I love how food connects family and is part of a thread joining one generation to the next. Recipes passed from one family member to another down through the years often come with stories, memories, and love.
For Mother’s Day, Tree Classics asked me to share a favorite heirloom recipe. After spending a little time looking through my grandmother’s recipe collection, I chose her pizzelle cookies. I can’t remember a holiday without them, and they were loved by all. Grandma’s pizzelles were perfect – crispy and light, not overly sweet, with a subtle vanilla flavor. It took me two tries to get them just right. Of course, now I wish I would have made them with her while she was still with us!
My grandmother passed away in October, at the age of 90. Along with my mom, she is the woman that taught me the importance of celebrating holidays and creating shared family traditions. From her famous green jello salad (a recipe now 70 years old), to celery stuffed with cream cheese, pork for New Year’s dinner, and deviled eggs at Easter, she fostered memories and a reason to celebrate with food. Her pizzelles were part of this tradition.
My grandmother received the pizzelle recipe from her sister, Mary Petri. Great Aunt Mary ran a small diner out of the front of her western Pennsylvania house (think old school, small town). Her restaurant was the store front and she and my Uncle Freddy lived in the back of the house. She cooked & fed guests all day—handmade burgers and cut fries, homemade milkshakes. Delicious! On holidays, we feasted on large bowls filled with ravioli (ravs as she called them) made from scratch. She was an amazing cook.
Although my kids never met Aunt Mary, they were blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandmother. Through Grandma, as well as my mother and myself, my children know the family stories almost as well as I do (Italians do like to talk – maybe better even than cooking!). I’m happy that I can pass a bit of our heritage on to them. And they literally eat it up. In true Italian fashion, they were the first to taste and critique my first batch of Pizzelles and let me know they didn’t taste the same as Nona’s. Fortunately my second batch got the seal of approval!
Aunt Mary’s Pizzelles (1970), passed down to my grandma
- 2 sticks of butter, creamed
- 2 cups of sugar, (my Grandma cuts to 1.5 cups, I would personally go with 1.75 cups)
- 6 eggs, add 1 at a time
- 2 tsp. vanilla (you can also use anise, almond, orange flavoring, etc.)
- 4-5 cups of flour (add four cups, hold the 5 th cup back and add as needed).
You will need a pizzelle maker for this recipe. I used my grandmother’s but included a link to one on Amazon that is highly rated. Pre-heat the pizzelle maker. Drop rounded teaspoon in the middle of press (I drop the dough slightly to the back versus the front of the machine. Because of the hinges, the dough tends to squeeze to the front of the machine). My machine takes around 60 seconds, though I’m sure the time varies by machine.
A few notes. The original recipe makes a lot of cookies, great for gifting at the holidays. You can also cut the recipe in half. I did this with my second batch. Also, I used a little less than 1 cup of sugar, and only 2 cups of flour. My first batch was too thick and a bit floury. So, I reduced flour and added more sugar. My second batch was better. I prefer a thin & crispy, golden colored pizzelle. I am sure the amount of flour and sugar you use also depends on the size of the eggs. I used large eggs—with extra large eggs you might want to add more flour.
Many Italians use anise to flavor and I am firmly in the “I strongly dislike anise/black licorice” camp, so vanilla, almond or even lemon is a good alternative. Also, note that this is not an overly sweet cookie. I tend to favor European, more biscuit like cookies that compliment a rich cup of coffee over the traditional American sweet confections.
Additionally, I think this would be really fun to make as a waffle cone or as a non-traditional cannoli shell. You would need to shape as you pull off the pizzelle iron. When serving these cookies, you should serve on their own platter. If you mix with other desserts they will take on their flavor and lose their crispness.
Final note: pizzelles store well in a cookie tin and they freeze beautifully. Just wrap in saran and place in a freezer bag.
If you want to learn more about the history of the pizzelle, as well as other recipes, this article is helpful.
Happy pizzelle making!