When holiday time rolls around in the Tortorelli family – the fragrant smell of Pizzella cookies is not far behind! I can’t imagine the Christmas season without these special cookies. Now these yummy cookies don’t last long in my house (My daughter Nadia loves them) and so I just keep making them throughout the year including the holiday season.

Pizzella’s are the oldest known cookie. It is generally believed they originated in the Abruzzi region of south-central Italy in ancient times to mark an annual celebration. Initially baked over an open fire with relatively simple but effective irons, the early Pizzella’s often were proudly embossed with the family crest or some hint of the village of origin. The name comes from the Italian word Pizza for round and flat. Pizzelle makers are typically called irons, because the first ones were just that- irons that were forged by blacksmiths for the local women. In some parts of Italy, the irons were embossed with family crests and passed down to each generation. Over time it became tradition to use Pizzella’s to celebrate any holiday or festive occasion, but inevitably there were Pizzella’s for everyone at Christmas and Easter. In addition, today they are often found at Italian weddings, alongside other traditional pastries such as cannoli and traditional Italian cookies.

Traditional Italian Pizzella’s:

   3 eggs, room temperature

   ¾ cup sugar

   ½ cup butter melted and cooled

   2 tsp. baking powder

   1 tsp. vanilla

   ½ tsp. anise extract

   1 ¾ cups flour

PREPARATION:

In large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Add cooled butter, vanilla and anise. Sift flour and baking powder together and add to egg mixture.   The batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon. It can also be refrigerated and used later. Place 1 heaping teaspoon batter on each grid and bake according to directions for your Pizzelle iron. To keep Pizzella’s crisp, store in an airtight container.

Two Pizzelle may be sandwiched with cannoli cream or hazelnut spread. Pizzelle, while still warm, can be rolled using a wooden dowel to create cannoli shells or shaped into cones for ice cream.

Variations:

Chocolate Pizzella’s

Add 3 tablespoons cocoa and 3 tablespoons sugar to traditional Italian Pizzelle recipe. Omit anise extract.   If desired, you may substitute chocolate flavoring in addition to vanilla.

Almond Pizzella’s

Omit vanilla and anise flavorings from traditional Pizzelle recipe. Add 1 tablespoon almond extract or 2 tablespoons amaretto. Add one cup finely chopped or ground almonds to the batter.

Swirl Pizzella’s

Make one batch traditional Italian Pizzelle recipe and set it aside. Make one batch chocolate Pizzelle, adding three drops red food coloring. Drop ½ teaspoon traditional batter and ½ teaspoon chocolate batter onto the center of each grid pattern and bake.

Orange Rum Pizzella’s

3 eggs, room temperature 2 teaspoons rum

1 cup sugar   2 tsp. orange peel, finely grated

½ butter melted and cooled 2 cups flour

In large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Add cooled butter a little at a time. Add the rum and grated orange peel. Gradually add enough flour making soft dough, but batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon onto the iron grid.

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