In Italy, food conveys so much more than mere sustenance.It is so often a defining expression of region, city, village and family. For me, pizzelle evoke memories of family and pride in place - a place that plays such an important part of me. When friends from Abruzzo gather or visit each other, these waffles are always on offer. It makes them feel like they are home. I thought that maybe here in Australia, we had elevated pizzelle because of their connection to our heritage. But when I was in Abruzzo, these pastries were given the same reverence and devoured with the same relishness as they are here.
Pizzelle are made from eggs, flour, sugar and oil. Traditionally, for every egg, mix one tbsp sugar, one tbsp oil and one tbsp flour to make a loose batter. A sprinkling of lemon zest into the batter gives a subtle background flavour. Sometimes, cooks alter the recipe slightly - perhaps using vegetable oil instead of olive oil, decreasing the amount of sugar or adding a nip of sambuca to the batter. To cook, a small ladle full is poured into a pizzelle press (see photo above). In the old days, women made pizzelle over hot coals. In order to ensure that they didn't burn on one side, legend has it that the women prayed the Our Father then turned over the pizzelle press and prayed the Hail Mary - by which time the pastries would be ready!
In some parts of Abruzzo, pizzelle are made a little differently and end up crispy like a wafer. They are just as nice but I much prefer the soft fluffy ones typical of the Casoli area of Abruzzo where my relatives are from.
So if you happen to come across one of these lovely pastries - let your taste buds and your mind drift away to the mountains and valleys of Abruzzo - just like I do whenever I have the pleasure of savouring one.