You should be able to tell by now from my posts that I love carbohydrates. For years, I scoured the Internet to find the secret copycat recipe for Texas Roadhouse yeast rolls. We used to eat there regularly when we were stationed at Fort Knox. I swear I’ve tried every recipe out there, and I’ve never been pleased. Little did I realize that a journey to Belgium would lead me to the secret.
During my training at Le Cordon Bleu, I was introduced to homemade brioche. The moment I smelled the dough, it’s like my memories and taste buds at Fort Knox collided with the aroma that filled the kitchen in Paris. Who would have ever thought you could fanaticize about Kentucky while standing in the City of Lights. I couldn’t wait for bread to come out of the oven. I took my first bite, barely waiting for it to cool, expecting to shout “Voila!” Unfortunately, I was slightly disappointed. It was closer than any recipe I had tried, but still not quite there.
Now that I’m at Fort Hood, I can eat at Texas Roadhouse all the time, so I paused on my endless journey to yeast roll perfection…until today. Last week, a friend of mine asked me to share a recipe for Belgian waffles. That, too, had been a journey of imperfection.
When we lived in Mons, I used to love to go to the Brico (the Belgian Home Depot), not because I get a kick out of tools and lumber (although I do), but because I loved grabbing a Belgian waffle on my way into the store. There was this great little stand right out front where they heated up these special waffles and handed them to you in waxed paper. We used to roam the store nibbling on the sweet treat.
Belgian waffles in Belgium are nothing like Belgian waffles in America other than the deep pockets imprinted by the iron. Waffles of Liege (Gaufre de Liege) don’t need butter or syrup because they are filled with tiny pearls of sugar that caramelize from the heat of the iron.
At the Brico, I never saw the waffle batter because they simply just reheated waffles on the iron. But, one day while walking the streets of Brussels, I stopped for a waffle and noticed there wasn’t a batter at all. They placed a dough ball onto the waffle iron. The secret was yeast. I think I did shout “Voila!” when I made that realization.
Fast forward to today, the day I decided to perfect my waffle recipe. I went back and forth with my ratios of flour, liquid and yeast and finally decided on the right amount of eggs and milk to create a richness. And then, I threw in a twist. It’s my secret ingredient for light and fluffy pancakes—diet Sprite (or diet Squirt).
As I was making the dough, I realized I was going to be overwhelmed with more waffles than I could eat, so I split the dough at a certain point and reserved the rest for yeast rolls. When I finished the waffles, I was so pleased with how they turned out. They were light and fluffy and subtly sweet with every crunch of sugar.
It is really important that you use pearl sugar with this recipe. I brought a case back with me from Belgium, but you can buy it online from King Arthur Flour. Or you could probably break up sugar cubes to the size of peas.
As for the rolls, I had to wait. Could I have perfected two of my recipe journeys in one day? They rested in the fridge until dinner time…okay not quite dinner time, I got impatient. The dough had a sweet aroma and felt like silky elastic. A little shaping, a little rising, a little baking, a little honey-butter…and finally “Voila!”
They may not be exactly the same as Texas Roadhouse. They are a little more dense…but with a recipe that produces amazing breakfast waffles and dinner rolls all in one, I think my search is over.
- 500 grams flour
- 40 grams fresh cake yeast (or 2 packets dry yeast)
- 50 grams sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup diet Sprite (or diet Squirt)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp. vanilla)
- 2 sticks butter
- 150-300 grams pearl sugar (or sugar cubes broken into pea-size pieces)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 tsp. honey
- Pinch of salt
All of the ingredients should be at room temperature, except for the milk, which should be cold. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, milk, Sprite, 3 eggs and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes.
Slice two sticks of butter into 8 pieces each. Turn the mixer onto speed 4, and add two slices of butter at a time. Continue to mix for 30 seconds. Repeat this process, until all of the butter has been added (two slices, every 30 seconds). Keep the mixer on speed 4 and mix for 10 more minutes. After about 8 minutes, you will notice the dough start to expand and become smooth. Turn the speed up to 6 and mix for 5 more minutes. Keep an eye on your mixer. Mine has a tendency to bounce around the counter.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. The dough will be silky and elastic. Cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature for 15 minutes.
At this point, you can either make an entire batch of Belgian waffles, or you can divide the dough in half to make waffles for breakfast and yeast rolls for dinner. The dough should weigh about 1,100 grams in its entirety, so divide it into two portions of 550 grams.
For the waffles, mix in 300 grams of pearl sugar for a full batch (or 150 grams for a half batch) Use the stand mixer on speed 2, and mix for 2 minutes. The dough will be slightly stickier than it was before.
Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Do not be tempted to incorporate flour into the dough to make it less sticky or the dough will become tough. Divide the dough into portions, weighing about 100 grams each. For a full batch, you will get 14 waffles. A half batch yields 7 waffles.
If you are making rolls, place the remaining dough back in the mixing bowl, and recover it with plastic wrap. This time, press the plastic wrap on top of the dough. Place it in the refrigerator.
Heat the waffle iron. Because of the amount of butter in the dough, there is no need to coat the iron with non-stick spray. Place a dough ball onto the heated iron and cook until well browned.
The best way to eat a Belgian waffle is to hold it with a piece of waxed paper and eat it like a hamburger, but many Belgians add powdered sugar, Nutella, whipped cream and/or fruit…never maple syrup.
To finish the rolls, remove them from the fridge two hours before you start to make dinner. Divide the dough into 8 portions, weighing 65-70 grams each.
To form a roll, place the dough ball onto the counter and flatten slightly. Working from the top of the dough ball, pull the outer edge toward the center and press with your fingers.
Turn the dough ¼ turn and repeat. Until all four edges have been turned to the center. Turn the dough over.
Place your palm on top of the ball, bend your fingers around the ball like you are going to honk a bike horn. With a loose clasp rotate your wrist and let the dough roll through your hands to form a smooth ball.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch cake pan with Pam, and place the prepared dough balls inside the pan. Let rise for 1 hour.
Whisk an egg in a small bowl and gently brush the top of the rolls with the egg.
Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes. Melt 2 tablespoons butter' mix in 2 teaspoons honey and pinch of salt. Remove the bread from the oven and brush the tops with the honey butter. Serve the rolls with the remaining honey butter.