Friday, February 16, 2024

Aunt Angie's Unrivaled Pizzelles

Aunt Angie's Pizzelles
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp anise extract
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled*
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

Sift flour and baking powder together, set aside.
Beat eggs and flavorings until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating the whole time. Beat until very light. Slowly pour in the melted butter, beating the whole time. Stir in the flour just until mixed- do not overbeat.
Spoon batter into middle of the a hot pizzelle iron brushed with melted shortening. Use a knife to push batter off of the spoon. Bake until the steam stops coming out, about 60 seconds. Remove with a spatula.

*Add ¼ tsp of salt if butter is unsalted.
The original recipe says to remove with a fork, but that did not end well for me.

Let's say you just bought a pizzelle iron but you have no idea how to make them. And let's further say it's the 1970s, which means you can't go online and find a recipe. And unlike us here at A Book of Cookrye, you didn't run off with your Italian ex's family's recipes. Fortunately for you, your new pizzelle iron has a recipe on a sticker applied to its handle.

A pizzelle iron with a recipe on its handle recently popped up in my Ebay suggestions. You may think I'm about to show a picture of this iron on my countertop and admit that I bought it, but I am financially immune to the allure of future waffle irons. However, before the iron went to a more willing buyer, I nabbed the recipe off the listing because you just never see appliances that have their own recipes stuck onto them.

That's a bit hard to read, so let's do a bit of photomanipulative magic to help our eyes.

PIZZELLE RECIPE. 3 eggs, beaten. 3/4 cup sugar. 3/4 cup melted butter. 1-1/2 cups flour. 1 tsp baking powder. 1 tsp anise seed or lemon peel. Add ingredients in order listed, mixing well after each. Spoon batter into middle of each section [of the iron].

I had to try it. Practically every kitchen device in existence comes with suggested recipes in the instruction manual, but I've never seen one printed on a sticker and applied to the thing itself. The closest equivalent I can think of are those cute ceramic pie pans and casseroles with recipes painted in the middle. I had to see if Rival's pizzelles were any good.

While we're making this recipe, it was a perfect time to try a near-identical one from my ex's family.

I don't know who Aunt Angie is. I never met anyone named Angie when I was introduced to the family. But her recipe is the same as the one off the Rival handle except she used a smidge more flour and an extra spoon of baking powder. I wonder if she happened to buy the same pizzelle iron and then improved the recipe a bit.

We began the pizzelle recipe as they seem to always go: whipping our eggs and sugar until they look like an unusually fluffy batter. When we slowly poured in the melted butter, things started to look a bit curdled under the beaters. I have not seen this in any pizzelle recipe I've made heretofore (granted, I've only made two).


Upon raising the beaters, we found a surprisingly good facsimile of icing. It may be a little bit curdled, but doesn't it almost look like you could squirt big blobs of it onto cupcakes?

At this point, we get to the only place where Rival and Aunt Angie diverge: Aunt Angie uses a smidge more flour and baking powder than Rival does. And so, because I am thorough, our batter got bifurcated and some surprisingly mathematical things ensued.

Here are the two recipes in their complete, ready-to-bake state. They look nearly identical in pictures. But if you prodded them with a spoon, Aunt Angie's was just a little bit firmer while the one that came off the Rival pizzelle maker was floppier.

Rival's on the left, Aunt Angie's on the right.

And so, having gotten the iron heated up, the paper splatter-catcher laid on the counter, and the shortening melted and ready to brush, it was time to cook the Rival recipe. I'm not a pizzelle expert (I only started making them two months ago), but this dough seemed a lot runnier than any pizzelle I've made heretofore.

Rival's pizzelles cooked faster than the other recipes I've made. I think it's because there's so much sugar in them compared to everything else. The sugar browned before I was ready with a spatula. Rival's pizzelles were also a lot more fragile than the others I've made. I accidentally nudged one and it dropped a few shards of itself.

The Rival pizzelles weren't necessarily bad, but I was not impressed. They were a little too greasy from an excess of butter. This culinary misfire made me feel a bit of sympathy for anyone who bought a Rival pizzelle iron and made the recipe printed on it, year in and year out. Think of all those years of subprime pizzelles!

