Two words: LIEGE WAFFLES.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
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.
With help from here.