{7} Pizzelle

Oooh, that’s a big one!

This is the rather innuendo-laden comment that someone at work made when a large package (snigger) arrived at my office a month ago. Clearly the various items that I order online and then have delivered to work are an endless source of fascination to colleagues, and I think the fact I had bought a pizzelle iron pretty much took the biscuit (yes, a bad, bad pun).

pizzelle2

Pizzelle are Italian cookies, made for both Easter and Christmas. They are similar to wafters or thin, crisp waffels. Their most striking feature is the elaborate pattern on them, which is obtained by cooking the batter on a hot two-sided iron contraption. These are variously described as snowflakes or flowers, and I think mine was certainly more botanical in nature.

While my iron was clearly Italian in origin, I was not initially committed to pizzelle. For a while, it it was a bit of a toss-up whether I was going to make pizzelle or go for Norwegian krumkaker. The latter are more like wafers, often flavoured with that Scandi favourite, cardamom, but I felt that the first outing of this new gadget had to be for its original purpose – the Italian pizzelle biscuits.

pizzelle1

Now, I was wondering what flavour to give these biscuits. At this time of the year, flavours like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are pretty much ubiquitous, so I thought it would be nice to try something different. A little research suggested that aniseed might be worth trying. I know it is one of those love-it-or-hate-it flavours, but in moderation it is lovely. It’s like enjoying a glass of raki after a meal. One glass is fine, but you might not want to drink most of a bottle. That said, I have a frankly awesome recipe for a tomato and fennel soup that includes a huge amount of raki, but that will be for another day.

But yes, aniseed it was going to be. In the end, I opted for a milder approach, adding some lemon zest and vanilla as well as aniseed extract. The result was great – it had a touch of aniseed, but did no have that overpowering flavour that you get it you’re in the habit of necking neat Pernod, and I think the three flavours actually complemented each other nicely.

In the interests of full disclosure, I do have to share a little on my experiences in actually using my pizzelle iron. I know you can get those fancy electric non-stick things, but mine was a more traditional version, made from metal, and with two wooden handles.

Everything was also complicated by the fact that, to the extent the iron came with any sort of explanation, it was only in Italian, and even then, it clearly assumed some sort of pre-knowledge on the part of the pizzelle iron buying public. Usually a quick search online would answer any and all questions, but it seems that pizzelle irons and makers are as unique as their owners, and there seemed to be nothing online other than people saying to cook them “following the manufacturer’s instructions”…so here I was, flying blind. I just started to heat it up, turning it over to get something that I hoped might be an even heat. Then I brushed the iron with a little melted butter, and tried my first pizzelle. The iron hissed a little, there was a puff of anise-infused steam, the batter expanded a little, and I waited for about a minute. Then I pulled the iron apart…and the pizzelle divided itself, clinging to every part of the metal pattern. A disaster! I had to cool the thing down, then scrub of the trapped biscuit, and start again. Second time round? Same problem! All my excitement about making pizzelle morphed into upset, blame and anger. Now I didn’t even want to make them! Then, drying the iron for a second time, I managed to break off one of the handles on a tea towel. I have absolutely no idea how a simple cotton cloth managed to inflict this damage, but it did. My frustration kept building, and building, and building…

At this point, I decided it was time to go back to basics. The iron was clean, but it was not non-stick. So what do we do with new pans? We need to season them, so I figured that I had to the same here. I covered both slides of the iron in vegetable oil, then heated it until it was just smoking. Then I turned off the heat, allowed it to cool, and wiped off the excess oil. After this, and once the not very pleasant smell of burning oil had passed, I tried it again. I heated the iron, added a spoonful of batter, closed the iron, put it back on the heat, and then, a minute later, I gingerly opened the iron. The pizzelle was perfect! Perhaps a little too golden, but it looked perfect! My non-stick efforts seemed to have been rewarded. For the next pizzelle, I heated the iron over a flame, but actually took it off the heat while the pizzelle was cooking. This seemed to result in beautifully cooked pizzelle which were golden but not too dark. I was on a roll, and a short while later, had a pile of 20 delicate biscuits in a towering pile.

