The Scoop has been serving up a little bit of Belgium for two years now. But the South Hill ice cream shop only recently began making its own Liège-style waffle batter in-house.
And customers are noticing the difference.
“We have a customer – he’s been to Belgium – and once we changed our recipe, he said, ‘This is it!’ ” said 23-year-old waffle-maker Michael Glaze. “The dedicated waffle fans have definitely noticed – and liked it better.”
Jennifer Davis, 39, who owns The Scoop with her mother, Lyla Brekke, 63, debuted the from-scratch Liège-style waffle earlier this spring.
The ice cream shop offers both sweet and savory combinations – from plain with just a touch of powdered sugar to the new Waffle Pocket, developed especially for sale this summer through The Scoop’s food truck. The handheld features cheddar and sausage drizzled with maple syrup, then sandwiched between two halves of a sliced Liège-style waffle.
“This is the only gluten I eat,” Davis said. “I can’t stay away. I probably like the savory ones the best.”
Her favorite is one of the newest combinations: bacon, basil and brie with apricot jam. She also likes the banana, cream and caramel, which is no longer on the menu but can still be made upon request.
Davis, originally from Kentucky, has never been to Belgium. (It’s on her bucket list.) She had been managing a string of barbecue shacks on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a popular vacation destination along the Atlantic Ocean, before moving to Spokane about six years ago to be closer to her mom.
The mother-daughter duo bought The Scoop in 2011, adding Liège-style waffles to the menu the following summer after noting how popular they were in larger markets.
Seattle’s Sweet Iron, for example, bills itself as “the real Liège waffle.” The Waffle Window in Portland offers Liège-style waffles with a “Portland twist.” And the Los Angeles-based Waffles de Liège food truck travels throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties with its natural-ingredient, never-frozen varieties.
Davis admits she had been buying waffle batter in the form of pre-made frozen dough balls through a distributor who imported them from Belgium. When that distributor began getting the frozen batter from a producer in Florida, Davis began Googling recipes. She wanted something fresh and authentic that she could make in-house.
It took her and her team at The Scoop about three months to develop the recipe.
“We kind of piecemealed it,” she said. “We just started testing them, and every batch we would tweak to make it lighter or crispier, less sugar or more sugar. We just tried it over and over. There’s a whole science to it.”
Liège-style waffles, developed in Liège, Belgium, in the 18th century, are made from a richer dough than their Brussels counterpart. Another difference: They’re coated with pearl sugar, which caramelizes and produces a crispy exterior. The inside is soft and chewy, like brioche.
Davis estimates she tried about 10 variations before finding The One. She’s keeping her particular recipe a secret. But she will share this: Her version features a bit of brown sugar spooned inside of the yeast-based dough, which she rolls in pearl sugar.
Another trick: “You have to have a very heavy-duty cast-iron waffle iron.”
The one at The Scoop, she said, cost about $1,800.
“When they’re fresh, right off the iron, they’re soft and flaky and simple,” said Glaze, the waffle-maker, who particularly enjoys the Affogato Waffle. It features salted caramel ice cream and two shots of locally-roasted Roast House espresso.
He said the secret is in the timing – how long the yeast sits, how long the dough rises, how long the dough cooks in the iron.
“You’ve got to try it more than one way – and share it,” Glaze said.
The Scoop reglarly changes its waffle combinations and specials. But customers are always invited to build their own, at $3 per waffle plus 50 cents per topping.
In addition to Liège-style waffles, the shop sells 16 flavors of ice cream from Spokane’s Brain Freeze Creamery as well as baked goods like shortbread, Rice Krispy treats, cake pops and sugar cookies with pink icing.
Day-old Liège-style waffles get turned into Liège Waffle Bread Pudding loaves, which sell for $3. Davis softens them in a milk, egg, brown sugar and cinnamon mixture, then bakes them and serves them warm with butter and maple syrup.
“They have their own following,” she said. “They’re over the top.”