Waffles are a type of bread or battercake made by mixing a runny batter and pressing it an a specially designed iron with a crosshatched pattern, which creates a grid of indentations in the finished product. The iron's hinged design allows it to cook both sides of the waffle at once, creating a crispy golden-brown food which can be served in a variety of ways. Many European nations have a traditional form of this food, and there are some regional specialties including Brussels and Liege waffles.
The waffle dates back to the Middle Ages, when wealthy families owned wafer-irons, hinged cast iron molds which could be used to bake them over a fire. Medieval waffles were typically baked in molds with coats of arms, landscapes, and sometimes inspirational verse, although a few wafer-irons featured the cross-hatched pattern which many people associate with this food today.
Modern consumers would probably have trouble with waffles from the Middle Ages. The modern version is typically made from white flour, and it may be very sweet. Historical versions were made from blends of grains like oats, rye, and barley, and they would have been sweetened with honey. As a result, they would have been much more coarse and chewy than modern waffles, and they usually weren't served with syrup, either.
People often eat this food for breakfast, often along with toppings and fruit. The indentations in the grid are ideally suited to trapping butter, syrup, fruit juices, yogurt, and other toppings, and many people enjoy waffles as a luxury on special days. They are also served as dessert in some places, in which case they can be topped with things like ice cream and sweet fruit sauces.
One famous style of waffle is the Belgian or Brussels waffle, which is made with a yeast batter. These have a characteristic light, fluffy flavor with a hint of tang from the yeast. A related variety, the Liege waffle, has a dense, caramelized flavor due to the sugar used in the batter, while American versions are leavened with baking soda, producing a heavier quick bread. Scandinavian waffles are typically made with yeast batters in a special iron which divides the end product into sections, making it easier to handle, and the iron may also be shaped, classically into the form of a heart.