I thought the recipe needed just a little bit more flour to be just right. And conveniently enough, we had another bowl of batter that had a little more flour in it. It was Aunt Angie's turn at the iron.  While we're making these, I have to point out that after getting helpful advice from Fante's Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia, I switched from cooking spray to melted shortening and a brush. I have to repeat how astounded I am at what my chemist friend described as shortening's "uncanny nonstick properties more comparable to Teflon than a natural oil." This thin, wispy thing (and every single one like it) fell right out of the shortening-coated iron intact.

Moving back to the pizzelles, Aunt Angie's recipe is what Rival's wishes it could be. Here are the two side-by-side. You can see that Rival's recipe was just a little bit more perforated and not quite as nice.

Aunt Angie's recipe may be a near-exact copy of the one from Rival, but it had just enough additional flour to make the pizzelles near-perfect. Her recipe comes out just as I imagined pizzelles were like before I actually had one. They are light, crisp, and ever-so-delicate. I'm not sure how I could pack these to give them away unbroken, but I know that anyone I gave them to would eat them almost as fast as I would.

I don't necessarily recommend this as someone's first pizzelle recipe, but I definitely recommend making it. Because they're so delicate, they get bit tricky to lift them off of the iron. But that same fragility makes them so good to eat. They're like those impossibly fragile cookies you get at supermarkets with very upscale snack aisles. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

La Gougère: or, The high class cheese pouf!

I've been holding onto this recipe and waiting for winter.

French Yorkshire Pudding or La Gougère Bourguignonne
4⅜ fluid ounces milk (½ cup plus 2¼ tsp)
1 oz butter (2 tbsp)
2 eggs
¾ teaspoon salt,
2½ oz flour (½ cup plus 2 tbsp)
2 eggs
1½ oz diced Gruyere or Emmenthal, divided into 1 and ½ oz
½ oz grated Gruyere or Emmenthal

Before beginning, crack one of the eggs into a small bowl. Then beat it, and set aside a small spoonful to brush onto the top.
Select a small saucepan that can handle using an electric mixer in it. (You can beat this by hand with a whisk, but if you use a mixer you'll be glad.)
Put milk, butter and salt in the saucepan. Heat slowly until butter melts and the milk boils. Toss in flour all at once. Allow to boil for a few seconds until the milk begins to bubble over the flour.
Turn off heat, insert an electric handmixer, and beat on high speed until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each time until mixture is smooth. Stir in 1 oz diced cheese. Spread mixture into buttered shallow cooking dish (mine was about 5" x 7"). Brush with the reserved spoonful of beaten egg, then sprinkle on remaining diced and grated cheese.
Set aside until it gets completely cold (you can refrigerate it to speed this up).
When ready to bake, heat oven to gas mark 8, 450°F, or 230°C. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, and serve warm.
Leftovers can be placed on an uncovered pan and reheated at 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4).

Note: You can assemble this ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator until ready to bake. If wrapped airtight, it should keep for at least a day before baking. There's no need to bring it back to room temperature. Just take it directly from the refrigerator to the oven.

Source: Fanny Cradock via Keep Calm and Fanny On

When not wrapped in blankets and looking like an ambulatory fabric bale in the house, we at A Book of Cookrye have been recreationally baking. When it was merely freezing, we lit the stove burner and made pizzelles. When the daytime temperature dipped to 12 degrees (that's -11° for our Celsius friends), it was the perfect time to bake in a ridiculously hot oven.

It turns out that this recipe is easy to shop for. There aren't a lot of ingredients, and most of them are cheese.

I first saw this recipe on a TV show about the history of TV cooking. One episode focused on Fanny Cradock and Graham Kerr (aka The Galloping Gourmet). I skipped through all the non-Fanny parts. 

Fanny Cradock got very mixed reviews when they asked other chefs to talk about her. One person said that her cooking style was outdated although "in terms of cooking she was on the money." He gave this recipe a special mention and said he still makes it. This was immediately followed by a demonstration. 

For some reason, they didn't give any ingredient amounts or oven temperatures, but I found the directions on the utterly delightful Keep Calm and Fanny On. At first I didn't read the instructions very closely and therefore didn't know what I was getting into. It turns out that we're basically making choux paste with cheese. I was not daunted by choux paste. If you watch Fanny Cradock make it, choux paste is so easy you wonder why people reserve it for fancy foods.

