Wafla, oublie, nieule: the filled waffle and other little sweet histories

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What’s this?

A delicious speciality from Northern France, created in the 19th century, flavoured with brown sugar (vergeoise) or Madagascar vanilla. Unlike the Belgian waffle, the Lille waffle is oval shape and flat!

It was a Flemish baker who lived in Lille who created the recipe in the 19th century: a light cream, delicately flavoured inside the waffle. It’s made with sugar, butter, flour and eggs, flavoured with vanilla, traditionally, but we also can find it flavoured with almond, chocolate-orange, blackcurrant-violet, raspberry-pepper, pistachio-cherry...

The little history

From wafla to oublie

The waffle word (gaufre in French) comes from an old Northern name, wafla, which refers to honeycombs. Waffles are mentioned since the 13th century with the name oublie, in a poem by Guillaume de la Villeneuve, Les Crieries de Paris.

Oublies! Greeks named them obelias: it was a kind of bread cooked between two hot irons. The waffle must be thick, but the oublie was very thin! The oublie, primitively was the bread made for religious rites, like the host. It had to be white, round and very fine, made with wheat flour and cooked with hot irons.

In the Middle-Ages, people ate lots of oublies: even monks from the abbey of Cluny ate them for supper and during Lent. On Pentecost, people even throw oublies in churches, from the vaults, with a doves' release! Medieval lords also received every year a bag full of oublies: it was the obliage, the "oublie's law".

The oublayeurs and their business

People who made oublies had a name: they were oublayeurs; king gave them status at the end of the 13th century. If you wanted to be an oublies-maker, you had to study 5 years. You had to make 1 000 waffles per day in order to pass the exam!

But these bakers also made nieules, a kind of roll and thin oublie: the name nieule comes from Latin nebula, which means cloud... In 1566, oublie-makers were included into bakers' brotherhood. At that time, they made waffles for special occasion, for Mass especially, where people ate them very hot.

King Charles IX and Charles VI the Mad even wrote edicts to organize the sale and the fabrication on public places: yes, in the middle of the 15th century, we had more than 29 oublie-makers in Paris!

Ginger and nut oil

The book Le Ménagier de Paris (1393) inventories 4 waffles' recipes:
• one made with flour, eggs and wine
• the same recipe with cheese
• the gaufre coulisse with a watery mixture.
• another recipe made with flour, ginger powder and eggs.

Jean La Bruyère-Champier wrote in the 16th century that peasants loved waffles; they made them with flour and salt: the watery dough was put in a waffle iron coat with nut oil, then cooked.

La Bruyère-Champier added that rich people ate them thick, with eggs, sugar or honey, flour and white wine. King François I was fond of them and even had his own silver waffle iron decorated with his salamander! For poor one, only water and flour...

And also!