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A&E >  Food

Pizelles a family treat and tradition

Pizzelles are crisp, thin, Italian cookies reminiscent of snowflakes. They’re stamped on both sides with intricate patterns made by a contraption reminiscent of a waffle iron. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Pizzelles are crisp, thin, Italian cookies reminiscent of snowflakes. They’re stamped on both sides with intricate patterns made by a contraption reminiscent of a waffle iron. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

She still uses the same press, the one she got in 1972 at the Seattle institution on Rainier Avenue South that is Borracchini’s Bakery.

She was 22 then, maybe 23, and just barely married. And she’s been using the same machine ever since – as well as the recipe that came along with it.

We love it when Mom makes her pizzelles.

They’re a holiday tradition – on the table for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Mom makes them for other special occasions, too – birthdays, showers, random family gatherings. She made them the last night I was home, and – finally – I remembered to get the recipe.

Pizzelles – crisp, thin, Italian – resemble snowflakes, stamped on both sides with intricate patterns by a contraption reminiscent of a waffle iron. The cookies, much thinner than waffles, can be rolled while they’re still warm to make cannoli shells.

Mom never bothered with that. She never bothered with the blinking light on the top of pizzelle maker, either.

“I don’t pay attention to the flashing,” she said. “I just kind of do it by feel, and I go kind of medium. I don’t like them too crispy. They have to be golden brown. They always turn out.”

Forty-four years later, “I just love that machine. It works fine. You just kind of give it a squeeze – no problems.”

The dough is sticky and stiff enough to drop by the spoonful onto the grid. You do need a pizzelle iron. I just got one and have yet to try it out. It, like Mom’s, makes two at a time. Hers is considered vintage. Similar models sell online from $67 to $140.

I’m not even sure if Borracchini’s still sells them. I haven’t been there in years. Still, the longtime Italian bakery in Seattle’s Rainier Valley remains a family favorite. It was always our go-to for sheet cakes. When we were given a choice for birthday or graduations, we’d pick Borracchini’s – mostly for its legendary rich buttercream frosting. I always wanted a piece with a flower so I could have extra.

These days, I’d settle for an extra pizzelle or two. They’re believed to be among the world’s oldest known cookies, originating in ancient times from the Abruzzo region, located just below the calf of the boot that is Italy.

Pizzelles – flat, mildly sweet – are oh-so-good with coffee, making for a light dessert that’s perfect after a particularly heavy holiday meal.

Of course, they’re good for stuffing, too. Slather on a layer of chocolate-hazelnut spread and make a sweet sandwich dessert. Or, maybe, add a scoop of gelato. Martha Stewart uses sweetened ricotta.

But, typically, we just enjoy them plain.

You could add cocoa powder to make chocolate pizzelles. Other variations include lemon or orange zest, amaretto or almond extract, even slivered or crushed nuts. Ground nutmeg, cardamom and ginger might be fun to try, too – although these aren’t traditional.

Mom – who’s not Italian – just uses vanilla or anise, what the basic recipe calls for. She still has the original instructions.

Sometimes, she halves the recipe “and it works fine, but never less than half. It’s not worth the effort to pull out the machine for less than half.”


From the pamphlet for the Vitantonio Pizzelle Chef Maker Model 300, purchased in 1972.

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup margarine (do not use more or substitute oil)

2 tablespoons vanilla or anise

3 1/2 cups flour (approximately)

4 teaspoons baking powder

Beat eggs, adding sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled melted margarine and vanilla or anise. Sift flour and baking powder, and add to egg mixture. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by spoon.

Yield: 60 cookies

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