Monday, December 10

Italian Pizzelle Cookies

My grandmother, Nan, loved to receive shirt boxes at Christmas every year. Not shirts, just the boxes. After Christmas, my mom and I would bring them over her house, where she would stack them in a closet, then insist we sit down at the kitchen table and have something to eat.


Wondering what she did with all those boxes? She used them store her pizzelle cookies. She needed a lot of boxes because she made a lot of pizzelles -- for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. It's not just my grandmother, all Italians enjoy them for celebrations.

Pizzelles are round Italian waffle-like cookies made from flour, sugar, eggs, and butter and are typically flavored with anise or vanilla. The name pizzelle comes from the Italian pizze, meaning "flat" or "round."

Believed to be the oldest cookie in Italy, pizzelle have an unusual past. According to legend, in 700 BCE, snakes had infested Abruzzo, in south central Italy, and after they were banished, the townspeople celebrated by eating pizzelle. To this day, they are eaten to celebrate the Festival of the Snakes, now known as the Feast Day of San Domenico.

Pizzelles were originally baked over open fire using irons that were embossed with a family or village crest. Today they are made using a pizzelle iron, which is similar to a waffle iron, but has an attractive floral pattern rather than a grid.

pizzelle stacks

I can still picture my grandmother standing at her kitchen counter making pizzelle. She would pour the thick batter onto the iron, close the long-handled cover, and wait for the sizzling sound of the batter baking. When she lifted the cover, there would be two perfect flower-embossed pizzelle. It would takes hours to make them, and the aroma of anise would perfume her tiny apartment.

Nan is 99 years old and in a nursing home now. Thanks to her son-in-law, my dad, her tradition is alive and well. He recently made a batch and FedExed them to us. Just smelling the anise brought me right back to Nan's little kitchen. She would be thrilled to know that her pizzelle are on my blog for so many people to appreciate; they were her pride and glory.

I'm submitting this, on my Dad's behalf, to Eat Christmas Cookies. Click here to see all of the festive entries, including my mom's Molasses Cookies (the second entry).

You have 14 more days to submit your cookies and become eligible to win Sherry Yard's delicious new cookbook. Click here for details.

Note: Most pizzelle recipes call for anise extract, but Dad uses actual anise seed, which is more flavorful. Remember, you need a pizzelle iron to make these cookies, so click here if you'd like to buy one.

Please see this post for a step-by-step visual guide on how to make pizzelle cookies.

This recipe makes a thicker, firmer pizzelle--my family's favorite.
Makes 60 pizzelles.
Print recipe only here.

6 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp anise seeds
4 Tbsp baking powder
7 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat pizzelle iron. Coat with cooking spray and wipe off excess with a paper towel. You do not have to re-apply.

Beat eggs and sugar. Add cooled melted butter, vanilla extract, and anise seeds. Sift flour and baking powder in a bowl and add to the egg mixture. Batter will have a dough-like consistency. With your hands, roll into one-inch round balls and place in the center of the pizzelle iron grids. Close the cover of the iron and bake for about 45 seconds, or until golden brown. Remove from iron and place on a cookie rack to cool.

Dust with confectioner's before serving, if desired.

Pizzelle will last for a couple of weeks if stored in an air-tight container and kept in a cool area.

If you prefer a thinner pizzelle, then follow these instructions:

6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 pound (1 cup) butter, melted
1 tsp anise seeds or extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Follow baking instructions from above.

Other flavor options include:

1. Omit vanilla and anise extract and add 2 tsp rum and 2 tsp grated orange peel.
2. Omit vanilla and anise extract and add 1 Tbsp almond extract and 1 cup finely chopped almonds.

If you like Italian pizzelle, then you'll love:

My mom's simple and scrumptious recipe for Italian Pignoli Cookies.

My mother-in-law's fabulous Italian Almond Biscotti dipped in chocolate.

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MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh Susan I've read about these for years and always wanted to make them. I only wish I could try one of yours today!
How lucky you are to have your Dad baking Nan's Pizzelles!

Peter M said...