On balance, I am now back in love with the idea of the pizzelle, as well as the flavour. The better is incredibly easy to make, and the flavour is superb. While these are lovely as biscuits, either on their own or dusted with a little icing sugar to enhance their patterns, you can also shape the warm pizzelle around a cone, or into a tube like cannoli. If you’re not a big Christmas pudding fan, I think you could make a rather tasty dessert by filling one of these with sweet ricotta with some candied orange peel and boozy, spiced sultanas.

So after all that work, a successful result! Viva Italia!

To make pizzelle (makes around 20)

• 3 eggs
• 170g caster sugar
• 115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• ½ teaspoon aniseeed extract
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• zest of one lemon
• 220g plain flour
• 1 tsp baking powder

1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick (around 5 minutes). Beat in the anise, vanilla and lemon zest.

2. Whisk in the cooled melted butter.

3. Whisk in the flour mixture until just combined, but be careful not to over-beat. The mixture should be soft, and have a consistency of thick double cream.

4. Make the pizzelles by following the manufacturer’s instructions (yes, I’m whimping out, but you can read about my experience above!).

5. When cooked, remove the pizzelle from the iron and allow to cool. Lay flat on a wire try for flat pizzelles, or wrap around bowls or tubes for fancy shapes. They will be hard after around a minutes.

Worth making? If you don’t have the necessary iron, then you’ll have to forget about making pizzelle. However, if you can get hold of one, they are a quick, easy and very delicious holiday treat. The light flavours will also make them popular with those who prefer less rich biscuits and baking.

15 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Sweet Things

15 responses to “{7} Pizzelle

  1. they look beautiful! almost like edible decorations! your co-workers are undoubtably jealous of your very unique object!!

    • Actually, that’s a really clever idea – I guess you could press salt dough and then leave it to dry and paint it. They are not quite perfect, as you can see the “spikes” on some of the sides, but I quite liked how this made them look. A bit fussy to start with, but in the end, they were great.

  2. Nargis

    They look tasty. I hope there are some left for the 10th jan. I’d like to see a picture of the iron contraption. Thanks

  3. Cynthia

    They also look a little bit like the beautiful crackers you get in Prague, although those are bigger. And aniseed rules! I will never have such a contraption in my house, but if you make another aniseed batch, let me know🙂

  4. Grainne

    I have been trying to source an iron for AGES – please advise as to where, how and cost! My research has drawn a blank so far unless I get from the States… Not interested in the electric contraptions🙂

    • I had the same thing, I only seemed to be able to find them from the US (and, of course, they use a different power voltage or something, so would not work in Europe). Easiest thing is to go on Amazon Italy, and search there. The iron is not so bad, around 20 euro, but you could end up spending the same again on postage as they’re pretty heavy. That, or you need to take a holiday to Rome!

  5. Funny that I just saw this post tonight, after having the exact same experience making pizzelles earlier today, however, I am not a novice. I have made pizzelles numerous times, but for some reason, today was a nightmare! I had to wash the plates 3 different times and start fresh; and I always seemed to undercook or overcook them!! Unbelievable! Maybe it’s just a bad “pizzelle season”😉

    • Hi Christina – it’s quite reassuring to know that I’m not the only one that has been having problems! I’m going to have to give them another try at some point…we’ll see how that goes!

  6. YUM!!! some of my favs. thanks for the recipe!

  7. foxteeth101

    Is that a stock image or your own iron? My grandmothers iron makes that pattern, and my other sister claimed it, even though she never makes the cookies. I have been trying desperately to find the EXACT pattern, and cannot. What vendor sold it to you? If you remember?

    • Hello! I made these with a pizzelle iron that I just ordered off Amazon. It was about two years ago and I had to go via the Italian site, but I think they now sell them anywhere so I would try there. Sometimes they are called krumkake irons (Norwegian waffles) so might be good to search against that too.

      Good luck – I hope you can find the one you’re looking for!

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