How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Make Pizelle - DID IT

Pizelle is an Italian, anise-flavored, waffle-patterned cookie.  Nana, my Italian grandmother, always had a tin of these for us kids.  When we got older and wanted to make them for our kids, we asked her for the recipe.  Here is the recipe as given to my cousin:

"Take all the eggs the chickens laid today.
Stir in enough flour that it isn't sticky.
Add some sugar until it's sweet enough.
Stir in some crushed Anise until it smells right.
Cook until they are done."

Sounds easy enough! My cousins Susie and Mary Lou worked with this until they got an actual recipe that comes close, although we all admit, it still isn't quite perfect yet, but no one can figure out how to get it exactly the way we remember.

Cooking the Pizelle is a labor of love, for sure. You have to cook them one at a time over a burner or flame using an ancient, long-handled Pizelle Iron.  These irons were made by blacksmiths with the center of the waffle iron bearing the initials of the owner on one side and the date the iron was made on the other.  The waffle plates are attached to two, long, scissor-jointed handles to keep the baker far from the heat of the fire.  My cousin has our family iron, but I stumbled across one at a flea market a couple decades ago, so we nibble someone else's initials.

To cook, you form the "not sticky, sweet enough, anise scented" dough into finger-size logs, place one in the center of the iron, and clamp it closed to squish the dough into the crevices of the iron.  Then hold it over a burner or gas flame for a couple minutes, flip it over and toast the other side "until it's done."

For those not raised with these hard, crunchy little treats, they have the same culinary appeal as a communion wafer - dry and sort of tasteless. But for those of us with happy childhood memories of nibbling off the rows, breaking them in half and eating the flat center first, of crunching an anise seed, and of pestering Nana until she opened the tin allowing that wonderful spicy-licorice smell to escape, Pizelle is our favorite cookie.

No comments:

Post a Comment