Susan, I've enjoyed the anise flavoured Pizzele. These are great with a Greek coffee or espresso.

Suzana said...

Just stunning, those pizzelles! and I'll bet the smell while you bake them is amazing too. What a beautiful Christmas gift!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Bravo to your Dad for continuing the family tradition! These are gorgeous! Is it easy to purchase a pizelle iron?

linda said...

That's so nice that your dad bakes pizelle! I love the design of the pizelle iron.

Wicked Good Dinner said...

Aren't these the best - yummy and full of memories :-)

My Nona passed away over the summer and this will be our first holiday without her pizelles. My daughter and I will be making them ourselves this year and can't wait to dive in!

Finla said...

Isn't it wonderful to have something your nan used to make and now that your dad continues the tradition, maybe u will too continue with the tradition.
I make waffels but the belgian ones.
I had mailed you with my post for the event, hope you got it

Dana said...

I've always wanted to bake pizzelle, but I don't have an iron -- and am hesitant to add yet other gadget to my ever-growing collection! But they are sooooo good, and this recipe looks particularly delicious (I love the anise seed suggestion...).

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Tanna-And I wish I could share one with you!

Peter- Mmmm... with Greek coffee, huh? That's sounds great.

Suzana-Many thanks! They are pretty.

T.W.-I second your bravo! For the iron, just click on the link in the post to buy one online.

Linda-I know, he never forgets us.

Wicked Good Dinner-I'm sorry to hear about your Nona. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to know you are continuing her tradition. It warms my heart to hear it.

Happy Cook-Mmmm...Belgian waffles. That's another tradition I should start! I got it this morning, and it's already posted! Thanks!

Dana-I know what you mean about more kitchen gadgets. This one is worth it though!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've always wanted to buy a pizzelle iron and try to make these. We never had them when I was growing up (because I never had an Italian grandma), but I've come to love them as an adult. The anise flavor is so subtle, and so delicious.

bee said...

these have to be some of the most gorgeous cookies ever made. real eye-candy.

Anonymous said...

look at your perfect pizzelles! goggle, wink!

i want a press now so bad like tomorrow. you have me simultaneously posting this and googling the irons. what have you done!!! yums

Vicki said...

My mother recently gave me my grandmother's pizzelle iron - I've yet to use it - must try this Christmas!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Pizzelles were always a must around my house at Christmas; my mom just made many, many batches. Last year, she sent me a tin of them (from America to Italy, ironically) and since it was a round container that was just about the same size as the pizzelles, most of them even made the trip intact. No matter of course, because YUM in crumbs ;)

My grandmother always used anise seed too :)

Scribbit said...

Maybe I'm a heathen but these sound like they'd be good with Nutella spread on top. I love that stuff.

Julie said...

I was so happy to see these on your blog! I was just talking to my husband about these cookies and he'd never heard of them. My polish grandmother made them, though I have no idea how this Italian cookie became one of her traditions. The flavor reminds me of childhood, for sure. One of these days when I have more space, I might get a pizzelle iron.

KonkaniBlogger said...

Wow, these are some amazing cookies i've never even seen before..Just wonderful.

Anonymous said...

susan, i love pizzelle too. i've made chocolate with sesame seeds pizzelle which are not traditional italian, but delicious as well. you did very nice making the pizzelle!


Kristen - Dine & Dish said...

My grandmother used to ask for paper towels and toilet paper for gifts! :)
These cookies look wonderful. I saw some on another blog today and was intrigued. They are so beautiful!

Gattina Cheung said...

Honor to your grandma! The labor of love! Pizzelle is one of my favorites. Susan, I am going to make your mom's pignoli cookies, will make many extra so that I can give out some to my husband's buddy (an Italiano working in Barcelona), since he is home-sick... but afraid your family recipe shall make his home-sickness worse :) :)
Your idea of cookie map is just wonderful! You have put a lot of time and effort, I'm sure we all highly appreciate, and enjoy it a ton!

Cris said...

Love the story behind the pizzelles! What a sweet tradition that you now pass on to us! The iron gives such a beautiful shape to these cookies!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Lydia-The flavor is subtle, which is why I usually can't stop at two. Or three.

Bee-Oh, many thanks!

Aria-Sorry! ;)

Vicki- Ooh, try it! And let me know how they turn out! Or better yet, call me, and I'll come over to help! ;)

Sognatrice-That is ironic! And as for the crumbs--I wouldn't toss a single one.

Scribbit-Nutella could only make them better.

Julie-I know what you mean about the lack of space. Let me know if you ever find out how your Polish grandmother started baking pizzelle.

Maya-I'm so glad you know about pizzelle now!

Eliza-That sounds like an unusual and tasty variation. I'd like to those as well.

Kristen-These cookies are much better than tissue. ;)

Gattina-It warms my heart (and my mom's) to know your hubby's buddy will be enjoying her cookies. It's really been fun, and my effort is all the more worthwhile when I receive dear comments like yours. :)

Susan @ SGCC said...

Susan, You and I have more in common than our names. I am also Italian, born in NYC. My Dad was from the Frosinone area. I still have a lot of family there. I also have many relatives, including my sister-in-law from Rhode Island. I've been enjoying your posts. It reminds me a lot of my own experiences growing up.

Pizzelles are my favorites. My Mom has 2 irons because we go through them as fast as she can make them! Unfortunaltely, they don't hold up too well here in Florida. Too much humidity. I have the same problem with cannoli shells.

Anonymous said...

Great minds....(I just did a post on pizzelles also!)
We always have them at Christmas. A wonderful tradition. Happy Holidays, Susan!

Unknown said...

ooohh this is similar to those Indonesian cookies, and they are made in an iron pan. these cookies look so light. can't be that hurt to eat more than two, can it?

Susan said...

If these cookies could sing, we'd hear the sweetest rendition of "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story.

Chris said...

Pizzelles are one of my favorites! I have never made them myself, but man - I would love to one day! Nothin' like a grandmother's touch though...:)

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

Susan--I'm sure these cookies are delicious, but I'm chiming in to praise the photography. Breathtakingly beautiful. Seriously.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

SGCC-You should email me about your sister-in-law. You know the way everyone in RI knows everyone else!

Two irons--why hadn't I thought of that? I've got to get my dad another iron!

Maryann-I'm coming to check it out!

Arfi-I hope not because I always eat more than two.

Susan-What a sweet comment.

Chris-I know what you mean!

Terry-Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, simple cookie with an exciting history. I'm always amazed at how much time and love were spent in the kitchen in previous generations. I love that. (My cookies will come in soon...somehow I'm always at the last minute, if not completely late!)

Sagari said...

i saw this recipe on foodnetwork but i dont remmember the exact measurements pizzele looks beautifulllll and deleciousssss thanks for sharing lovely recipe and my love to your grandma

Nic said...

These cookies are so beautiful!
I have never made pizzelles before and have not seen a pizzelle iron here in the UK. Thanks so much for this post!
PS Good luck with the awards, I voted for you!

Unknown said...

As I wend my way through my second Pizzelleless Christmas in the UK (transplanted from US-Italian family), I am still shocked that I can't find an electric 240volt pizzelle iron -- please, anybody with knowledge of one, let us know! Life shouldn't be so cruel, and I'd love to be able to share them with my friends here! Er, that is, after I've made and eaten about 100 dozen of them myself...tfears@excite-com

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Ronell-Thank you for a lovely comment.

Sagari-You're so welcome!

Nic-Thank you for your kind words and your vote.

fungosquiggly-Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I'll let you know if I find anything out.

Anonymous said...

My gramma also used to make pizzelle cookies from scratch around Christmas-time. She used a special pizzelle press (like a waffle iron) to make them. While the pizzelles were still warm after coming from the press, she would roll them and make cannolis out of them! I remember her cookies so well, and I even posted an entry in my cookie blog ( about her old recipes and cookbooks.

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Anonymous said...

i have a Marcato , AMPIA Biscuit cookie press maker made in italy. i have lost the recipe booklet that was inclosed!! i am sick about this. we had moved and i must have misplaced the recipe
booklet or whatever. can you help me with this? funny how one enjoyed these delightfully pretty cookies. memories of my boys looking forward to eating these delitefully light and tasty biscuit cookies. thanks Linda

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone can help me with a pizzelle-related question. I've been searching the web and can't find anything! My family is Italian and my grandmother has always made pizzelles (there are several dozen at the table now, waiting to be eaten on Christmas!). The odd thing is that my entire family has always called them (phonetic pronounciation) CHEL-DOOR-NEEZ. I have no idea when this word came from or if it's even another word for pizzelles, but my grandmother said that she learned of them growing up in Italy. Also, how would you even spell this word? Cheldorne? Cheldornie? They all look wrong! Can anyone shed some light on a life-long conundrum? Many thanks!!

Vicki said...

Danielle - It sounds like a dialectical pronunciation of cialde, which means waffles.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I just found your blog and I enjoy reading what you post! I have a question for you regarding italian cookies. My family is Italian ( Sicilian to be exact) an this past thanksgiving my Grandfather was remembering cookies his mom used to make. He said they were very simple to make, included olive oil and were on the crispy side... do you have any idea what he could be remembering or know where I could look? These cookies were either lemon or almond flavor and not biscotti...

I would appreciate any help! I'm trying to make them for his upcoming 87th birthday! Thanks!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

anonymous-We make Italian pepper biscuits (which I have posted on this blog -- check under "cookies"), but they don't include lemon or almond. We also make wine biscuits with olive oil, but they include only fennel seed. I'm not sure exactly what he is thinking of. I hope he has a wonderful birthday!

Anonymous said...

I'm living in Ireland and have longed for a pizzelle iron/maker for the last 15 years to make these like my Nana used to. This week Lidl (in Ireland) have an electric waffle cone maker which I hope will do the trick and I just checked to see if there was anywhere in the UK that sells the pretty designed ones like my Nana used to use (they were like lace and flower designs from memory.) ...And I happened upon this website- it's a very plain square iron that you use on top of the cooker- but it may be of use to those of you living far from your Italian family.

Caroline48 said...

I too would love a pizzelle iron if anyone knows of where they stock them in the Uk i would be so greateful. I bought this krumkake iron from ebay last week but have not yet received it, here is the link

Caroline48 said...

i also purchased this cone maker from amazon which was so easy to use and make delicious wafer cones, im going to try a pizzelle recipe to see how it turns out. I love this for the cone shaper included

Tony's Stuff said...

Oh my ... Pizzelles!!! This are total YUM! My grandmother made this and I still remember them very well. Fresh off the iron press . Man! Good Good stuff! I have been on the hunt for the old fashion Pizzelle press she used to have. Made on at a time and had a beautiful flower pattern on it.

I have a special Italian recipes website I made of my Italian grandmother's recipe. I have a My Italian Grandmother page you might enjoy here:

My Italian Grandmother

Anonymous said...

Like you all my great grandmother use to make these. So I decided this year to try. Well I made my first batch and they taste just like I remember. there is one problem they do not look pretty at all. Cant seem to fill the whole cookie mold or it over pours and extra is hanging. What I am wondering what are the tricks? I will keep trying. I love these cookies. HELP. Thanks

Susan from Food Blogga said...

MAC-Sorry I couldn't respond sooner. I'm doing book signings and traveling. Well, from your comments, it sounds like two diff. problems. Re: not filling the molds, is the batter too thick, and you mean you can't spread it to fill the form? As for overflowing, that's b/c the batter is too thin and needs flour to thicken it. Good luck!

Melissa Kowalski said...

I can't wait to try this recipe. I just found a Pizzelle iron at a thrift store - I've been wanting one for YEARS! It sounds delicious. Thank you!

Donna said...

Buona sera!!!

I have an old italian recipe for Brigadini (tuscan) which uses olive oil instead of butter...(stemming from the oldest versions of this recipe)...could I use it instead of butter in your recipe??..Thank you so much for any enlightenment!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

donna- I can't say for sure since I've never done so. My instinct is to say that they'd be too oily and soft.