As aforesaid, I didn't closely examine the recipe when I first decided to make it. It turns out that whatever a gougère is, we're not making very much of it. The beginning of our recipe barely covered the bottom of the smallest pot in the kitchen.

Although choux paste is easy to make, you want to have everything measured and ready before you start. With some things, it's no bother to pause every so often and measure out the next ingredient. But with choux paste, you need everything ready to dump into the pot when its time comes. Perhaps I was a bit excessive to pre-crack my eggs into individual bowls, but that's because I always end up fishing out eggshell fragments. (Also, sometimes I am a bit too excited about having a dishwasher to put all those tiny bowls into.)

Fanny Cradock's original instructions were to toss in the flour all at once and "beat violently." I could have gotten out a whisk, but I was taking full advantage of the power grid's miraculous avoidance of another Texas-sized failure. Even though the trees were crackling with frost and the power could go out at any minute, I let our electric handmixer beat the flour violently for me. 


This could be the mixer that broke Texas.

In short order, we were ready to add the first egg. As soon as our mixer resumed its assault on the Texas power grid, the choux paste entered what Fanny Cradock gracelessly calls "the globule stage."

If you've never made choux paste, I can easily imagine how you might think you failed when it looks like this. But if you keep beating it really hard (or grinding away with the electric mixer), eventually the globules give way to a smooth paste.

Then you add the second egg and it goes back to globules again. But after a long and stubborn beating (or about thirty seconds with an electric mixer), you have what almost looks like somewhat elastic mashed potatoes. Our choux paste was ready to receive the cheese.

Because I didn't know what pan size we would need, I waited until we had our choux paste before getting one out. It turned out that the smallest pan in the kitchen was just a smidge too big. But after lightly spritzing cooking spray onto the top of our cheesy choux, we gently persuaded it to reach the edges of the pan. It later occurred to me that this would probably be really good baked in a (well-greased!) cupcake pan. (Because the oven is hot enough to ignite paper, I would either use foil cupcake liners or none at all.)

In less-than-freezing circumstances, I would have felt singularly stupid to run the oven to 450° (230° for our Celsius friends) for something so small. However, I did not feel compelled to halt production of our cheese pouf as the weather got colder by the minute.

I had been debating what to do about the egg wash that we are directed to put on top. I didn't want to crack open another egg for this and waste most of it (or put the rest of it back in the refrigerator and try not to forget to use it later). But my extravagant use of tiny bowls solved my egg-use problem. Since I did an accidentally terrible job of cracking one of them and broke the yolk, I simply did a deliberately bad job of pouring the egg into our batter. The remaining egg residue was exactly enough for brushing purposes.

As a side note, between our recent pizzelle phase and the increased application of various egg washes, the single brush in the kitchen drawer has been used a lot more in the last month than its entire previous year of existence. It's already falling apart. I sometimes have to remove bristles from food before baking, and a few have stayed hidden long enough to get cooked. If I'm feeling extravagant, I may get one of those silicone brushes that you can can drop into the dishwasher.

Molting brushes aside, our cheese pouf was ready to bake in a very short time. The instructions don't mention cooling our still-warm choux paste before baking, but I watched the the Fanny Cradock episode about petits fours in which she went into a long rant about how it's absolutely essential to get your choux paste completely cold before you cook it. She says it's "the most important point, the really VITAL point" in making choux paste. 

I can also say from experience that if you don't let choux paste get all the way to room temperature (if not colder), it doesn't cook right but instead stays gooey in the middle no matter what you do. I'm going to assume that when Fanny Cradock gave the recipe, she had already introduced us to choux paste in an earlier episode. Therefore, anyone following Fanny Cradock's program (you were following the program and not picking recipes willy-nilly, right?) would know that the choux paste should cool before baking.

I should have waited to heat up the oven until the choux paste had gone completely cold. Even after putting it in the coldest part of the refrigerator, it needed 10 minutes before the last of the warmth had gone out. I felt kind of bad about running an empty oven at 450° for so long, but given the cold I didn't turn it off.

Eventually, we put our cheesy choux into the oven, wondering if it would rise at all. It looked so puny in the pan. But before it was halfway done baking, it almost looked like I'd crammed a tiny chicken into a small dish.

