DIY Pearl Sugar

Two words: LIEGE WAFFLES.

DIY Pearl Sugar // The Pancake Princess

They are the reason you need to make your own pearl sugar. Liege waffles are the sophisticated and hatetosayit, SUPERIOR, cousin of regular waffles. They require two essentials to yield their sweeter, denser, chewier, and altogether much more delicious and dessert-like selves: yeasted waffle batter and pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is basically chunks of uber-compacted sugar that doesn’t melt as easily as regular sugar and thus creates bites of delightfully crunchy sweetness. It is the key to ultimate textural/taste delight.

DIY Pearl Sugar // The Pancake Princess

When I ran out of time to hunt the real stuff down last week for the challah waffles I planned to make for my roommate’s Galentine’s Day brunch party (the real stuff is rumored to be found at IKEA, Whole Foods and some Cost Plus World Markets), a bit of googling led to the discovery that making your own pearl sugar is actually pretty easy.

I can’t claim that this will give you the same results as using the real stuff, but as long as you use a trusty waffle recipe, you will get little caramelized pockets of sugar in your waffles with no grocery shopping or excess money spending required. And that’s worth money, trust me.

I tried two methods: I found this compacting method on Sarah’s fabulously creative blog that required an overnight rest (left) and a stovetop method that took about 20 minutes (right).

DIY Pearl Sugar // The Pancake Princess

The compacting method consisted of mixing sugar and maple syrup, packing the mixture into a plate and refrigerating overnight. In the morning, you can pound the hardened, sugar-cube like substance into small chunks. (If you go this route, I would line the bottom of the plate with wax paper for easier removal. I was worried about breaking my plate during the pounding stage.)

DIY Pearl Sugar // The Pancake Princess

The stovetop method required letting a mixture of sugar and a tiny bit of water sit over very low heat until crystallized.

I liked the stovetop method better, not only because it requires less time, but as you can see in the photos, the stovetop method yielded rounded chunks of sugar that resembled pearl sugar more closely than the flatter shards of sugar from the overnight method. The shards reminded me of roughly hacked sugar cubes, which, incidentally, is another possible pearl sugar substitute.

But honestly? We used both in the waffles and all the waffles seemed equally popular.

Moral of the story: everyone wins with waffles. But also, pearl sugar is the BOMB.COM (especially when you don’t have to buy it).

DIY Pearl Sugar

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Instructions

Add the sugar and water to a small pot. Turn the pot on over the lowest heat setting possible and stir with a wooden spoon until small clumps of sugar form. Your goal is to clump as much sugar together as possible (minimizing the amount of loose sugar) while not creating any overly large clumps. If there seems to be too much loose sugar and not enough clumps, add 1/2 teaspoon of water and stir again. Don't add too much water or you'll end up with soggy sugar.

Let the mixture sit over low heat for 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This essentially dries out the sugar into the clumps you just created. (If the mixture doesn't seem to be sticking into ball-like clumps, you can turn the heat up to medium low for 30 seconds or so, then return to low heat--just don't let the sugar melt down into caramel).

Remove from heat and let cool completely (clumps should harden as they cool!) before using.

Notes

With help from here.

http://www.thepancakeprincess.com/2014/02/20/diy-pearl-sugar/

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43 thoughts on “DIY Pearl Sugar

  1. Bobby

    I like your idea. I just bought a new waffle iron just so I could make LIEGE WAFFLES!

    I was thinking about using Turbinado Sugar in the Raw. Has anyone tried that?

    Reply
  2. Caleb

    I came up with a way similar to this to create pearl sugar that is indistinguishable from the expensive stuff you buy. I blended sugar into a fine powder equivalent to powdered sugar, but without the added cornstarch. (I don’t know if this would work with powdered sugar; I’m guessing it probably would) I slowly added water to this powdered sugar and mixed it with my hands until it came together like a dough. The process was very similar to making pie dough. Once I had a dough, I formed with it appropriately sized pearls and laid them spaced out on a baking sheet (I used parchment, but I don’t think this is necessary). I let them dry in the oven at 250 degrees F, and after about an hour they had solidified into the pearls I was looking for.

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Hi Mohammed–sorry for the delay! Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact measurement for how much sugar this makes, but you can scale it to whatever you need. I would estimate (and this is based on my poor memory, so take it with a large grain of salt) that this makes roughly 1.5 times the amount of sugar that you use given the surface area taken into account from the area between each sugar “pearl.” Hope that helps!

