I’m feeling particularly nostalgic this Mother’s Day. April would have marked my grandmother’s 91st birthday—she passed way in October. I’m incredibly grateful for the 40+ years that I had with her, and when Tree Classics asked me to share an heirloom recipe I knew this was the perfect opportunity to explore her recipe box. It didn’t take me long to settle on making her pizzelle cookies. I can’t remember a holiday without them, and hers were my absolute favorite. Not overly sweet, crispy, with a subtle vanilla flavor. Many Italians use anise to flavor and I am firmly in the “I strongly dislike anise/black licorice” camp, so vanilla is a perfect alternative.
It took me two tries to really get the recipe down. And, honestly, I almost cried when I tasted that second batch and they had the perfect consistency: thin, with a bit of a snap (not chewy) & pretty to look at because of the pizzelle iron. I love the Italian aesthetic—beauty and taste merging! My aunt and mom gave me the true nod of approval. My mom saying that tasting them made her think that my grandma was in the house.
This recipe is even more meaningful because my grandmother’s sister, Mary, passed it along to her. My 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, with homemade milkshakes. Amazing! On holidays, there were large bowls filled with ravioli (ravs as she called them) made from scratch. She was a truly great cook. And she must have passed the pizzelle recipe down to my grandmother because the recipe reads Mary Petri, 1970.
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 5th cup back and add as needed).
You will need a pizzelle maker for this recipe. I inherited my grandmother’s but included a link to one on Amazon. It received good reviews but I haven’t personally used this brand. Pre-heat pizzelle maker. Drop rounded teaspoon in the middle of press (I drop the dough slightly to the back verses to the front of the machine. Because of the hinges, the dough tends to squeeze to the front of the machine). My machine took around 60 seconds (the stopwatch on my phone is perfect for this), though I’m sure the time varies with machine.
A few notes. The original recipe makes a lot of cookies, perfect 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 (a bit floury). So, I reduced flour and added more sugar. My second batch was perfect. I prefer a thin & crispy, golden colored pizzelle. I am sure the amount of flour & sugar you use also depends on the size of the eggs. I used large eggs—with extra large eggs you might 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 is a perfect 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 vs. the traditional American sweet confections.
I think this would be really fun to make as waffle cones 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, 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.
It’s truly amazing how food connects family and is part of a thread from one generation to the next. My kids never had the privilege of meeting Aunt Mary, but gratefully they knew my grandmother. But they know the stories, and I’m beyond happy that I can pass a bit of their Italian heritage on to them. Even better, they were the first ones to critique my first batch and let me know they didn’t taste the same as Nona’s. But that second batch, that got the seal of approval.
Find more heartwarming stories and recipes from my blogger friends as we honor the amazing women in our lives in celebration of Mother’s Day. Stay tuned to the Tree Classics blog this week for more food for the heart and soul in our A Taste of Home series.