnight. [Or, dig a traditional Belgian hole by the apple tree and fill it with chips off the ice block and put your dough in there.]

9. The next day, place the cold dough (it will be quite firm) [why, you’re right! How did you know?] in a large bowl and add all of the pearl sugar to a bowl. It will seem like a lot of sugar, but it’s supposed to be :) Mix it into the dough by hand until the chunks are well-distrubuted. Once mixed, divide the dough into 5 pieces of equal size. [I made a double batch, because Skye was joining us and Sean insisted we must have lots. It made more like 16 – at least in my waffle baker it did.]

10. Shape each chunk into an oval ball (like a football without the pointy ends) [let’s call an ellipsoid an ellipsoid, shall we?] and let it rise (covered loosely in plastic wrap) for exactly 90 minutes. [Hold on. They must rise for exactly 90 minutes… that means I must have five waffle irons and five assistants so that we may drop our balls of dough onto the bakers with perfect synchrony at the 90-minute mark! Otherwise some will rise too long!! Why didn’t you warn me?]

11. If you have a professional waffle iron (meaning: it’s cast iron and weighs over 20 pounds) [NOPE] cook at exactly 365-370 degrees (the max temp before sugar begins to burn/decompose) for approximately 2 minutes.** Give each waffle a few minutes to cool slightly before eating. [Very good advice. That sugar is HOT.] No syrup or toppings are needed, unless you’d like to add some fruit or a dusting of powdered sugar; they’re quite sweet on their own.

** If you have a regular waffle iron, heat the iron to 420 degrees (hint: many regular waffle irons go up to and over 550 degrees at their highest setting) , place the dough on the iron, and immediately unplug it or turn the temp dial all the way down. Otherwise, the sugar will burn. [There are no degree markings on my waffle baker. I engaged in quite a bit of trial-and-error.]

So: the Result?

lunapic_136527857341000_7

They were YUMMY. And handsome. Skye heartily approved, and Sean and Em agreed they might even be better than the first ones. I knew I was getting better at the temperature manipulation (which I will describe below). As the one who had eaten the real thing, I did think that this recipe had a more complex flavour, and I can’t deny it was delicious. Also, no sticky butter-swamp, so that was awesome.

But wow. That was a lot of work.

Attempt #3: The Simple Recipe

Over Easter, I wanted to make waffles again, to share the experience with my folks, but couldn’t imagine doing the Intimidating Recipe on a holiday weekend. I said to myself, Hey – why not try the recipe on the pearl sugar box? Instructions in French AND Flemish… That’s authentic! Must be pretty good, right?

tirlemont_sucre_perle_500gr
Peal sugar, straight from Belgium.

The un-simple part of this recipe was translating it – not just French to English, but grams to cups. And figuring out how much is a “half-sachet” of vanilla sugar. And how to account for “levure fraîche” or “fresh yeast”, which Auntie Em luckily knew was not the same as our standard dry yeast. Also luckily, Auntie Beth knew about this recipe conversion website that solved our problems. Plus I tweaked it slightly, based on my newfound experience. Bonus – I learned a few new French words in the process.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C (plus an extra splash) warm milk
  • 3.5 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or rumnilla)
  • 3/4 C + 2 T softened butter
  • 3/4 C to 1 C pearl sugar
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the dough with all the ingredients except the butter, pearl sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Let it sit for 30 minutes. (In French, they say “laisser reposer”, which I love, because “reposer” also has the connotation of relaxing peacefully – like maybe at the spa, with cucumber-lemon water and a clay facial.)
  3. Knead in the butter and then the pearl sugar and cinnamon. (Pétrir = to knead.)
  4. Divide the dough into 100g blobs. (Pâton = “dough roll” = blob.)
  5. Begin cooking after 15 minutes (of relaxation).
  6. Preheat the iron. Cooking time: 3 minutes. It is not necessary to grease the iron. (No kidding. Hello, butter content.)

And the Result?

lunapic_136527857341000_8

They were good! In fact, my family (mostly waffle rookies, but still) thought they were pretty delicious.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, you have certainly earned Two Bonus Sections!

How to Cook Liège Waffles Using A Cheap Waffle Baker Without Temperature Indications

  1. Turn up the heat all the way (to “Max”) and wait for the green “preheated” light to turn ON.
  2. Once your dough blobs are ready, place one blob on each side and close the baker.
  3. Watch for the green light to turn OFF.
  4. Turn the heat down to halfway between Min and Max.
  5. Wait three minutes. (I always set a timer because I WILL lose track otherwise.)
  6. Remove waffles when the time has elapsed, and let waffle cool before consuming.
  7. Re-preheat to Max before putting in the next two blobs.
  8. Don’t fret about the sugary residue in your baker; as long as you keep your batches going consistently, it will be fine. Until you are done, at which point you may start fretting.

And now you’re gonna need the final Bonus Section,

How to Clean a Cheap Waffle Baker That’s Really Effing Messy

When I googled “how to clean your waffle maker”, the advice I found made one of two wrong assumptions:

  1. I have an actual waffle IRON with removable (and soakable) plates, or
  2. I am making AVERAGE waffles with my cheap nonstick waffle baker.

They say things like “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you attempt to clean your waffle maker while it is hot!”

After Attempt #1, I diligently waited for the appliance to cool before trying to clean it. By which time, of course, the sugary residue was shiny black cement utterly resistant to cleaning.

So. This is what I did to get my waffle baker clean.

[Disclaimer: I’m NOT telling you to do this, since it is HIGHLY risky and dangerous!! and I would not like to get sued. There is a definite likelihood of a possibility that you may burn or electrocute yourself. Proctor-Silex has in no way endorsed this method. But it worked for me.]

  1. Plug in waffle baker.
  2. Carefully fill the channels of the baker with water.
  3. Make sure the heat is on Min, and close the baker.
  4. When you see steam, unplug the baker.
  5. Pour off the (black, tarry) water into the sink, wearing Kevlar gloves.
  6. Repeat until water runs clean.
  7. Unplug waffle baker.
  8. Use a Q-tip/cloth/folded paper towel to wipe off any remaining residue.

Finally, you’ve made it! The Skill-Testing Question!! (Provided in part by my son, the resident math expert.)

If two cars start driving at the same time from the Butterfly Conservatory, and one car is going 39 kph, and the other car is going infinity plus one and eighty percent, which one will arrive first at Aunt A and Uncle R’s house?

Good luck! Bonne chance! And happy waffling.

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