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Pizzelle: Traditional Biscuit With a Long History

Pizzelle, also known as Italian wafer cookies, in The Complete Collection of Biscuit Types are the oldest known biscuits.

 


Pizzelles are the oldest known cookie and originated in the mid-section of Italy. They were made many years ago for the “Festival of the Snakes” also known as the “Feast Day of San Domenico” in the village of Colcullo in the Italian region of Abruzzo. This village in Italy that was once overrun with snakes, and they were chased out.  Afterwards the village celebrated with pizzelle. Sweet bread pancakes, know as pizzelles, are sold in an auction, to receive the offers of the faithful: they will be on show during the procession with the statue of the saint enveloped by live snakes.

The etymology of the pizzelle types of biscuits

You know what pizzas are, right? Those round, flat pastries with tomato sauce, cheese and different seasonings on top? Pizzas are great. Who doesn’t love them. Pizzelle are, in a way, similar to pizzas! They’re not salty meals, of course, however… they’re both round and flat, but way smaller.

And that is actually the key to the etymology behind the “pizzelle” name, as the word “pizze” comes from the Italian word for “round” and “flat”. The suffix “elle” denotes that “smallness” part. Pretty simple stuff, right? And when you look at the biscuits themselves, you can see that they are, in fact, very similar to pizzas! It’s no wonder actually that the folks in Italy got accustomed to calling them pizzelle.

Not much more to say about their etymology. We weren’t lying when we told you everything about these biscuits was simple yet amazing. Who wouldn’t want to eat a type of biscuit that’s shaped like a pizza yet very sweet and goes great with ice-cream and what-not? Only someone who doesn’t like fun, that’s who! But, with simplicity in our minds, it’s time to move on to the next section…

The name comes from the Italian word pizze for round and flat. Many different cultures have adapted this cookie and re-named it accordingly.  In Scandinavia they are also known as Lukken and the Krumcake is baked using a similar iron as the pizzelle.

The pizzelle iron, which resembles a small variant of the popular waffle iron is held by hand over a hot burner on the stovetop, although some models are electric and require no stove. Typically, the iron stamps a snowflake pattern onto both sides of the thin golden-brown cookie, which has a crisp texture once it is cooled. There are also several brands of ready-made pizzelle available in stores.

In some parts of Italy, the irons would be made with family crests on them which would be passed down to each generation.

Pizzelle Italy

Source: By leungchopan/Shutterstock.com

The ingredients used to make and bake pizzelle biscuits

Sugar, eggs, flour, butter or oil and flavouring. Wow… that’s it? Well… to tell you the truth, these types of biscuits might be too simple! They’re making it really hard for the author to write a right and proper article… but that’s the driving feature behind these amazing little devils. They are s-i-m-p-l-e, or even better, minimalistic.

They’re really easy to bake, all you need are the proper tools. You know, just some basic stuff… you need to blue blood of royalty, and then you have to squire for a full-fledged knight. After that, go on a simple crusade, come back with honours and riches, marry a princess out of political advantage, thus creating a new noble family… then you get to create your own crest to put on your very own pizzelle!

Just kidding… get yourself two simple iron plates. But it would be cool to be a descendant of some high and mighty noble family, wouldn’t it? Anyways… the flavours and the ways that a highly-skilled cook can use these amazing biscuits is where they really shine! And speaking of flavours, they come in different varieties: anise (black liquorice), peppermint, lemon, chocolate, vanilla, anisette and others…

The different uses for the pizzelle types of biscuits

You don’t have to be of royal blood to have you very own special iron plates. These plates can incorporate anything, from special dates (for example weddings or birthdays) to something else that piques your interest. You can’t create these yourself, of course (unless you’re a very skilled blacksmith), but we’re willing to bet there are many qualified people who can do it for you!

It might not be as cheap as you’d expect it, however… if it’s for a really special occasion, it’s definitely worth it. When it comes to the biscuits themselves, there are numerous ways you can use them…

In accordance with the whole medieval, noble family theme, you can use these types of biscuits to create your very own castles! Not in the literal sense, of course… but! You can stack these on top of one another while layering the sides with different kinds of spreads and ice-cream. We don’t know about you, but our mouths are already foaming at the thought of a Nutella/vanilla ice-cream pizzelle tower!

