I had meant to post this a few days ago, but the end of the semester got in the way. Now that grades are in and my office is no longer a cacophony of blue books and student folders, I can take care of my backlog of other business.
I decided to make pizzelles this past weekend while Jeff was home to entertain me (since it can be fairly time-consuming). Pizzelles are my favorite Christmas cookie. They are traditional Italian waffle cookies, made by pressing dough on a special iron, similar to a waffle maker (yes, sorry - this recipe requires special equipment!). My mom has been making them for as long as I can remember, and I have loved them for about that long. In fact, she tells a story about when I was little and "helped" put away the pizzelles once they had cooled. I was only allowed to eat the broken ones - the good, whole ones were for Christmas. So, crafty little one that I was, I started shoving the cookies into the tin so as to break them on purpose. Then I had lots of broken pieces to eat! I also lost my job as the helper . . .
My mom has had to make extra batches of the pizzelles every year just to make sure some got to the Christmas table, since I would invariably find the tin and polish off a significant number beforehand. But alas, no longer living at home I thought I had lost this opportunity. And Advent without pizzelles just doesn't seem right.
Until last year, that is. I was on line at the grocery store soon after Christmas, and realized that the woman in front of me had a Cuisinart pizzelle press in her cart. The clerk was having trouble ringing it up, so I generously offered to dash to the back and bring them the price label from the shelf . . . and grab one for myself! As soon as I got home, I called my mom to get her pizzelle recipe. Apparently, all these years she has used the recipe that came in the instruction manual! So that's what I did as well. I don't remember if I made some right away, but I definitely did them for the housewarming party Jeff and I had in March. I decided to try both the traditional vanilla and chocolate varieties.
Chocolate pizzelles are a bit of a chore because they stick to the press (at least, these do because they have actual chopped chocolate in them). When I did them in March, I tried spraying baking spray on the press for every few cookies. While this helped, it also made the cookies that absorbed the oil extra-brittle. They tasted different, too. So this time around I took a different approach. When I saw crumbs sticking to the press, I scrubbed them off with a vegetable brush (quickly, so the hot press wouldn't melt the brush!) and then wiped it down with a little vegetable oil on a paper towel. This was much more effective - I didn't have to do it as often and it didn't change the texture or flavor of the cookies.
Speaking of flavor, the chocolate pizzelles have an incredible one. I actually think the batter tastes better than the cookies (what? It gets on my fingers so I have to lick it off!). It's a deep rich chocolatey flavor, with little chocolate bits mixed in. As a crunchy cookie, much of the richness is absent - although it does leave a delicious chocolate aftertaste in your mouth. I think that if you let some of the cookie melt in your mouth, you might uncover the richness of the chocolate. But I can never make mine last that long!
Recipe from the Cuisinart Pizzelle Press instruction manual.
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 60% Ghirardelli)
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla
Combine flour, cocoa powder, chocolate and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk well. Combine the eggs and sugar in a mixer. Mix for about 1 minute on medium speed (I only had my Kitchen Aid on 2 - when I turned it up to 4, things started splashing). Add butter in a slow stream - about 15 seconds - and then do the same with the vanilla (while you could do this with a hand mixer, it would make this step a bit tricky). Add the dry ingredients and mix 10-15 more seconds until just combined (you may need to do a little more - there can't be any clumps of flour or cocoa powder left, because they will not moisten during the cooking process).
Preheat your pizzelle press according to its instructions (mine beeps and a green light turns on when it gets to the proper temperature). Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 tsp dough onto each side of the press (mine came with a handy little plastic spoon to use). Drop the dough a little behind the center of each shape (since closing the lid will push it forward a bit).
Cook each pizzelle until it reaches the desired color. (I like mine in the pale to slightly golden range. How long this takes depends on your press - I think it's generally about a minute and a half. Mine has a light that goes from red to green when they're ready. My mom's didn't, so she had to guess. Be aware, though, that they will be floppy and flexible when they come out, and harden after a minute or so in the open air. If you want to form them into cannoli shells or waffle cones, this is the time.) Place each pizzelle on a paper bag to cool and harden . When hard, stack them in a decorative tin, or eat to your heart's content!
This recipe makes 36-40 cookies. They keep well for a long time - my mom says up to a year! - and seem to taste better with age, so they can be done several weeks or even months ahead.