a first time for everything: pizzelles

 a while back, at least several years ago, i purchased a pizzelle iron on ebay.  it was a whim, i cannot explain it.  actually, i was working on a proposal for a book on cookies.  the proposal got shelved and so did the iron.  this summer when i began working on the closet transformation, i found it again.  it was time to use it or lose it.

the iron came without any information.  it also came without the wooden handles that slip over the metal rods.  turns out, i didn’t need them-the wooden handles that is, the directions would have been helpful.  the first batch i tried was disastrous, it went into the trash, immediately…

although i was determined to get it right, i wasn’t sure where i could find the tips and tricks i would need.  no one in the italian side of the family made these, at least i do not recall anyone ever making them.  they were never part of any family celebration around easter or christmas, the traditional holidays they are served.  at a bit of a loss, i told my husband about my complete failure with the first batch.  he looked at me and asked “did you look for a video on you tube?  you need to watch someone who knows how to make them?”  damn, i hate it when he is right…

there we were, 8am on a sunday morning, sipping our coffee and watching pizzelle videos…there aren’t that many good ones to watch.  in most of them, an electric counter top maker was used.  my iron is a stove top iron and i needed some help!  we found a little encouragement by watching this video, i suggest you watch it without the sound once the music starts, it is annoying at best.  however, they were using a cast iron/aluminum mold and i finally got to see a little of what i needed to know to be able to use it.

it wasn’t until i went to fante’s website that i actually learned all i needed to know about making a pizzelle.  fante’s is a business in the philadelphia area that specializes in cookware and apparently, italian cookware is a large part of what they sell.  as i scrolled through the website reading all i could, i saw a link to an external site.  it seemed a bit odd that they would have the link right smack in the middle of the page.  even odder was that it went to a woman’s blog, a woman with a non-italian name, i clicked anyway out of curiosity.  it was here on leslie mann land’s website that i finally found out how to make a pizzelle using her exact recipe and instructions.  sadly, leslie lost her battle with breast cancer in august but the website is still up and will be maintained as a reference tool, and a good one at that.  to read about leslie, who was apparently a food writer and a former employee at chez panisse way back in the day, click on the links in the most recent post, it contains additional links to several obituaries.

 anise seeds are a traditional favorite and you will find them in many italian cookie recipes.

 first tip from leslie, the eggs and sugar need to be whipped to the ribbon stage.  easily done with a kitchen aid mixer! she described the batter as needing a consistency of “thick whipped cream” which did not make sense to me:  there are so many stages of whipped cream!  for me, the better way to describe the consistency is to say it is like that of a choux paste.  it is thick, but it is also soft, not stiff.  her instructions call for mixing the batter and letting it sit for 15-30 minutes.  i let it go about 15, then began heating the iron.

 she also preferred to use melted butter to brush the iron.  now, so do i, it tastes much better than oil or cooking spray.

 the iron needed a good 5 minutes on each side over medium flame to get hot.  a drop of water should almost dance, is how leslie described it.

 the batter went in and oozed a little out the sides each time i made one.  that is the sign of a homemade pizzelle-each one is a slightly different variation of the design due to the position of the iron on the stove and the amount of batter you put in it.  gravity…and heat

 the first couple were a loss.  i needed to first get the iron seasoned and the temperature/batter amounts correct.  they had to be scraped and picked out of the iron-tiny little pizzelle shards…for the batter amount, i determined that it had to be at least a full tablespoon and that was best regulated by the use of a portion scoop, a purple #40 scoop to be exact.

 finally, i saw a sign of hope.  one came out of the iron in pieces, but they were large pieces.  cue up the disco music, i can hear cece peniston…finally!  okay, that is a little weird, singing and dancing about a pizzelle iron but i did!

 because suddenly, they looked like this.  by the time i got going, the iron was perfectly seasoned and they pretty much fell out.  in one piece.  looking a bit like anise flavored cookie snowflakes.

then it was time to clean up and get back to the work of making the rest of the christmas cookies.

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