Pizzelles (Italian Cookies)

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When I think back to my childhood, some of my fondest memories include my paternal grandmother, Anna Mancuso. To me, she was Grandma ‘Cuso and to everyone else, she was just sweet ‘ole Annie. I remember getting so excited pulling up to my father’s childhood home, the little green house on Herkimer Street in Joliet, Illinois (where I am from originally) and seeing her standing there behind her squeaky storm door waiting for me to make my way up the stairs to give her a hug. She had these little figurines of all the past U.S. Presidents in a display case in her dining room, perfectly lined up, that I would always play with. I loved spending the day with her because it usually meant lunch at McDonald’s and then a trip to K-Mart to get a toy. I used to tell my cousins from my mother’s side that they couldn’t call her Grandma ‘Cuso because she wasn’t their grandma, she was mine. That’s how much I loved her; the thought of sharing her love and affection with anyone outside my immediate family wasn’t something that I cared to do. I realize now that although my brother Dominic & I were at the top of her list, her heart was generous enough to share with many people. That’s the Italian way!

Herkimer Street

Grandma ‘Cuso’s house, my father’s childhood home – Joliet, Illinois

If you have read my recipe post for Don Gungling Rye’s you already know that despite standing at only four feet eleven inches, Grandma ‘Cuso could cook a mean ravioli, but the one thing you could always count on her having any time you came over were fresh-baked pizzelles. She would have mounds and mounds of perfectly golden Italian cookies that were so flawlessly symmetrical that you would have thought she cut them out with a cookie cutter. When she was invited to family gatherings, we would all anticipate the arrival of Grandma ‘Cuso and her eggplant parmesan and plates filled with crispy pizzelles. The woman worked tirelessly to fill our bellies with yummy goodness! Years ago my Mom gave me Grandma ‘Cuso’s pizzelle iron where it had been sitting in my cabinet until recently. I found her original pizzelle recipe hidden in my mom’s recipe book and knew I had to pull out that iron and make a batch. After making this batch, I have a whole newfound respect for my Grandma ‘Cuso and the time it took her to make these, each one individually. They are definitely a labor of love!

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs (I let mine sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes prior to baking)
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons pure lemon extract (vanilla or anise flavoring can also be used
    • note: anise extract is the traditional way that these Italian cookies are made (and the way my grandmother made them), but is hard to find in generic grocery stores, so lemon extract is what I used.
  • 3 cups flour

Directions

  1. Beat the eggs well in a stand mixer (or by using a hand mixer)
  2. Add sugar slowly, letting each addition blend before adding the next
  3. Add oil and lemon extract
  4. Add flour, one cup at a time, letting each cup blend before adding the next
  5. Brush oil onto pizzelle iron, turn on the stove and lay iron on top to heat up
  6. Spoon about 1 tablespoon in the middle of the hot pizzelle iron, close iron slowly then pinch and hold closed for about 15-20 seconds, then flip and hold closed for another 15-20 seconds
  7. Open iron and check for the desired doneness (more or less golden)
  8. Use a fork to peel pizzelle off of iron onto wired cooling rack; let cool until hard and crisp
  9. Repeat until batter is gone!

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Some notes for success:

  • If you are using a traditional pizzelle iron like the one I used, you will need a gas stovetop since you hold the iron directly over the flame to heat it up and cook the pizzelles. They do sell electric pizzelle irons if you are looking for something less messy and a bit less time-consuming.
  • Unless your iron is well seasoned, which in my case it hadn’t been used in over 15+ years, you will want to re-oil your iron a little after every few cookies to ensure they continue to get those crispy brown edges you want.

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