I wasn't prepared for our cheesy pouf to look so good. You'd think I spent hours on it instead of a minute or two with an electric mixer. That beautiful deep golden crust, the gooey puddles of cheese on top, the almost unnatural height to which it rose... I couldn't believe I made this myself.

I know that the underside of bread is rarely worth noting, but look at that beautiful golden dough interspersed with shiny pieces of toasted-brown cheese. It's like a mosaic of deliciousness.

Our entire gougère had risen to an impressive height despite the nearly cracker-thin state of the dough before baking. I really wanted to see what happened under that massive off-center mountain that rose out of the pan. It turns out, the entire thing lifted off from the bottom of the pan and made a bread-tent.

We tasted this and.... it's cheesy bread. It's the best cheesy bread I've ever had. Don't be distracted by the fancy-sounding French name, it's cheesy bread and it's also really easy to make. With that said, I want to branch out with future cheese selections. Some quick internet searching tells me that gruyère is the customary cheese (or as food snobs say, "the classic preparation"), but I want to try this with provolone or really sharp Cheddar.

After my cheese stupor wore off, I had a grim suspicion that as amazing as this was right out of the oven, it turns into a gummy sad mess as soon as it gets cold. But some poking around on the internet said that you can just put it back into the oven and reheat it. I was suspicious of that. Most of the time, when you reheat bread in the oven, it gets dried out and hardened- and no one wants that unless they're making toast. 

But emboldened by the freezing heat and telling myself that I wasn't just making up excuses to stand in front of a hot oven, I unceremoniously threw the last leftover piece of cheese pouf into the oven the next night. Our fancy French bread looked tragically undignified sitting on the baking stone that occasionally makes pita bread but mostly gets used for frozen pizzas.

To my surprise, the cheese pouf reheated really well. I won't say that it was exactly the same as when it was fresh, but it was respectably close. It didn't dry out like I feared (though it was a bit crunchier than the first time). Also, I have to note that since you reheat this at 350° (or 180°C), you can easily put something else in the oven alongside the leftover cheesy bread.

Since you need to make this early enough for the dough to completely (and I do mean completely) cool off before baking, a cheesy choux pouf is a really good choice if you have friends coming over. You can get it ready to bake at your convenience, completely clean away the mess at a leisurely pace, and let the cheesy delight wait in the refrigerator. Instead of cooking when your friends are here, you can simply put pop this into the oven and make sure you can hear the timer from wherever you are. Or, you can make this for yourself and whoever is lucky enough to wander into the kitchen when the cheese smell drifts to them.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Fante's Pizzelles: or, The recipes keep getting better

After more than a decade of trying, Ebay's suggestion algorithm finally got me.

Fante's Special Pizzelle Recipe
3 eggs
6 oz (¾ cups) sugar
5 oz (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) melted shortening
1½ tsp anise seeds*
1½ tsp vanilla
Juice and grated rind of ¼ orange or lemon
11 oz (2 cups) flour

Beat eggs and sugar until they become light and foamy.
Add the melted shortening, a little at a time. Add the anise seeds, vanilla, grated rinds and juices. Gradually add the flour until a light dough is formed; light enough to drop onto the iron with a spoon. You may have a little bit of flour left over.
Drop spoonfuls onto the center of a hot pizzelle iron. Use a knife to push the dough off of the spoon.
Cook until golden, following to the manufacturer's directions.

*Use ground anise seeds, anise extract, or anise oil if desired.

Note: This may be totally inauthentic, but our favorite way to flavor these is to add a near-excessive amount of cinnamon.

I'm impressed that Ebay sold me another pizzelle iron. After all, I already have one. Furthermore, I hate when clutter piles up around me. On top of that, I don't give Ebay a whole lot of shopping history to work with. About two-thirds of my purchases are out of necessity (such as tracking down replacement interior bits as my car ages). About half of the remaining purchases are not for myself, but for various friends and relations who ask me "Could you go online and find me a _____?" This leaves a tiny amount of recreational splurges for Ebay's computer to work with. Nevertheless, they sold me this thing.

Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to get to know this iron in the most low-stakes way possible. And so, rather than making anything from scratch, I reconstituted some instant waffle mix. I don't particularly like instant waffles, but they do make it easy to mix a small serving without measuring impossibly tiny amounts of baking powder. Heck, if you want a single pancake the size of a coaster, you can easily pour out a tiny allotment of powder and then stir in a half-splash of water.

