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Thursday, April 8, 2010

This dainty Italian waffle cookie brings back memories of my maternal grandmother. Grandma Rose made pizzelle every Christmas. As a child, I didn’t know much about this cookie and I forgot about it until Christmas came again. My grandma didn’t cook much that I can remember, but her pizzelle were amazing. (She worked everyday cooking lunches for elementary school children. Imagine that, actually cooking real and healthy food at a public school!) I never had the opportunity to witness her making them and now wish I had. When my grandmother got sick and eventually passed away, the tradition of the Christmas pizzelle went with her. As an adult, I would see them at stores from time to time and I would buy them, but they never quite taste the same.

Two birthdays ago, my mom gave me a pizzelle iron as a present. Thankfully, it was electric so I don’t have to hold the iron over a hot burner as my grandmother would have done. That Christmas we had pizzelle again. I recently learned that pizzelle are traditional at Easter also, so Easter morning I got up and made a batch. You will also find pizzelle at the dessert table at weddings in Italy.

Pizzelle are simple and quick to make. You create a cookie batter and not a cookie dough. It isn’t runny like pancake batter though, it is a little thicker and will hold it’s shape. The most difficult step in making pizzelle is determining how much batter to put on the iron. Too much and it spills out the side and you have excess cookie around the pattern and too little you don’t have enough to fill in the pattern.

Since I didn’t know too much about pizzelle I did some research and here are some facts that I came across. The singular is pizzella, the word shares its root with pizza (pizze, meaning round and flat) and it is known to be one of the oldest cookies.

I don’t expect many if any of my readers to make these cookie as you need a pizzelle iron to do so, but I wanted to share this fun waffle cookie with everyone.

Basic Pizzelle
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted and cooled or butter substitute (see below)
1/2 tsp anise seed
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

These instructions are my adaptation of the cryptic recipe that came with my iron. It didn’t always list which ingredients to use with each step and the steps seemed out of order. I’ve simplified it for a smother process.

Melt butter and set aside. Sift together flour and baking powder and set aside. Beat eggs and sugar until light yellow, 2-3 minutes. Add melted butter and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Fold in half the dry ingredients until blended then fold in the last half plus the anise until just blended.

Heat pizzelle iron and bake according to the manufacturer’s instructions. My instructions called for 1 tablespoon of batter on the iron, but I found that just over 1 teaspoon worked best. Pizzelle bake for about 40 seconds and when removed from the iron they are soft and pliable. Take this opportunity to shape them if you wish. You can shape them into cones, cylinders or even put them in a muffin tin and create a cup. Do this quickly because they harden fast. Fill with cream, fruit, ice cream or anything else.

You can also flavor your pizzelle. Omit the vanilla and anise and had almond, lemon, orange extract, citrus zest or a liquor. In the past at my mom’s request I’ve lessened the flour and added cocoa powder. She always asks for chocolate pizzelle.

*Since my mom is vegan, I used Earth Balance vegan butter in place of real butter. You couldn’t taste the difference at all. She cheated and ate a couple even though they had eggs. I now need to find a decent egg substitute to make them 100% vegan. I’d also like to try almond flour to make them gluten-free.

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