      Reply
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  6. Sean

    Interesting idea. Another difference is that authentic Belgian pearl sugar is made from beet sugar vs. cane. Chemically, there’s apparently a tiny difference and the melting characteristics are therefore slightly different as well. Beet sugar tends to brown faster and is softer. For Liege waffles, this is probably the intended effect. In Belgium, they use large machinery to take a sugar slurry, put it under high pressure, dry it, break it up, and then sort it into a particular size pearl. Would be interesting to try making home made pearls with beet sugar and add some high pressure to see if comes somewhat close to the real thing.
    Sean…
    THE BELGIAN KITCHEN, US Based Liege Waffle Dough Manufacturer & Distributor
    http://www.thebelgiankitchen.com

    Reply
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  8. John the Omnivore

    You’ve solved my dilemma about getting Belgian Pearl Sugar without going to Ikea where I would have to be in the crush with the great unwashed.

    My lady friend compliments me regularly as being the guy that can look at a blog menu and duplicate it with gusto. She’ll enjoys doing this with her friends who have SOs that can’t spell cook. Now, if I can convince her that having a Cuisinart WAF-300 Belgian Waffle maker in my kitchen will make me more than just a good looking guy who enjoys cooking, I’m in like Flynn.

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Haha! This comment made my day :) I have to confess, I just picked up a large bag of pearl sugar while in Paris and I’m afraid this DIY version may not measure up to the real stuff…however, like you said, sometimes better to have an alternative to the crazy crowds at IKEA if you can’t get to Europe :) let me know how your cooking adventures go!!

      Reply
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  10. laurasmess

    Very cool idea. I never would have thought of making pearl sugar but this looks great (considering that the only place I can buy pearl sugar near me is Ikea, and I HATE that store with a vengeance… it’s like being in a cattle grid). Wonderful post you clever thing. Those gifs made me think I was seeing things though (my work internet is super slow, so it looked like a still shot and then all of a sudden… it moved. Argh!) xx

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Oof yes there have been several times when I’ve wanted to go to Ikea for just one thing but that’s pretty much impossible! It’s a half-day venture, at the least.

      Hahaha that’s hilarious about the gif! No, it’s supposed to move–you’re not crazy 😉 Thanks so much <33

      Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Yay! Like I said to some others, this may not may the most perfect pearl sugar but it’s definitely a cheap, functional solution!

      Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Thanks Quinn! Glad you found it helpful :) It’s not perfect pearl sugar by any means, but it’s a good, economical sub!

      Reply
  11. Karen @ The Food Charlatan

    um, this is genius. I’ve had some recent love affairs with liege waffles and this is PERFECT because I can totally justify sugar affairs but I have a hard time justifying them at $10 a package of pearl sugar.
    PS Anyone who says “the bomb.com” is alright with me.

    Reply
  12. Katie (The Muffin Myth)

    Sooooo good. I have the world’s crappiest waffle iron, but I bet challah waffles are thick enough that they might work. I clicked through to the waffle recipe where she said that Swedish pearl sugar is smaller than Belgian, which makes sense. Your pearls look waaaaay bigger than the stuff I’ve seen here. But if you ever want some authentic Swedish pearl sugar, just hollar and I’ll send you a box.

    KT

    Reply
  13. The vegan 8

    Erika you always introduce me to new things! I have never heard of pearl sugar or those type of waffles! However, I’m dying for some now. I absolutely love waffles and with that sugar, it must be incredible!

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Aw so glad to hear it! I know you generally don’t eat sugar, but these ARE pretty incredible…what is your go-to waffle recipe? I just tried a vegan/gluten-free one this morning (Edible Perspective’s everyday waffle)–so good!

      Reply
  14. Nancy @ gottagetbaked

    I would NEVER have thought to make my own pearl sugar, Erika! Thanks for comparing the two methods so that we don’t have to. You rock, lady. I totally agree – the stove method makes much better looking pearl sugar. I love liege waffles like nobody’s business. I bought a box of pearl sugar a year ago (A YEAR AGO!) and have yet to try my hand at making the waffles. I need to get on that, stat!

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Thanks Nancy! I’m so glad you’re with me on the liege waffle love front–but girl, you HAVE to use your pearl sugar! Don’t make me come over there and make the waffles for you! (Or do, because I love making waffles. And eating them with you would be super fun.)

      Reply
    1. erika Post author

      SUSAN!! You must get ON liege waffles. Today. This weekend. You will love them. Even if you’re on your no/low-sugar diet. They are seriously so filling and satisfying that a just a quarter can do the trick (moderation right?). I will be back in the Bay Area next weekend so I’ll make some for you then, okay? :)

      Reply
  15. cynthia

    This is so interesting, Erika! I had no idea what pearl sugar even was before this post — larnin’ somethin new every day. If I ever get a waffle maker, this will be on my to-do list. :)

    Reply
  16. Michelle

    You have read my mind! Liege waffles are one of my favorite desserts/breakfasts ( <– same thing) EVER!!! :)
    I'd love for you to teach me how to make homemade speculoos (or "cookie butter" as Trader Joes calls it) to go with the waffles! Mmmm….

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Ooh yes I remember you talking about your fav place in LA in one of your posts! Must go someday. And I’ve seen tutorials for homemade speculoos somewhere…that would be the perfect excuse to make more waffles :)

      Reply

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