Because I'm not an idiot, I gave our iron a good spritz of cooking spray. After putting the batter on it, I closed the lid and held it tightly shut as we have done for our previous pizzelles. I opened the pizzelle iron and immediately knew that I had failed. 

Having ruined our first attempt, I wanted more than ever to get a semi-competent waffle off of this iron. This was now a challenge. (Also, I did pay for the thing.)

After giving it some thought, I remembered that you're supposed to put little cooking oil in waffle batter instead of just adding water. (Well, the directions on the back of the box call for melted butter. But we're economizing until we are competent.) And so, we reconstituted another single waffle's worth of batter (this time with cooking oil in it), put it on the iron, and.... 

Although the waffle didn't stick, it was too thin to lift intact. It easily let go of the iron with some gentle prodding, but the end results looked like this:

The first one is always for the fairies anyway.

At least we were improving. The first waffle had to be gouged off of the iron with a toothpick, this one flaked off without inducing any cursing whatsoever. 

Anyway, this failure was very informative. It told me that with this particular iron, one must be very careful how thinly one presses the waffles within. With our first pizzelle iron (shown below), the actual waffle part is a little bit recessed inside a raised rim. And so, if you hold it tightly closed, your pizzelle will come out perfect. Or at least, it won't be squished to death.

However, the iron we're using today has no raised rim. So apparently, you want to press it sort-of closed so that your pizzelles are thin and crisp-- but you don't want to hold the handles too tight lest you squeeze your pizzelles out of existence.

I also gave this some thought and realized that I wasn't making pizzelles. I was making instant waffles. You're not supposed to squeeze those flat, but let the batter push up the lid as much as it wants. And while we might cook waffle batter on a pizzelle iron, it will never turn into a pizzelle. We needed to let the batter be its fluffy self instead of trying to make it act like Italian cookies. And so, for our third attempt, we put the batter onto the iron and then let go of the handles. 

Because I'm daft but not an idiot, I also drenched the iron with cooking spray. As the batter lifted up the iron, you could see the heavy coating of oil bubbling and sizzling within.

Upon opening the iron, we found a lovely-looking, totally-not-stuck waffle! However, I had no idea how to get it out. It's not like you can just slide a spatula under this thing. But after carefully pushing a wooden skewer under each ridge one at a time, we achieved liftoff!

At this point, I was getting tired of barely managing to get waffles off of this iron. Clearly there was a technique I was missing. I decided to reach out for help again. 

You may recall that when I first tried to cook pizzelles on the stove, I called Fante's Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia to ask how hot the burner should be under the pizzelle iron. Well, I poked around their website until I found an email address. I then sent  an email with photos of the iron, more or less begging for help. The owner herself answered, advising that I grease it generously. I told her that I'd used plenty of cooking spray, and she replied that spray "is not always the best choice for these irons." She recommended brushing it with melted shortening.

She also asked "Is your iron is hot enough?" As far as how to pry them off the iron since a spatula was useless, she wrote "Pizzelle should slide right off."

Well I had no idea if my iron was hot enough. I had been getting it about as hot as I do a frying pan when I'm about to put dinner in it. Then I considered that I had been advised that one should be able to say one Hail Mary for each side of the pizzelles. But I couldn't say the Hail Mary slowly enough for how long mine needed to cook. 

I asked myself "What's the worst that can happen if I overheat the iron?" A burnt waffle would be disappointing but insignificant. A stuck-on waffle would be irksome, but I'd already scraped stuck-on batter out of this iron and we had only been together for one afternoon. We were in no danger of blackened cinders welding themselves to the metal because I was not going to put the iron onto the stove and then wander off to let it burn unattended. (And if things got really bad, I could cadge some of the more hazardous solvents from my friends who like working on cars.) 

With that in mind, I got the iron searing-hot. When I flicked some water-drops off my fingers, they didn't land with a sizzle. They vaporized with a harsh-sounding SPAT! 

