Christmas · DIY · recipe

Pizzelle: Auntie’s Italian Cookies

If you come from an Italian-American family, I have no doubt you had one auntie who seemed to be “in charge” of making the pizzelle for all the family gatherings. I’m pretty sure that’s because pizzelle makers were a bit expensive and therefore hard to justify as a purchase in more than one household.

In our family, my Auntie Elisa was the pizzelle maker.

Every family gathering and holiday Auntie Elisa would place a plate of gorgeous snowflake shaped cookies–complete with the distinctive aroma of anise–on the table for enjoying with coffee and company. Admittedly, I was completely enamored of pizzelle as a kid and I guess I still am today.

Sadly, when my father passed away in 2011, it became too difficult to continue our extended family gatherings and my annual pizzelle consumption took a dramatic nose dive.

Last year, I was ecstatic to find some authentic pizzelle in Costco and I remember bringing a small package to my Auntie Anna’s hospital bed. Her son and my cousin, Ricky, went on and on about them and it reminded me of the annual family gatherings we all attended. How I have missed those times.

Last year I lost two of my favorite aunties–Auntie Mary and Auntie Anna–and their passing has had a profound effect on my thoughts about family, home keeping and love ever since.

So, despite suffering from a serious knee injury this Christmas, I was determined to reinstitute some old family traditions and one of them was making the delicate, snowflake-like cookies that are called pizzelle.

Luckily I had procured a pizzelle maker some time ago; it was still new in its box and hanging out among my many Christmas decorations. Unfortunately if there were instructions, they were long gone, so it was up to me to figure out how to use it. Thankfully there is the internet and I cobbled together an updated recipe for chocolate pizzelle and set to testing out my maker.

If you can get your hands on an authentic pizzelle maker, I would urge you to try. There is nothing like a freshly made pizzelle! When they emerge from the iron, they are very pliable…but you only have a few seconds to shape them. It’s a fun challenge.

Obviously they can be enjoyed on their own with a fresh cup of coffee…but they are also excellent vehicles for a little extra something if you can work fast enough!

You can roll them like cannoli shells and fill them with homemade whipped cream. Or you can shape them into bowls and add a scoop of gelato! They could even be folded like a taco shell and stuffed with berries and cream!

And, obviously, they can be enjoyed plain, too!

So here’s my take on a Chocolate Pizzelle for you to enjoy. You’ll notice that they don’t have the traditional anise flavoring (or any flavoring!), but you can add it if you’d like. Orange or peppermint flavoring would taste especially good

Chocolate Pizzelle:

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
  • 1/4 CUP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar, no lumps
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I prefer unsalted butter in my baking, but if you don’t have it on hand, you can substitute regular butter and adjust the salt in the recipe)
  • Water to adjust the thickness of your batter

If you are a purist and want to make your pizzelle the “old fashioned way” the ingredients are much the same

Classic Pizzelle:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, no lumps
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • Stick of melted unsalted butter, cooled
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. anise extract (you can substitute almond or even vanilla extract, but anise is the most traditional)
  • Water to adjust thickness of your batter

A few hints:

  • It’s important you start with the right consistency batter, so after mixing all the ingredients slowly add water until you get a thick batter….you don’t want it too watery
  • Heat up your iron thoroughly and then spray with cooking spray so your cookies won’t stick
  • Don’t use too much batter for each cookie! I used a standard table spoon and put the batter in the middle of both cookie Wells
  • You should stay with your cookies as they are cooking! They only take about two minutes and you CAN definitely over cook these. When you open the iron, the cookies will be pliable. You will learn as you go…it’s like pancakes!
  • The cookies will remain pliable once removed from the iron, but not for long! Seriously…like ONLY a few seconds. So if you want to shape them, have your tools–little bowls, medium sized rolling pin, funnel–ready BEFORE you take out the hot cookies
  • The iron gets hot…BUT (unfortunately) the best way to remove the cooked pizzelle is with your hands…another reason to work quickly
  • Only add one teaspoon of extract to this recipe and only if you want to! Pizzelle are not suppose to be super sweet, but subtle. The chocolate flavoring really came through without any extract and was made for a very nice “adult” cookie (therefore MO shunned them! Haha!)
  • It’s traditional to dust pizzelle with confectioners sugar, but it’s not necessary…they shouldn’t stick together
  • Store your cookies in airtight containers or zippy bags and they will last for several days!

I hope you enjoy my recipes! And if you have an Auntie, give her a call! She is always happy to hear from you!

Please note: When I started my blog, I didn’t realize I would be sharing so many recipes. I am now in the process of figuring out how to make my recipes printable, so please bear with me until I can figure that out!

New England

In 1492…

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more people wanting to abolish Columbus Day on the grounds that Christopher Columbus shouldn’t be honored with a holiday.  Some folks have suggested we honor our Native Americans with a holiday, with which I completely agree.  We have long ignored and subjugated the people who resided here before our forefathers came and created the US; to not honor Native Americans is a complete travesty.  But, please, let’s not create a “mash up” by replacing Columbus Day with a Native American holiday!  

There are all sorts of arguments that could be made to abolish Columbus Day, and all kinds of arguments promoting a Native American holiday, too.  But further confusing American history by switching the name of this weekend won’t solve the issues.  

Holidays never seem to end up to be about their original goals anyway.  Hallowe’en–with its roots in the Celtic harvest traditions–was renovated by the Christians to include All Souls Day and All Saints Day, a three day religious observance called Allhallowtide.  Years later, when wayward children of the Depression Era began vandalizing and creating havoc in American cities, Halloween was reworked into its present day “children’s holiday” which is far from any original meaning of the holiday.  
I could dissect just about every holiday we celebrate in a similar way, but who has the time?  The point is we have an established holiday system and the days mean different things to different people.  

Columbus Day has rarely been about the adventures (or misadventures) of Christopher Columbus to me.  No, for me Columbus Day weekend has always been about enjoying the lovely early days of Autumn in New England, before the leaves fell.  A little break to enjoy the most beautiful time in New England!  A time to visit the Topsfield Fair–the oldest, continuously running state fair in America–or to be a “leaf peeper” on one of NE’s back roads.  It’s picking pumpkins and eating cider donuts time.  Catching an outdoor football game and hanging up Autumn decorations.  

The closest I ever came to honoring Columbus on this weekend was in childhood when my father, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, had us handing out Tootsie Rolls for donations on a cause I no longer remember.  The cause was probably some worthy Catholic one, but I only remember those delicious chocolately candies, in the EXTRA large size, which we bought by the case after the weekend collection was over.  Decades later, every time I see a Tootsie Roll, I think of my dad with great fondness and love.  

So, please, don’t send me any more petitions about how terrible I am to want to keep Columbus Day.  Don’t “tsk tsk” me for wanting to hold on to my childhood memories or our true New England traditions.  Let’s find another way of honoring the Native Americans who, under our European bravado, suffered greatly.  I’ll lend my signature and my voice to THAT cause, for sure…just not at the expense of my wonderful childhood memories.