The pizzelle can also be shaped like edible bowls, which you can fill with different varieties of ice-cream, and they’re also used to make other, very popular types of Italian pastries – the cannoli! These are made by wrapping the pizzelle around a cylinder.

The history of the pizzelle 

As someone who loves history, I’ve always been drawn to people and places with a long and rich tradition. Besides history, I also love simplicity and food. My colleagues here at Biscuit People share my fondness for food, especially for the various types of biscuits.

That is why I always find joy in discovering such incredible, yet simple types of biscuits like the Italian pizzelle. What makes them so special, you might ask? Well… everything, to be honest. From their name to their looks and taste, this type of biscuit is simply amazing.

If you’ve been reading carefully, then you’ve already caught up with most of the pizzelle history… as we’ve already mentioned, they are a traditional Italian biscuit with a tradition stretching back a couple of centuries back!

They first appeared in the south-central area of Abruzzo (Italy, of course), where two feuding villages, Colcullo and Salle, still argue over who has the rights over these delicious biscuits. Well, lucky for us, we still get to enjoy these amazing biscuits while these two argue. Hey, this kind of reminds of the Montagues and the Capulets…

Other important things to note about their history and tradition is that they’re connected to several different celebrations. The most important ones are the “Festival of the Snakes” and the “Festival of the monk Beato Roberto da Salle.” The make long-stories-short, the Festival of the Snakes is dedicated to a Benedictine monk called San Domenico who cleared Colcullo of all the snakes in the local field. The villages celebrated with pizzelle afterwards, and thus we have the Festival of the Snakes today!

As for the Festival of the monk Beato Roberto, the folks in Salle bring pizzelle biscuits as offering to their beloved Roberto. They also hung the pizzelle from the branches to commemorate the day. Quite a nice tradition. The world can always use more biscuits!

You rush to your room to search for those old file boxes with albums, letters, postcards bills and what not. You keep searching to no avail… you start to get worried, again. When finally, you come across what you were looking for.

You pick up the notebook in front and blow the dust off of it. The title on the notebook reads: “The Family’s Recipe Book: From Generation to Generation.” You open the first page and read the words: “To my dear, beloved niece. May you remember me while baking these for your own grandchildren. Love, grandma.”

The memories come pouring back. You remember the happy moments you spent with your granny, and you realise this… this notebook in your hands was that “special something” that was missing. You start looking through the vast number of recipes inside. 

And there, at the very end, lies the recipe for the traditional pizzelle biscuits. You remember that there is something special about these, but you can’t quite remember what. You open your browser once again and start researching. You suddenly find out that these biscuits have a long tradition and history! But alas… you also find out that they require special “instruments” to bake. Two metal plates for pressing the batter.

You remember that there were some metal plates that came along with the albums and the recipe book, but you couldn’t figure out what they were for. Luckily for you, you kept them safe and didn’t throw them out. Now you can make your very own pizzelle biscuits. However, before you start making the batter for these types of biscuits, you notice something strange about the iron plates.

There’s a symbol on them i.e. some kind of an insignia. Horses galloping. What could it mean? You start researching again and find out that noble Italian families used to bake pizzelle biscuits with their family crests. Amazing! Could this mean something? Were you a part of a noble family?

Pizzelle history

With some further research of your family tree, you find out that you are descended from an Italian noble family of merchants who had a large estate in Verona, and who were famous for their love of horses. The heads of the house, including men and women, were famous for breeding superb racing horses, the best in Italy, hence the family’s crest!

Sugar, eggs, flour, butter or oil and flavouring. That is all that’s needed for the batter. You mix these ingredients up and press them between the iron plates. After a few minutes, the biscuits (or wafers) are done. They are easy to make and simple, yet great-looking and tasty!

This was, in fact, a part narrative, part overview of these types of biscuits. We briefly delved into the many aspects that make these biscuits so great, and everything that you’ve read so far is true. Well, except for that part with the noble family from Verona. It’s true that old Italian families would put their crests on these biscuits, it’s just that this specific family didn’t exist. Although, who knows… there might still be some records sitting around to prove the contrary…

Anyways… we hope this narrative part got you interested in discovering more about the pizzelle biscuits.

The Complete Collection of Biscuit Types


Source: What's cooking America

Leading image: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

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