During the surprisingly long wait for the iron to heat up, I melted shortening in the microwave and got out the marinade brush that gets used a lot in grilling. Usually, greasing the pan is one of the most forgettable parts of cooking, but I was not mentally prepared for where today's pizzelles were taking me. Despite using a stovetop waffle iron, I wasn't ready to get so old-fashioned as to forsake the cooking spray. It felt like crossing a bridge that over which I could never return.

Of course, greasing waffle irons with shortening is a very old technique. In the days before you could quickly melt it in the microwave (or set the shortening over the stove's pilot light), Miss Leslie directed cooks to rub their hot waffle irons with a small cloth bag of lard. 

I was telling a friend who is a chemist that I had forsaken my beloved cooking spray and gotten more archaic than I planned. He noted that shortening "has some uncanny nonstick properties more comparable to Teflon than a natural oil."

I should also note that a while ago, I asked an environmental scientist friend of mine whether shortening biodegrades or not. I said "I know that's not your area of study, but I figure you must be up the hallway from someone with an answer." A day later, he responded "She said 'under the right circumstances.'"

When the iron was finally hot enough and also hand-brushed with melted fat, I placed another dab of reconstituted waffle mix onto it. Our waffle required a lot longer than a single Hail Mary per side, but I figured that it was fluffy instead of thin and crisp. Therefore, the heat had a lot batter more to penetrate.

After the iron started to emit a toasty smell, I raised up the lid to see what we had inside. To my astonishment and delight, our waffle flapped around a bit as I lifted the top of the iron. In other words, the waffle let go of the iron of its own accord. I then held the pizzelle iron over a plate and flipped it upside down. The waffle fell right out, and landed on the plate in golden perfection. I didn't even use the spatula I had gotten out. In happy surprise, I returned it to the drawer instead of dropping it into the sink with the other dirty dishes. The waffle itself was fluffy in the middle, and crispier on the outside than any waffle I've ever made. Or maybe it was the same as the many other waffles I've made, and the secret ingredient was the sweet feeling of success. But whatever the reason, this was the best instant waffle I've ever had. It didn't even need syrup.

This brings us to today's recipe. Since the people at Fante's had been so helpful in my journey towards pizzelle competence, why not use the pizzelle recipe from their website? The note they typed above it was a decisive sales pitch: "This recipe has been around since the beginning of the century, and has been enjoyed by the thousands upon thousands of our customers who have, over the years, purchased pizzelle irons from us." I love that the original handout recommends calling Mrs. Fante herself "if more information is desired."

Source: Fante's Kitchen

As I got ready to make today's recipe, I decided to ask an Italian friend what to flavor them with. (One of the beautiful things about the modern age is that you can talk to people across the world much faster than the speed of pen pals.) I'm not obsessed with "authenticity," but I thought it might be a neat cultural insight. And I certainly got one when he answered "Do you know I have never heard of it?"

He went on to state "Being from northern Italy, it's not our tradition to make them." But he did a bit of internet searching for me, and came back with the most surprising (to me) part of the entire conversation: there are two kinds of pizzelles. Furthermore, the lacy-looking, waffle-iron cookies appear in every Italian-American home I've ever been to are the "less known" (his words) kind in Italy. Apparently the word "pizzelle" more often refers to miniature pizzas stacked on top of deep-fried crusts. 

So pizzelles are more Italian than garlic bread, but they're not ubiquitous throughout Italy. I wasn't prepared for that answer, but I should have been. In America, it's easy to forget that Italy has multiple regions with different types of food. What we tend to think of as "Italian food" is (mostly) from southern Italy, because that's where most Italian immigrants came from. My friend, however, lives in the northern part of the Italy. To put this into American terms, it's like asking someone from New England how to make Southwestern food. They may not even recognize the names.

Because I sometimes have the foresight to plan ahead, I measured out the ingredients while supper was simmering on the stove. I only say this because our tiny mint cake looked very cute next to them.

(I made the mint cake just to find out what it tastes like to put mint extract into an otherwise unassuming cake. Turns out mint and butter go together unexpectedly well.)

The recipe directs that we should beat the eggs until foamy (well really, the single egg because we're not cranking out 6 dozen pizzelles). I turned on the mixer and let it run while I finished tidying up the counterspace. By the time we had everything ready, our egg was so well-beaten that even Miss Leslie would have approved.

The bowl contains one egg and nothing else.

