Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home for the Holidays

I am spending the holidays at my parent's home in Chicago, which is good for a few reasons - free food, loving family, spacious childhood bedroom, old friends, and of course...my mother's kitchen. Her giant, fully stocked, appliance-rich, beautiful kitchen, complete with: (da da da dummm!)

The KitchenAid mixer.

The sleek curvature of the bowl. The easy hinging of the head. The rapidity with which things get mixed. The not having to do any physical labor save for cutting a few cubes of butter.

I dream of a day when my personal living situation can accommodate (i.e., has enough counter space for) such a luxury.

But that's neither here nor there. Well, actually it is here in Chicago where my mother and I set out to begin the Christmas Baking Extravaganza this past weekend. I regret to admit that we are not really a big pie-for-the-holidays family, and as a result our menu is a bit cookie-heavy. But (and here's how I'm going to tie this all together), the first cookie we set out to make was one of my personal favorite - pizzelle.

An Italian waffle cookie often flavored with lemon, vanilla, or anise, the word pizzelle comes from the Italian words for "round" and "flat," which is coincidentally also where we get the word for pizza. Pizzelle = pizza = pie.

Whatever, they're good, they taste like my childhood, and making them with my mother brought back many fond memories of watching my grandmother make them every Christmas. Enjoy!

6 eggs
2 cups flour
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup Crisco
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp flavoring (we used anise, but vanilla, lemon or almond extract also work)
**Pizzelle iron - this is basically a waffle maker that presses decorative circles instead of squares, and I suppose you could use a regular waffle iron if you needed to; we used my grandmother's pizzelle iron

How To
Mix all ingredients together, adding one at a time until a batter is formed.

Drop about a teaspoon of the batter onto the center of each cookie section. Close the lid and cook for 45-60 seconds (cook times will vary according to how hot your iron is and how much batter you've dropped).

Lift the cover to remove the cookies. They won't be perfect circles yet (the design of the press will form them into more square-like shapes) and they might be stuck together, the best thing to do is take a knife or metal spatula and quickly transfer them to a cooling rack. While the cookies are still hot cut off the excess cookie with a pastry scissors, forming the perfect circles. It's best to have a second person do the cutting so you can continue making more cookies (it needs to be done immediately after they're removed from the iron). Let the cookies fully cool (this is one instance that a warm cookies isn't necessarily better), and dust with powdered sugar to serve. 

Oh, and I personally feel that the best way to enjoy pizzelle is by dunking them in your morning coffee :)

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