The Pizzelle is an Italian wafer cookie that originated in ancient times to mark an annual celebration. It is believed they are the oldest known cookie. Over time Pizzelles became a gift for celebrating important holidays or celebrations. They were originally baked over an open fire with a crude, but effective, iron. The baker would imprint the family crest, or some other design, which would give a hint about the village of origin.
Eventually Pizzelles became a standard at Christmas and Easter. Today they are still served by many Italian grandmothers at family get togethers. There are many ways to spell Pizzelle and very many variations in the pronunciation. The derivative of Pizzelle is Pizze, which is Italian for "flat".
The cookies themselves vary in flavor, but the texture always remains. Thin, almost wafer-like, and crisp. Traditional flavors include Anise or Almond. The basic recipe has changed little over the years. But different flavors can be achieved based on which oils (such as vegetable, canola, or butter) and which extracts (such as almond, anise, or vanilla) are used. The main ingredients of Pizzelle are egg, flour, and sugar. The number of cookies desired will determine the amount of these ingredients necessary.
Today one can purchase an electric Pizzelle Iron. These generally have a basket weave pattern on one side, and a floral type pattern on the other. The Pizzelle dough is placed in spoonfuls in the center of the iron, which closes tightly. In approximately 45 seconds the cookie is done. When fresh off the iron you can shape the Pizzelle into cones for ice cream type treats, mini-baskets to hold candy or puddings, or rolls to be filled with frosting type mixtures.
An heirloom Italian Pizzelle recipe:
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
Beat the eggs until smooth. Add oil and extract. After sifting together the flour and baking powder, slowly stir into the egg mix. This will result in a sticky, dough like mixture. Beat in the sugar, and if the dough seems too sticky or dry, a tablespoon of water. It may take a couple times to learn what's too dry and what's too loose. Drop dough by scant teaspoonful onto the hot Pizzelle Iron. Close the lid tightly. Check the cookie after 30 seconds. The cookie should be a very light golden color. If necessary, bake for an additional 15 seconds. If shaping is desired, do so immediately after removing from the iron. This recipe makes approximately 75 cookies. They can be stored in a tin in the pantry for several days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
After the first few batches it becomes easy, and fun, to experiment with Pizzelle dough. Adding liqueur in place of the extract makes a very interesting flavor change. You can also adjust the amount of extract or liqueur used for a stronger flavor. Food coloring added to portions of the dough will allow you to make swirled cookies.
All in all, Pizzelles are an oft forgotten treat that are relatively easy to make. Flavor choices are only limited by your imagination!
Information above was gathered in part at the following websites: