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A waffle is a dish made from leavened batter or dough that is cooked between two plates that are patterned to give a characteristic size, shape and surface impression. There are many variations based on the type of waffle iron and recipe used. Waffles are eaten throughout the world, particularly in Belgium, which has over a dozen regional varieties. Waffles may be made fresh or simply heated after having been commercially precooked and frozen.
The word "waffle" first appears in the English language in 1725: "Waffles. Take flower, cream..." It is directly derived from the Dutch wafel, which itself derives from the Middle Dutch wafele.
While the Middle Dutch wafele is first attested to at the end of the 13th century, it is preceded by the French walfre in 1185; both from Frankish *wafla 'honeycomb' or 'cake'.
Alternate spellings throughout modern and medieval Europe include waffe, wafre, wafer, wafel, waufre, iauffe, gaufre, goffre, gauffre, wafe, waffel, wafe, wafe, vaffel, and vaffla.
In ancient times the Greeks cooked flat cakes, called obelios, between hot metal plates. As they were spread throughout medieval Europe, the cake mix, a mixture of flour, water or milk, and often eggs, became known as wafers and were also cooked over an open fire between iron plates with long handles.
Waffles are preceded, in the early Middle Ages, around the period of the 9th–10th centuries, with the simultaneous emergence of fer à hosties / hostieijzers (communion wafer irons) and moule à oublies (wafer irons). While the communion wafer irons typically depicted imagery of Jesus and his crucifixion, the moule à oublies featured more trivial Biblical scenes or simple, emblematic designs. The format of the iron itself was almost always round and considerably larger than those used for communion.
The oublie was, in its basic form, composed only of grain flour and water – just as was the communion wafer. It took until the 11th century, as a product of The Crusades bringing new culinary ingredients to Western Europe, for flavorings such as orange blossom water to be added to the oublies; however, locally sourced honey and other flavorings may have already been in use before that time.
Oublies, not formally named as such until ca. 1200, spread throughout northwestern continental Europe, eventually leading to the formation of the oublieurs guild in 1270. These oublieurs/obloyers were responsible for not only producing the oublies but also for a number of other contemporaneous and subsequent pâtisseries légères (light pastries), including the waffles that were soon to arise.
Waffles remained widely popular in Europe for the first half of the 19th century, despite the 1806 British Atlantic naval blockade that greatly inflated the price of sugar. This coincided with the commercial production of beet sugar in continental Europe, which, in a matter of decades, had brought the price down to historical lows. Within the transitional period from cane to beet sugar, Florian Dacher formalized a recipe for the Brussels Waffle, the predecessor to American "Belgian" waffles, recording the recipe in 1842/43.Stroopwafels (Dutch syrup wafels), too, rose to prominence in the Netherlands by the middle of the century. However, by the second half of the 1800s, inexpensive beet sugar became widely available, and a wide range of pastries, candies and chocolates were now accessible to the middle class, as never before; waffles' popularity declined rapidly.
By the early 20th century, waffle recipes became rare in recipe books, and only 29 professional waffle craftsmen, the oublieurs, remained in Paris. Waffles were shifting from a predominantly street-vendor-based product to an increasingly homemade product, aided by the 1918 introduction of GE's first electric commercial waffle maker. By the mid-1930s, dry pancake/waffle mix had been marketed by a number of companies, including Aunt Jemima, Bisquick, and a team of three brothers from San Jose, Calif. – the Dorsas. It is the Dorsas who would go on to innovate commercial production of frozen waffles, which they began selling under the name "Eggo" in 1953. Manufacturers are now testing the production of waffles with potato starch, which increase the stability of the waffle and protect them from sticking to the iron.
Belgian-style waffles were showcased at Expo 58 in Brussels. Another Belgian introduced Belgian-style waffles to the United States at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, but only really took hold at the 1964 New York World's Fair, when another Belgian entrepreneur introduced his "Bel-Gem" waffles. In practice, contemporary American "Belgian waffles" are actually a hybrid of pre-existing American waffle types and ingredients and some attributes of the Belgian model.
Even as most of the original recipes have faded from use, a number of the 18th and 19th century varieties can still be easily found throughout Northern Europe, where they were first developed.
On the industrial scale, waffles are baked at 140–180 °C for 110 and 180 s, depending on thickness and batter type. Waffles should be fully baked and golden brown but not burnt. To decrease product loss, whether in the kitchen or in a factory, a waffle needs to be stable (not torn during take off). The ideal waffle should also have an even color throughout and not be crumbly. The perfect waffle is made of finely granulated wheat flour with low to medium protein content and low water adsorption capacity. The recommended pH value for waffle batter is from 6.1-6.5. High pH values can cause an increase in the browning reaction which causes an increase in the amount of batter residues on the waffle iron and therefore, more sticking.
Waffle batter temperature should be in the range of 21 to 26.6 degrees Celsius. If batter temperature is too high the batter forms clumps and sticks to the apparatus. Density and viscosity are also important aspects that have an effect on overall waffle quality. The recommended density of a waffle should be about 80–95 g/100 ml because it needs to be fluid enough to fill the whole plate of the waffle iron. Too stiff, and the dough’s spreadability decreases. Too much liquid, and the batter runs right off the plate. Viscosity is influenced by density (higher the density the higher the viscosity) but in the case of waffles, the effect of CO2 gas is more prevalent. The more aeration, the stiffer the waffle gets and the more viscous it is (it becomes foam-like). Aeration is the major factor that determines viscosity in a recipe so overall, the higher the aeration, the lower the density, and the higher the viscosity. Recipes vary for different types of waffles. Usually, better air-filled batters contribute to softer, fluffier waffles but viscosity should remain lower in order to have sufficient spreadability. Softer waffles do not have a correlation with sticking behavior. Density and viscosity do not have effect on sticking or adhering properties.
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