The Oldest Known Biscuits in The World – The Pizzelle

All around the world, no matter the culture, society, or even down to the kinds of beverages that are present in certain places and cities, dessert can be said to have a special place in the culinary mindset of people.  The genuinely luxurious ones like cakes, pies, and other specialized delicacies are often reserved for special occasions such as the celebration of birthdays, high school or college graduations, and job promotions. Although, other forms of dessert are considered as everyday staples like cookies and biscuits. In Europe, countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, typically consume biscuits during tea time or with the traditional cup of coffee. In fact, the oldest biscuit in the world, the Pizzelle hails from one of these countries – Italy, specifically in its southern region of Abruzzo.

The Origins of the Pizzelle

Pizzelle

The Pizzelle are traditional in Italy, and they can remind people a lot of waffles – both in their appearance and texture. They are thin biscuits and appear commonly with a conventional snowflake pattern on both of its sides. However, both the size and the texture of the cookies, its softness, crispness, or hardness, depending on the preparation made by the baker and the ingredients used. The first pizzelle came from Ortona in Southern Italy. The name of these biscuits shares the same etymology as another Italian delicacy, the pizza. Pizzelle means “small, round, and flat.” They are recognized as the oldest biscuits in baking history. They are thought to be a relative of a Roman delicacy called the ‘crustulum.’ There is a fascinating story that accompanies the beginning of the pizzella. It is said that a village in Abruzzo was once overrun with snakes. Fortunately, the snakes have driven away and the “Festival of Snakes” or the “Feast Day of San Domenico” was founded. To celebrate, the first pizzella was baked for the occasion. The pizzelle were described as sweet, pancake-like bread that was auctioned and offered up by the faithful citizens when the snake-enveloped statue of San Domenico passed by the streets during the celebrations.

Making Pizzelles

Making Pizzelles

The traditional ingredients of these Italian waffle cookies are butter, flour, sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, and the chosen flavoring of the baker. The typical seasoning chosen for pizzella is lemon zest, vanilla, and anise. Others also choose to add flavor to the biscuits by adding almonds or chocolates. The beautiful patterns on the sides of the pizzella are not made by magic. Like waffles, the pizzella also has its own specialized waffle maker called pizzella irons. Most of the pizzella irons are electric although traditional pizzella makers are manual in nature as the irons are held over a hot burner of stoves. The pizzella irons stamp the beautiful snowflake design evenly on both sides of the biscuits. To make the cookies, it is advisable that the pizzella irons be preheated first and prepared with nonstick cooking spray. Then, combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix them together. Add a small piece of butter to the pizzella iron before putting scoops of batter inside. Simply bake the cookies using the iron, which takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve the freshly-made cookies with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.