March 25th is International Waffle Day! And, that got me thinking about the origin of the waffle. Where did they come from and when? The waffle has a long and interesting history and I guarantee by the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll have a craving for waffles slathered in butter and drenched in Maple Valley syrup.
The Origin of the Waffle
Precursors to waffles existed over 4,000 years ago when hotcakes were cooked on heated stones and were flipped so that both sides received heat. At some time during the Iron Age, heated iron plates, or griddles, were used on both sides of these cakes. In Ancient Greece, and later during the Middle Ages, many variations of these cakes were made, which were called obleios (wafers). The first known “waffle” recipe was made in the late 14th century, but is was a waffle in name only, as it did not include a leavening agent. What we now know as a waffle began taking shape in the 15th century, with the food being made in the familiar grid pattern, leavening agents began being used during the following century.
There is evidence of waffles being sold on the street all the way back to 1603, but they first came to America with the Dutch immigrants settling in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the 17th century. In 1725, the word waffle was first used in the English language, and recipes spread through England and America. Many of these were based on earlier Dutch, French, and Belgian recipes.
The Waffle Iron
Originally, the typical waffle iron was a cast-iron-hinged device that was held over an open fire. Cornelius Swartwout of Troy, NY patented a waffle iron on August 24,1869, which is why that day is National Waffle Day. It wasn’t until the 1910s that General Electric’s electric waffle iron was introduced. By the 1930s, waffle irons were standard kitchen appliances.
Waffles – from Frozen to Belgian!
In 1953, the Dorsa brothers introduced frozen waffles, and they changed their name to Eggo in 1955. Today, we have many kinds of frozen waffles available to us when we are short on time (or have kids who are hungry NOW) and can’t make them homemade. Here are my favorite frozen waffles:
What is the difference between a Belgian waffle and regular one? Well, the biggest difference is in the waffle maker itself. Belgian waffle makers are larger and have larger squares in them giving you deeper pockets in your waffle to catch all the delicious pools of maple syrup. But, did you know Belgian waffles are not traditionally served with maple syrup? WHAT?!
- Belgian waffles originate in Belgium – a little geography here – it’s a country nestled between France, Germany and the Netherlands. They make well-crafted beer and amazing chocolates but are most commonly known for their waffles.
- In Belgium, this waffle is a traditional street food eaten with your hands and the waffle itself is a sweet treat.
- The Belgian waffle made its first American appearance at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle but it was at the 1964-65 World’s Fair hosted in Queens, NY where its popularity skyrocketed. They were served plain, per tradition, and also embellished with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.
Waffle Making Tips
We all know homemade waffles are the BEST and there are all kinds of ways to make them – easier ways like with a mix where you just add water, eggs and oil – and the truly homemade with a detailed recipe. At Maple Valley, we’re all about the maple in everything, so we have a recipe for Maple Spice Waffles that you should check out!
Here are a few things people have learned along the way and if you pay attention, you can be a waffle making champ:
- You’ve probably heard this before – DON’T OVERMIX THE BATTER! Waffle batters should be lumpy when they get poured into waffle makers, never smooth. Over working flour prevents it from doing its job. Your waffles will be tough and won’t rise as much as you need them to.
- Measure your flour correctly. Too much flour and your waffles will be dry and dense, even if you don’t overmix them. Not enough flour and you’ll have flimsy little waffles.
- Make sure your waffle iron is HOT! Nothing ruins a waffle like a cold waffle iron. Your waffle will cook faster and more evenly and give you the crispy edges we all love.
International Waffle Day
International Waffle Day is observed around the world but is most prominently celebrated in Sweden, the country where it started and where it is simply known as Waffle Day. It takes place on the same day as the Feast of Annunciation, a holiday that celebrates Jesus’ conception, which occurs nine months before Christmas. In the Swedish language, Vårfrudagen, means “Our Lady Day,” another name for the Feast of Annunciation. It sounds similar to Våffeldagen, the Swedish word for “waffle.” International Waffle Day got its start after the Swedes started eating waffles to celebrate. The day then spread to other countries. It’s a day for all of us to eat waffles – as if we needed this excuse! But, if you need another reason to indulge, just wait until August 24th for National Waffle Day.