Friday, April 10, 2009
Authentic Italian Pizzelles
So in my last post, I mentioned the aversion I have to buying pretty much anything other than fruit to bring to someone's house. Crackers? No way. Dessert? Uh-uh. Bread? Not going there. I prefer to make my own goodies for those I love, and usually jump on a chance to try out new recipes! Easter is no exception. We're heading to Mom's for Resurrection Sunday, and I'll be taking some homemade minestrone soup (the bone broth is currently a-cookin'!), fresh Caesar salad with anchovy dressing, greens to be named later - depending on availability and price, and dessert. Dessert is really a gift to Mark, that everyone else benefits from.
I'll be bringing pizzelles, topped with homemade coconut milk ice cream, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. I'm excited to try my hand at the ice cream, but hopefully the pizzelles will steal the show. Pizzelles originated in the Abruzzi region of Italy. One town, Cocullo, in the province of L'Aquilla, claims to be the originator of pizzelles, a cookie whose Italian name means "small, flat and round." Legend has it that poor railroad workers fashioned pizzelle irons out of old railroad nails and pieces of track. The irons had long handles, to keep the baker from getting burned, as pizzelles are made over an open flame. The two iron plates that are pressed together in making these flat treats often had a family or village crest on them, with which the cookies were imprinted. Pizzelles still play a large role in some festivals and holiday celebrations in Italy.
Mark's paternal grandmother Mary was from L'Aquilla region, from what I gather. She was born there, and came to the US through Ellis Island around 80 years ago. Mark remembers that she used to make pizzelles for her family. Her husband, Guiseppe, also known as Joe, gave her her own cast iron pizzelle maker made in 1940, for their twelfth wedding anniversary. You can see the initials G and M on the cookies and the iron, which stand for their first names, Guiseppe and Maria.
I'm really hoping to carry on the tradition of pizzelles at Christmas and Easter, and now that I've experimented with Grandma Mary's iron,
I figured I'm good to go for about 80 years! I'll admit, I was a little intimidated about standing over an open flame with a contraption made 80 years ago - and no tried-and-true recipe to go with it. But when I put my first dollop of batter in the iron, it was almost magical. I had the same sensation when I saw my first sunrise in Sora, Italia - welcome home.
OK, so maybe the first attempt wasn't that great,
but all subsequent pizzelles came out perfectly. And in fairness, I'd been warned - the first few will be duds. I had a flashback of those crepes I made - all of them were duds, with the exception of the last one. And that was a laborious success. But the pizzelles were different. I just instinctively knew when to flip over the iron, and they fell off the plates like I'd actually done the greasing that the recipe told me to do! It was like the iron had been begging to be used, and it was going to cook only perfect pizzelles for the kind soul who would resurrect it from the purgatory of disuse. I couldn't help but smile to myself as I pondered tradition and "progress." How's this for making strides - traditional pizzelle makers didn't plug into the wall, instead they used fire; they didn't have the same design as Mrs. Jones' maker next door, instead they displayed pride and originality; they didn't allow for cell phone conversations, but instead required you to be present in the moment; they didn't come with a manufacturer's warranty, but instead with the durability that will last generations. Progress, huh?
OK, so I bet you're getting fidgety as I wax poetic (ooh, maybe I'll write a pizzelle poem for tomorrow!), and are ready for that recipe. This is just my first try, so I'll probably experiment with lemon, chocolate, and anise oil in subsequent bakings, but here's what I used this time. This recipe made about 1 dozen large pizzelles. (adapted from this site)
3 large eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. homemade vanilla extract
1 tsp. homemade anise extract (still a bit alcohol-y!)
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. anise seeds, crushed with the bottom of a glass cup
1 tsp. grated orange rind
If you're using a cast iron pizzelle press, you'll want to preheat it over a low flame while you prepare your ingredients. We don't really have a fire pit handy, so I used my gas burner. Electric ranges, you're outta luck.
Sift flour and baking powder. Set aside.
Beat eggs. Add sugar. Beat until smooth.
Add butter and vanilla. Beat til combined.
Add dry mix gradually. Stop when dough becomes sticky and slightly thick. You may have some left over flour.
Drop a spoonful of dough onto the iron.
I can't give you a cooking time. It depends on the iron. Mine sizzled and gurgled and when I squeezed it tight and no more sounds came out, I flipped it over (approximately 20 - 30 seconds later) and did the same thing.
I opened the plates to see if the cookie looked golden. If it fell off the plates, it was done. If it was stuck to one side, I'd flip the iron over so the stuck side was on the flame, and cook a few more seconds.
The cool thing about pizzelles is that they are very soft right off the iron. I threw a few of them into cupcake tins and made them into ice cream cone shapes. Experiment! You'll want to store them where some air can get at them, otherwise they will turn soft and a bit mushy. If that does happen though, you can always crisp them up in the oven. I'll take some pictures of the finished product!