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From the Old World – pt. 1

June 30, 2009

Pizzelles

A brief history lesson:

Pizzelles (pronounced pit-sells) are Italian waffle-like cookies, originating  in the Abruzzo region of South-Central Italy (just east of Rome).  The word itself translates loosely to “small, flat, and round.”  Made from the most basic ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, oil or butter, and flavored with anise.  They could be found at most Italian celebrations/feasts and are believed to be the oldest known cookie dating back to the 8th century.  Originally, they were made using irons over an open fire.  Many of the which were embossed with family crests and passed down from generation to generation.

The Makings Hot on the Iron

Today, we have electric irons, some of which also serve as waffle irons. Simply plug in and voila.  Unlike the irons my father grew up with.  He can remember standing over the stove all day long turning each one by hand, helping my (Italian) grandmother make hundreds of cookies.  [Oddly enough, it was my parents who eventually bought my grandmother her first electric iron!]  Legend has it, one of my great aunts would make enough to fill her bathtub before any special occasion. >> Heaven!

Unfortunately, I don’t have memories of those days…how I wish I did. However, my love of pizzelles began very early.  I can’t remember a time in my life that I have not dreamed of  these oh-so-simple-but-yummy cookies. Thankfully, my father loves them just as much and required my mother to spend many, many hours with his mom learning as much as possible about her recipes.  And so, the tradition has lived on…if not for me.  (My sister couldn’t like them any less.)

Growing up, it was always my job to make them for holidays.  Although not a very smart move, because I usually ate on a 1:1 basis – for every one cooked, I ate!  And still do to this day.  But no longer must I wait in anticipation for holidays to roll around to indulge myself.  A few years ago, my parents found the exact iron on ebay and bought me my very own.  I was over the moon! Now whenever I have a craving (which is more often than necessary), I can whip up a batch in no time.  They are beautifully simple and delicious.

Pizzelles

Over the years, I have introduced many friends to these little favs of mine.  And have always noticed that it’s a love ’em or hate ’em kind of cookie (mostly due to the licorice taste of anise).  There seems to be no in between.  But the majority loves them and always becomes completely fascinated with them.

Although there are many variations of the basic recipe – thick and chewy, thin and crispy, vanilla, almond, lemon or anise flavored.  My family only uses one, which delivers a wonderfully thicker cookie with a bit of crunch and flavored with lots of anise.  And as much as I would love to share our recipe, I have been sworn to secrecy.  But don’t worry, if you really want to make these, most irons come with a recipe that works well with that specific one.  Because not all irons are made the same.  There are also tons of recipes to be found on google.  Go ahead and experiment!  And if you do, please let me know how it goes.

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