Friday, December 16, 2011

Pizzelles: A Holiday Tradition

Pizzelles remind me of my childhood and kind of look like snowflakes

Pizzelle iron made in Pennsylvania close to my hometown in Southwest PA!

A tin my grandparents had given to me for the express purpose of pizzelle storage


Pizzelle-making has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.  My grandparents would spend countless hours preparing the batter, placing dollops of the batter onto the iron and blessing each pair with a prayer before moving onto the next.  Not only was the prayer a blessing, but it was also the perfect amount of time that the pizzelle had to stay on the iron for proper cooking time (about 30 seconds).  I remember the process being an all-day affair because we made at least 12 dozen cookies and you can only make 2 at a time!

Most Italians in our hometown made them around the holidays, but my grandparents had them available year-round.  My cousin and I would sneak into the walk-in pantry in my grandparents' cellar and pop open one of the enormous tins and have a few pizzelles every day!  They are truly addictive with their sweet crispiness and lingering subtle combination of anise, vanilla and lemon extract.

There are tons of variations in the recipes such that you can make them chocolate, vanilla, lemon with lemon zest and extract, anise with or without your favorite flavor and it likely can be done!

In my family's recipe anise is the prominent flavor with vanilla and lemon not far behind.  By having all three extracts the anise wasn't super-overwhelming (the black licorice flavor can be a turn off for some palates).  Fact:  One of my youngest cousin's (who shall remain nameless) diet basically consisted of pizza, chocolate and pizzelles.  I am not kidding!  For a picky-eater, pizzelles remained high in his ranking!

I made a recipe of 3 dozen last week and they were gone in less than a week!  I did give some away AND we were out of town for a few days.  I swear I only ate 3 or 4...My husband only had 1!  I have no idea how they disappeared so quickly!

Since they were always readily available in my house growing up, I reached for them in times of hanger/hunger.  Pizzelles tend to bring out the Hangry Foodasaurus in the best of us so be on the lookout!

The basic recipe has flour, eggs, vegetable shortening or oil, sugar, and extracts of your choice.  No dairy, no nuts, so they are "safe" for most people with common food allergies (dairy, nuts).  Let me know if you'd like the recipe that I used last week.

Note:  The way my family passed on the recipe was by including it, hand-written in the pizzelle-iron box.

Pasta is an entirely different and extremely important tradition in my family as well, but more on that as the holiday season progresses...until then, send me your comments, feedback, thoughts!