February 13th, 2013
To further sweeten Valentine’s Day, take a cue from those who like to serve everything with amore: Italians have the perfect mate for anything from a glass of Prosecco to a slice of semifreddo or plate of fruit and cheese. Known by several different names, these crisp “waffles” are a light, not-too-sweet accompaniment to coffee or tea at any time. Usually impressed with patterns reminiscent of snowflakes, pizzelle are just the treat for a mid-winter holiday.
Most often sold as pizzelle in North America, the wafers are also called ferratelle or nevole in Abruzzo, the Italian region most closely associated with them. Ferratelle is also the name of the iron kitchen tools with which generations of Abruzzese women made these delicacies, usually one at a time, in hand-held irons.
For both peasantry and gentry, these irons were typically wedding presents, often etched with the initials or family crests of both a bride and her groom. Clearly, these implements became treasured heirlooms. Indeed, many hand-held irons were brought to America (before the airline age and pre-boarding metal-detectors!) by impoverished Italian immigrants who arrived with little more than their clothing.
An alternate name, nevole (sometimes neole) is derived from the Latin nebula, sometimes translated as “a thin layer or veneer”—which we think may refer to the Abruzzese ferratelle that are made from a thick batter as opposed to those that rely on a stiffer dough. The batter is trickier to handle but may have been preferred here in America when Italian-Americans began to use counter-top electric irons rather than those held over an open flame. (A runny batter might have leaked from a hand-held iron.)
We were going to accompany Skip’s pizzelle photos with additional lore and a couple of our tweaked recipes, but we think that Adri Barr Crocetti, whose heritage is Abruzzese, has already done this so well on her own blog, that we are delighted to refer our readers to an accomplished cook who clearly has ferratelle-making in her DNA. Adri’s own family recipe for a soft dough uses butter rather than oil.
Want to try a batter? Please email us if you’d like the recipe for the batter we devised for the pizzelle in the photos here in our post.
We think Adri’s idea of browned butter is brilliant. We used olive oil for the fat in our pizzelle, even though our electric iron’s manufacturer insisted on a solid fat and warned against using a batter made with oil. We’re happy to report that we fried no circuitry and nothing exploded; both our butter-batter and oil-batter yielded delicious results.
Regardless of your recipe, be sure to allow your pizzelle to cool completely before you store them flat, in an air-tight tin or plastic container.
Happy Valentine’s Day!