Pizzelle (pit-sell-eh) - Pizzelle are a traditional cookie from the Abruzzi regionof Italy. They are thin wafer cookies that look almost like a waffle. The word pizelle means little, round, and flat.
For decades, blacksmiths forged pizzelle irons out of cast iron with a family crest or the name of the woman. These were passed down from generation to generation, just as a precious piece of jewelery.
According to an article from the Lonely Planet Publications on the Festival of the Snakes:
Legend has it that the mountainous and bucolic area around Abruzzo was once so infested by snakes that life tended to the short, sharp and brutal rather than the long and cheerful. The local shepherds, back in 700 BC, appealed to Apollo for help. His advice was to capture the snakes, domesticate them by draping them around his statue and then release them into the bush again.
Curiously, this seemed to work and the ritual has been replayed ever since. Somewhere along the way, however, the fickle mortals dumped the old Greek gods for the newish Christian gods and indulged in a bit of historical revisionism. Apollo became Saint Domenica and a few touches of modernity, like fireworks, were added to the ritual.
Celebrations begin on St Joseph's Day, 19 March, when the first snakes of the season are netted and caged. Two months later, on the first Thursday in May, the village is stirred by an 8am revelry call of fireworks, followed by a traditional mass. After the mass, the statue of Saint Domenica is hauled through the streets of Colcullo, where villagers drape the captured serpents, boa-like, around the stone neck of Saint Domenica.
This ritual and the procession is usually accompanied by a noisy band of villagers, barking dogs and merry-makers. At the edge of the village the squirming mass is released back into the bush and the villagers, so it is said, are immune from snake bites for another year.
Today, pizzelles continue to be revered and celebrated at feasts. In the small Abruzzi town of Salle, they honor a 12th century monk named Beato Roberto. Celebrants attach pizzelle to tree branches and proceed down the street with them.
Although my mother still uses her pizzelle iron (a cherished heirloom she brought with her from the old country when she immigrated to Canada in the 1950's, I prefer to use a modern, electronic model.
From the youngest to the oldest, I have yet to meet the person who did not like a pizzelle. During Christmas and Easter and other family get togethers, I see that they are the very first cookie to disappear from the cookie platter.
Here is my favourite pizzelle recipe, handed down through my Abruzze mother and her mother and grandmothers before her:
7 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons pure anise extract or a few drops of pure anise oil
1 cup melted butter or oil
4 tablespoons baking powder
Beat eggs and sugar. Add cooled melted butter or margarine, and anise extract. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture. Batter will have a dough like consistency. Form into 1 inch balls and place on the grids in the pizzelle baker. This will make about 150 small pizzelles
One of the best chocolate treats available in the world today is a product called Nutella. If you’ve never tasted it, then I urge you to drop whatever you are doing this instant and rush out to your local supermarket to purchase a jar. It’s that good! Oh, and while you’re at it, better buy two because one jar is never enough.
Mr. Pietro Ferrero, an Italian pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company, invented this decadent treat. Even more incredible is the fact that he invented it in 1940’s while World War II ravaged Italy. Somehow he managed to acquire a limited supply of chocolate during food rationing. To extend his short supply, he mixed the chocolate with hazelnuts which grew in overabundant supply in the Piedmont region of Italy.
Ferrero produced the chocolate-hazelnut spread and baked it in a loaf of bread. He then wrapped the loaf in tinfoil and marketed it. He called the chocolate loaf “Pasta Gianduja” after a carnival character famous to the region. So mothers began purchasing the loaf for their children and served it to them slice by slice. Children being children, however, they discarded the bread and went straight for the chocolate.
Always one to recognize a golden opportunity, Mr. Ferrero dispensed with the bread and began to sell the chocolate paste in a jar. He renamed the product “Supercrema Gianduja”. The produce became a huge hit almost instantly. Italians discovered it to be an inexpensive way to enjoy a decadent treat. During the 1940’s and 1950’s a kilo of chocolate was 6 times the cost of one kilo of Supercrema Gianduja. It grew in popularity so fast, that Italian food stores started a service called “The Smearing”. Children could go to their local food store with a slice of bread for a free “smear” of the super cream. In the 1960’s the product was renamed to Nutella.
Its popularity has now spread to encompass the entire world. Many years ago, one could only find the product at Italian specialty stores as imports. Today, it is available in the peanut butter aisle in grocery stores across North America, and, it outsells all brands of peanut butter combined!
There are many companies who have tried to copy this chocolate hazelnut treat and I’ve even tried a few. However, they all pale in comparison to Nutella. So don’t waste your money. A jar of Nutella will cost you almost $5.00 in the store. And if you think that’s expensive – think again. It takes Ferrero three hours to produce one batch of Nutella. It is a highly refined, amazing process, making the shelf price a fair value for the quality and care it takes to make the product.
If you are able to read and understand Italian, you can visit Nutella’s home page at www.nutella.it where 1000’s of Nutella recipes are readily available. It’s a favourite bookmark of mine.
I’ve translated a Nutella Recipe for you. Enjoy!
After Sport Nutella Shake
150 grams of Nutella
300 grams whole milk
50 grams heavy cream
Place milk, whipping cream, half of the banana, and Nutella in a blender. Blend for 2 minutes. Serve in tall glasses and decorate with the remaining portion of the banana.
ON THE SLOPE a hill covered with a mauve mist, two armored horsemen, once friends, now enemies, faced each other at a good distance. Landolfo turned his horse, and with his sword, pointed at the woods. His challenge was plain. He was ready for combat. There was no need for heroics. A quick stare—man to man, eye to eye—said everything between two warriors. On his black horse, he rode with loose bridle, looking straight ahead into the darkness of the woods. Calm and solemn, he carried his naked sword over his shoulder. Frequent streams of sunlight flashed down upon his armor and helm.