Tag Archives: anise seeds

It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without Homemade Pizzelles!

recipeI think I’ve mentioned this before, but I come from an Italian-American household. And, as you can imagine, there are a lot of traditions, and, specifically, a lot of food traditions. There was always the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, soup and pasta always made an appearance with the turkey on Thanksgiving, and, for almost any celebration, pizzelles took center stage. Thankfully, pizzelles still take center stage for Christmas.

In case you aren’t familiar with pizzelles, they are a delicate, waffle-like cookie, usually flavored with anise seeds, anise extract, or anisette. They are made in a pizzelle iron, similar to a waffle iron, cooking 2 at a time, and they are delicious.

Once again, for the recipe, my great-aunt isbutter and sugar the winner. My mom has a lot of different recipes. If you look in her file box, you’ll see cards for Mommom Phil’s pizzelles, or Aunt Antoinette’s pizzelles, or Mommom Bobbie’s pizzelles, but, I have to admit, Aunt Angie’s is the best. You may remember her as the excellent baker with the killer pie crust recipe!

To start, cream 1 cup softened butter with 1 1/2 cup sugar. Next, add 6 eggs, 1 at a time, mixing to combine before adding the next. Then, add 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon anise seeds. eggsoilvanillaanise seedsAnd now, a note about anise seeds. For my mom and most of my baking relatives, there is no question, anise seeds are the way to go with pizzelles. They give the cookie a subtle liquorice flavor. However, if you prefer, you could use anise extract (although use it sparingly) or anisette. You could also add more anise seeds if you prefer, but I find the teaspoon works well.

baking powder and flourOnce the wet ingredients are all combined, add 4 teaspoons baking powder and 4 1/2 cups flour. I usually add the flour in 2 stages so I don’t make a huge mess, but feel free to combine however you prefer.

That’s the recipe. It’s very easy, and comes together very nicely. For the next part, you need a pizzelle iron. If you have never used one, they are very easy to use, but it does take some time to cook the pizzelles.

batterStart by plugging in your iron to heat it up. Once it’s hot, add about 1 teaspoon batter to the middle of each form. Press down, and allow to cook for just under a minute. You want the pizzelles to be light in color but cooked through. When you open them, the pizzelles sometimes fall right out. If they stick a bit, just use a fork.

pizzelle ironopencookingdoneThis recipe makes about 90 pizzelles, and trust me, you’ll fly through them.

I hope you enjoy your holiday desserts as much as I’ll enjoy these pizzelles. I’m sure there’s a tradition or two out there…feel free to share. And have a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with family and friends…I know I will!ready to eat

With Easter Around the Corner I’m Making Easter Bread!

Loaves of Easter BreadSome of my favorite things about holidays are the customs and traditions that people keep.  They may be very new, or they can go back for generations.  They can involve any number of different rituals, but, thankfully, many of the traditions center around one of my favorite topics, food!  That is certainly the case in my family…it’s all about the food.  For Christmas, there is the fish dinner (Feast of the Seven Fishes), for Thanksgiving, there’s holiday soup (Italian Wedding), and for Easter, there is always Easter bread (spianata)!

RecipeSweet breads are very common around the holidays.  Many cultures have their own versions, but this one is an Italian Easter bread.  Flavored with vanilla and anise seeds, it’s a great breakfast treat.  There are many different recipes, some more light and bread like, others more dense and cake like, but they are all delicious.  For this one, I used my Mommom Phil’s recipe.  As you can imagine, in my Mom’s recipe box, she has a ton of different recipes (Mommom Phil, or Philomena, being my Dad’s Mom), and this one is more cake like and makes about 6 loaves.

ProofingTo start, mix 1 envelope yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Let this proof for a few minutes while you mix everything else.  Using a mixer, cream together 1 stick softened butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add 6 eggs and continue to mix.  Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup warm milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon anise seeds, and the yeast mixture (make sure that the yeast mixture has bubbled up and you no longer see the individual yeast seeds).  Mix everything until combined, then add about 2 1/2 lbs flour (about 9 cups).  Mix until a dough Mixing Doughforms.  You may need to add an extra cup or two of flour so that you have a dough that you can knead.

Dump the whole thing on a floured surface and start to knead.  You want the dough to be smooth and consistent.  This won’t take long.  Once it’s ready, pour a little bit of oil in a large bowl and swirl the ball of dough in the oil, then turn it over.  This way the dough is covered in oil, including the top.  Cover the dough with a piece of plastic and a towel (because that’s how my Mom and RisingMommom do it), and set the bowl in a warm place to rise.  I put mine right next to the radiator.

After a few hours, the dough should have doubled in size.  Take it out of the bowl and divide it into 6 equal portions.  This is always the tough part for me…equal portions.  Shape the pieces into loaves and place in greased loaf pans.  You’ll want to again cover these and set them in a warm place to rise.  I let them rise another hour or two.

Loaves RisingThese loaves bake at a very low temperature, 250 degrees.  They’ll take about 50 minutes to an hour.  You want them to be very light in color, but just cooked through.  You can tap on them to see if they sound hallow, or just use a toothpick to make sure they’re cooked all the way through.

This Easter bread, or spianata, is perfect smothered with butter, or you can do it the old school way like my Aunt Elvira and pour a little bit of olive oil on it.  Either way, it makes a great breakfast, especially on Easter Sunday!