Pizzelle are the traditional Italian biscuits that reside in dessert-limbo, somewhere between waffles and cookies. At times served thin and crisp, at others thick and chewy. You’ll find these decorative desserts at almost any Italian celebration, especially around Christmas and Easter.
The word “Pizzelle” translates loosely from Italian into a handful of adjectives: “small, flat, and round”. Think pizza with a cute suffix to denote its diminutive size.
Though many countries have their own interpretation of an embossed cookie that at a glance bears a strong resemblance to the pizzella, it is without a doubt very much its own dessert. Baked between metal irons, the cookies are traditionally embossed with pretty geometric designs and flavored with anise.
We are sure of only one thing when it comes to the origin story of the pizzelle, these cookies most assuredly came from Italy, but there is real contention as to where exactly within the country they were first created. Two small cities within the province of Abruzzo: Salle and Cocullo, claim to have developed the original and both towns have annual celebrations that feature the cookie.
In Salle, the pizzelle are used in the celebration of St. Beato Roberto every July, where it is customary for celebrants to parade down the streets of the town waving branches adorned with pizzelle.
In Cocullo, the pizzelle are trotted forth for the slightly more sinister-sounding “Festival of Snakes”. Where a statue of their patron saint, San Domenico di Sora, is carried through the town covered in live snakes. Some say upwards of 100 live snakes, a number that quickly shifts the mood from unconventional to terrifying.
But the people love it and the pizzelle are plentiful, so how bad could it be?
A Cookie of Substantial Means
At one point in history, pizzelle were so popular throughout Italy that they took on a meaning far greater than most cookies ever achieve, oddly enough, becoming somewhat of a status symbol. It was common practice for affluent families to have specialty pizzelle irons made bearing their family crests and initials. Suffice it to say that the pizzelle irons of the 700’s were the equivalent of today’s yacht club membership.
A favorite of the Saints and a vital element of 8th-century societal standing, the pizzelle are kind of a big deal. They are crisp and light, a dessert of integrity that is simple yet delicious enough to stand on its own feet, and are classically adorned with nothing more than a dash of confectioner’s sugar.
Brown Sugar Almond Pizzelle
Thin, crisp Italian cookies with just the right amount of sweetness.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup almond flour*
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 3 lg eggs
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
For the Pizzelle Batter
In a large medium bowl, whisk together both flours and salt until well combined.
In a small saucepan melt the butter until it develops a nutty aroma and takes on a brown hue, this is unsurprisingly called browning your butter and adds a depth of flavor simply unattainable by any other method.
In a large bowl mix eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla until well combined. Add in your dry ingredients and mix again until a smooth batter forms.
Heat your pizzelle iron and using a pastry brush paint both sides of the hot iron with oil. Using a #30 portion scoop or a tablespoon, measure out your batter onto the iron, just north of the center of the plate. Putting the batter directly on the center of the plate generally leaves you with an ill-formed pizzella that is usually missing most of its top. Placing your scoop slightly above gives a much better end result.
If making a lot of pizzelle, get a small cup of water to keep your scoop in between jobs. This prevents the batter from sticking to the scoop and makes your job easier and cleaner.
-Feel free to make your own almond flour for this recipe by simply blitzing a ¼ cup of almonds in the food processor. When quite fine, add them to your flour and salt (no need to sift them) and continue the recipe per instructions.
-If planning ahead, feel free to make your pizzelle batter as far as 48 hours in advance storing the batter in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. When ready to use simply allow the batter to come back to room temperature (this should take about 30 minutes) before frying up the pizzelle.
-Due to pizzelle’s relatively high-fat content, they keep very well, up to one week. For best results, store them between layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Some would say in an airtight container, but we find that makes the pizzelle soft and droopy so in an effort to preserve their crisp texture place them in a tin or large flat box. If you do encounter soft pizzelle feel free to pop them into the oven for a few moments to bring them back to life before serving.