COUPLET VS. TIRLEMONT - ASK YOUR SUPPLIER WHERE THEY GET THEIRS
Not all Belgian pearl sugar is alike. Not many people know this, but pretty much all Belgian pearl sugar is produced by 2 manufacturers and sold under various brands. In terms of pearl sugar production, Couplet (which is what we use in our dough and also now sell) is the #1 producer making approximately 24000MT while Tirlemont (this is what the biggest US based online seller of pearl sugar sells) is second at approximately 8000MT. Both companies make pearl sugar made from beets (not cane) and the chemical composition is exactly the same. However, the sugar is actually formed differently so they have different characteristics when using the ingredients in waffle dough. When we first started our company, we tried both Couplet and Tirlemont for our dough and discovered some very important distinctions. Turns out It was a very easy decision to go with Couplet and here's why we did. Later as we learned more and talked to more experienced people, they also confirmed our thoughts.
Btw, Swedish pearl sugar is a completely different animal. Swedish pearl sugar is small and looks like course pretzel salt. It also is specifically designed not to melt. There are lots of pictures online of Liege waffles with Swedish pearl sugar and they are not correct.
CLEANING THE WAFFLE IRON - #1 REASON WE BELIEVE COUPLET IS SUPERIOR
Anyone who has made Liege waffles knows the #1 challenge with these waffles is cleaning the waffle iron. The residual sugar that gets lefts behind is just difficult to clean off and burns easily. When using Tirlemont, we noticed the sugar would stick more to the waffle iron. It was just stickier for some reason and harder to remove even when it cooled. Don't get us wrong, Couplet doesn't just slip off like teflon, but it is just not as sticky. Also, when the iron cools and the sugar hardens, Couplet sugar can be chipped off or even peeled off at the right temperature on a well-seasoned iron which we couldn't do with Tirlemont sugar. When we questioned Couplet as to why their sugar behaves differently, it made more sense. They told us it has to do with the hardness of the pearls of sugar and the sugar dust that any bag of pearl sugar will have. Along with other steps in making the sugar, Tirlemont cold presses their sugar with high pressure machinery to make their pearl sugar. Couplet however uses a more traditional method by mixing a sugar syrup with dry sugar before drying, breaking and sorting. They don't use high pressure machines and apparently their process produces pearl sugar that is harder and keeps it shape more. Additionally, in each bag of pearl sugar there is less sugar dust which apparently is the primary culprit. We're not sure if this really is the reason since we didn't carry out a scientific analysis, but we just know from our experience and from talking to other experienced people in the industry that Couplet sugar just sticks less. An ex-employee from Wafels and Dinges told us they use Couplet and we're pretty sure Waffle Cabin does as well. We wouldn't be surprised if Waffe Luv does as well. They're all leaders on this industry and they make their dough in house.
HOLDS ITS SHAPE BETTER AND ADHERES TO DOUGH BETTER - BETTER FOR STORING OR PROOFING THE DOUGH
When you make the dough and let it rise or store it (refrigerator or freezer), the pearls of sugar will always soften up or melt. Because Couplet pearl sugar is slightly harder than Tirlemont, we noticed the pearls stay in tact more not turning loose and crumbly. The pearls also do not melt as much into a sugary clear liquid. There's no point in using a relatively expensive pearl sugar ingredient if it's just going to melt into a sugary liquid. Also, since Couplet sugar apparently has less dust, we noticed it adheres to the base brioche dough better and is easier to incorporate when mixing. Saves a bit of time and there's less waste.