What Are Pizzelle?

Last updated on October 20, 2021

The pizzelle are the world’s oldest cookies. They’re crispy delicious. No Italian holiday goes without them. The name means a small pizza.

Pizzelle is technically plural of pizzella and it means a small pizza in Italian, though in the US pizzelle usually refers to a single cookie as well. It is a small round crispy cookie popular in Italian Christmas and Easter festivities as well as weddings. Pizzelle are usually baked in a special iron or a pizzelle maker.

A pizzella is known as the world’s oldest cookie and dates back for centuries. The pizzelle’s history can be traced back even further to ancient Greece and Rome, where bread that was the same size and shape was often stamped in geometric patterns. During the early days of Christianity, a cross was used in a flatbread to serve as the Holy Eucharist.

The word “pizze” is derived from the Italian word for “round” and “flat”, which is why it’s called the “pizzelle”. The suffix -elle means it’s small. You can see that the cookies are very similar to pizzas when you look at them. They are also known as ferratelle or cancelle in Italy.

What's Inside

Typical Ingredients for Homemade Pizzelle

pizzelle
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • Flavoring

This is how the pizzelle are made:

Prepare the pizzelle iron and coat it with cooking spray. Add flour, sugar, butter, anise or vanilla extract, baking powder, and eggs in a large bowl. Put a small amount of batter onto the pizzelle iron. 

30 seconds to 1 minute is the time it takes to bake until golden brown. Remove the pizzelle from the cooling rack and repeat with the rest of the batter. Let them cool before serving.

How do you know if the pizzelle are done?

You want to see some color change on top of the pizzelle. It shouldn’t take more than 30-45 seconds per batch. If you’re unsure about how long they’ve been baked, try one first. If it doesn’t look right, wait another few minutes.

What is a Pizzelle Maker?

If you don’t have access to a pizzelle iron, then you should consider buying one. It’s different from a waffle maker. An inexpensive pizzelle maker will make your life easier because all you need to do is add ingredients into the machine and press start. This way you won’t have to worry about measuring out each ingredient by hand.

There are two main types of pizzelle makers.

Pizzelle Iron

The pizzelle iron is made of cast iron and is made of two plates in a traditional pattern. Patterns may include things like family crests or religious symbols. They are thinly pressed to bake crisp cookies. You bake them by heating the iron on the stove. This is the traditional way of making pizzelle.

Electric Pizzelle Maker

Parts of an electric pizzelle maker:

  • a base plate
  • an upper plate
  • a spring loaded mechanism that pushes down onto the top plate so that the dough gets flattened
  • a heating element underneath the both plates

An electric baker can make other pastry than pizzelle too.

Equipment and Ingredient Notes

These tips make pizzelle great:

  • A pizzelle maker is not necessary but will help keep your oven clean. If using a regular baking sheet instead, make sure there’s enough space between each piece so they don’t stick together.
  • You can use any type of flour in this recipe; I used all purpose because I have access to both white whole wheat flour and unbleached bread flour. Feel free to substitute as needed.
  • The dough should be refrigerated overnight before rolling out. This helps prevent sticking when working with the dough.
  • To grease the pans, spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Alternatively, brush with melted butter.
  • For best results, use fresh yeast. Dried yeast may work, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly.
  • Use only room temperature water. Cold water will cause the dough to rise too much during mixing.
  • When adding liquid to dry ingredients, stir gently just until mixed. Overmixing causes gluten development which leads to tough cookies.
  • Do not overwork the dough after combining everything. Work quickly and carefully while keeping the mixture light and airy.
  • After shaping the dough, place pieces back on the prepared baking sheets. They’ll spread slightly once cooled.
  • Once cooked, remove pizzelle immediately from the baking sheet and transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.
  • Store leftovers tightly covered in refrigerator up to 3 days. Freeze leftover pizzelle in freezer bags up to 2 months.

Pizzelle Flavors

The traditional pizzelle flavor is anise. There are many different flavors of the pizzelle, including lemon, vanilla, chocolate, peppermint. Try experimenting with other flavors like orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.  

Popular pizzelle flavors:

  • Anise
  • Lemon
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint

FAQ

What does “pizzelle” mean in Italian?

It means “little pizza” in Italian.

What do pizzelle taste like?

A little bit sweet, crispy outside, soft inside.

How do Italians eat pizzelle?

They’re usually eaten plain, dipped into coffee or tea, or served with ice cream.

Should I spray my pizzelle maker?

Yes! Spray the surface well with cooking oil.

How long do pizzelle stay fresh?

We’ve found that they last about 5 days at room temp and 4 weeks frozen.

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