Growing up, there were several cookies that graced our Christmas tins every single year without fail. Wedding cookies, decorated sugar cut-outs, date-nut pin wheels, pizzelles…. Some traditional cookies I have kept, such as the wedding cookies and painted sugar cut-outs. Some, mostly those involving dried fruits, I have left behind. I have never made pizzelles before because they require a special iron, but my mom was coming to visit to help me bake and decorate for the holidays, so I asked her to bring her pizzelle iron. I also asked her if she would mind if we tried a different recipe. Not because I don’t love our family recipe, because I do, but rather because, me being me, I wanted to try other recipes and techniques.
This is not a definitive recipe so much as an entry into a journal of my experiments with pizzelle making. There will be more because I loved using the iron and am excited to get my own (hint, hint Santa). They are experiments because while I am enjoying the results, I am not satisfied yet. And experiments also because I have always thought I would prefer pizzelles with lemon (to those made with anise, which is what I grew up with), but I don’t think I found the right flavor balance yet. One further issue is that I want to understand why my grandmother’s recipe very strictly calls for shortening, with the admonition to never use butter or oil–and yet every pizzelle recipe I find uses butter (and indeed, when you see how little is in the cookie, you would expect to prefer a buttery cookie). I have always wondered if it was an economic issue–maybe she perfected the right balance of ingredients for using with the cheaper shortening.
For my first experiment, I turned to Nancy Baggett’s The International Cookie Cookbook. This pizzelle recipe’s greatest flaw is that pizzelles ought to keep well, making them an ideal Christmas cookie, but these have gotten kind of chewy in their tins–and a pizzelle should be crispy, not chewy. (Some recipes suggest storing in paper bag, but others say sealed container, leading me to wonder if the difference is in the recipes, in which case I strongly prefer tins to bags my dogs are more tempted to get into!) When they first cooled off the iron their texture was wonderful. My mother and I both noticed that the batter was quite thick, thicker than my grandmother’s batter, which leads to the question of whether the pizzelles might be somehow denser and therefore chewier.
The lemon flavor was too faint for me as well, so I tried adding lemon oil but somehow (maybe my oil is getting old?) it did not translate as well as additional zest would have. So next time I am increasing the zest as well. I am also wondering what fresh Tahitian vanilla beans might do for them…. But for now, here is recipe number one, definitely worthy of being made and served the same day without storing.
- 10 T (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter (I added a pinch of salt to this recipe)
- 2¼ cups AP flour
- ¼ t baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 t fresh lemon juice
- zest of 1 large lemon (I used 2 small and next time would increase)
- 1 t vanilla
- Melt the butter in the microwave and set aside. Whisk together the flour and baking powder (and the pinch of salt, if using). Set aside.
- Using an electric beater, beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy. Slowly add the sugar with the beater running, and beat until the egg mixture is lighter in color and whipped. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat to incorporate. Mix in the dry ingredients. Mix in the butter--you will need to beat to incorporate it as the mixture will be quite thick. When it is done it will also be shiny.
- Brush your pizzelle iron with melted butter or oil (make sure it is seasoned according to manufacturer's instructions; we use a nonstick iron). How much batter you will use will depend on the size of your iron; we needed 1-2 tablespoons. Close the iron--I have seen instructions for as long as 2 minutes, but ours would have been dark brown and unpleasant by then. 30 seconds works on my mom's iron (although we were so busy talking she lost her rhythm and overcooked a few). When the pizzelle is light gold on both sides, use a silicone fork to peel the pizzelle away from the iron--right now, while it is hot and malleable, is the time turn it into a bowl or cone if you wish. We've always served ours flat. Let the cookies cool on wax paper and then serve, sprinkled with powdered sugar if you want.
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