Unlike our previous pizzelle recipe, this one uses no baking powder at all. The only leavening is what you beat into it. With that in mind, I sifted the flour to break up any lumps before stirring it in. That way, we could do minimal stirring and thus deflate the batter as little as possible.

As a final recipe note, even though I was about to put copious amounts of shortening on the iron, I had reservations about putting it into the pizzelles themselves. And so, we dug into the freezer and pulled out the beef fat. You couldn't taste any meaty difference. It's like we're using lard, only we rendered it at home instead of buying an unnervingly heavy can of it. Also, I've been saving beef fat ever since the price of hamburger shot past the moon. It's been sitting in the freezer for ages. I had no idea what to do with it, but felt guilty about throwing it out.

And so, sooner than I expected, we were ready to try and cook these on the new zigzag pizzelle iron! This is our first real recipe on it, and I had high hopes. 

Well, we brushed on the melted shortening(!) and dropped on a tiny spoonful of pizzelle batter (better to go too small than too big when your excess batter burns when it oozes out). I then cooked it for a little over a minute per side, and then opened the iron to find that its first "real" pizzelle was stuck. No amount of striking the iron from the back with a wooden spoon would free the cookie. I think that after carefully and excessively dousing every notch and groove on the iron, I forgot to brush anything onto the flat circle in the center.

I barely (but successfully) managed to pry the pizzelle off in one piece. For our next one, I made sure to brush the entire iron, including that flat spot in the middle of it. After our next pizzelle had cooked, we raised the lid and hopefully wondered: "Does it look a little looser?" Well, we held the loaded iron over the cooling rack, turned it upside-down, and the pizzelle fluttered downward like a beautiful snowflake.

I started gradually increasing the pizzelle size, hoping to find that perfect amount of batter that fills the iron without dripping out of it. Our results were erratic. I frequently had to use the spatula to scrape off any oozing excess. 

Also, our first successful attempts looked like a pair of owl eyes on the cooling rack.

In full disclosure, a lot of our pizzelles had singed edges. I tried to convince myself that they were "rustic," but my powers of self-delusion can only go so far.

My friend's comments about the "uncanny nonstick properties" of shortening proved correct. If we hold one of these up to the nearest light, check out how wispy it is between the ridges. I can't believe it fell off the iron intact.

I thought that brushing on melted shortening would be a miserably messy ordeal. But while it is a very drippy process, it doesn't have the same blast radius as a can of cooking spray. All of our dripping fat was confined to one small zone instead of sprayed onto everything on the countertop. There were some stray shortening drops that get flicked off the brush, but the cleanup was a lot less greasy. Also, it's about as quick as cooking spray. You just flick the brush across the iron for a second or two. 

After the last of the pizzelles had been cooked, I had to stop and just stare at what we had done. I don't know if I've ever done cookies that looked this good before.

These tasted so good. I may end up adopting this pizzelle recipe instead of the one from my ex's grandmother's basement. In terms of flavor and texture, our my ex's grandmother's tasted professional, but these tasted homemade. If you want to try making your own pizzelles, I definitely recommend this recipe. Also, nutmeg is a surprisingly good spice for these. It goes really well with the toasty flavor that comes from cooking these to that rich golden brown. It's not authentic, it's not traditional, but it's delicious anyway.

And with this purchase, I am officially immune to any algorithmic attempts to sell me another waffle iron. In the unlikely event that the price doesn't ward me off, I only need to remember how crowded it's getting on top of the fridge.

I really hoped to end this with a short, jaunty paragraph demystifying stovetop pizzelle irons, or maybe a handy numbered list of tips for anyone who wants to try using one for themselves. But I'm still getting the hang of cooking on these myself! 

The only useful advice I can suggest is to put a paper mat down on which to grease the iron and apply the batter. In an earlier time, I would have suggested using old newspapers. These days, I've been saving the brown paper that pads a lot of mail-order boxes. 

Maybe someone out there can grease a waffle iron without any mess at all, but I am not that good. 

Anyway, if one of these stovetop irons seems daunting, you can always get an electric pizzelle iron. You just put your batter in there, shut it, and wait for the ready-light. A lot of them even have little dials that let you set how brown you want your pizzelles to be. And of course, they all come with instructions.

But regardless of whether one uses a stovetop pizzelle iron or an electric one, this is a really good recipe to put on it.