Walk into van Wonderen Stroopwafels in Central Amsterdam and everything looks traditional. The blue and gold shopfront with big windows opens onto a counter with a large waffle press, and the sweet smells of dough and caramel.
But van Wonderen Stroopwafels offers this classic Dutch treat – made from two pressed pieces of dough, bound together by a caramel filling – with a tasty twist. Its stroopwafels come half-covered with chocolate and sprinkled with sweets, giving it a punchy sugar hit, a pleasing mix of textures and a bright, Instagram-ready look.
Here, you can customise your stroopwafel with chunky toppings such as cookie crumbles, toffee and marshmallows. Part of the fun comes in the anticipation – waiting behind the counter as your stroopwafel receives a layer of chocolate, followed by colourful toppings.
From the branch at Kalverstraat 190, one of Amsterdam’s main shopping streets, you’re only moments from the canals – the floating flower market is around 100 metres (328 feet) away – and the banks are a popular place to chow down on the snack. The bright toppings contrast vividly with the dark waters and bridges, offering plenty of opportunities to snap your food before you dig in.
The van Wonderen approach has proved highly successful, and there are four branches in Amsterdam (with stores also at Leidsestraat 12, Gasthuismolensteeg 3 and Prinsengracht 455) and one in Utrecht.
They may be treats today, but stroopwafels began out of necessity. Around the early 1800s, bakers in the city of Gouda began using surplus syrup to sweeten and bring together scraps and crumbs. The first recipe for the snack comes from 1840, and by 1870, it was sold in over 100 shops and had spread to other cities.
Stroopwafels are now massively popular, with millions of packets sold in the Netherlands every year – the Dutch reportedly eat around 20 stroopwafels each per year. They’re increasingly well known around the world and have featured as one of United Airlines’ in-flight snacks and on an episode of The Great British Bake Off TV series, in which competitors found that making them was not as easy as it looks.
The waffle dough comprises flour, butter, sugar, milk, eggs and yeast. It’s cooked until crisp in a waffle iron, which gives the wafer its distinctive chequered pattern, before being cut with a cookie cutter. The hot caramel filling (classically made from syrup, sugar, butter and cinnamon) then binds two discs together. The result is firm (with a hint of crunch) on the outside and gooey in the middle. There are also variations using honey (honingwafels) or extra caramel (stroopkoeken).
Most stroopwafels are five to 10 centimetres (two to four inches) in diameter, though some are larger. The current record is a 50-kilogram (111-pound) monster made in 2013. Made in Gouda (of course), it was an impressive 2.47 metres (8.1 feet) in diameter.
You can pick up stroopwafels in supermarkets around the world, but the best are found fresh in markets and bakeries in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has some excellent options.
Traditional waffles are served simply, but you can also buy them with a huge range of toppings, including figs, honey, aniseed, bacon and sea salt – as well as van Wonderen’s assortment of sugary treats.
You’ll sometimes see Dutch people balancing their waffles on cups of coffee or tea – the steam makes them warm and releases the rich scents of caramel and cinnamon.
Once you bite in, etiquette usually goes out the window – find a good spot and dig right in!