For some unknown reason, actually probably for no reason at all, I haven’t written often enough here at Outside Oslo about a rather important part of my life. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to distill a recipe than an integral part of life down to a blog post, but I haven’t told you enough at all about my regular baking sessions with Grandma Adeline. It’s about time I change that.
For years, Grandma has been passing down culinary and baking traditions to my mom and me. We meet regularly throughout the year–weekly during Christmastime, a little less at other times of the year depending on the season–and we bake our way through family classics. We make lefser, potato dumplings, krumkaker, and sandbakkelser. We talk, we drink wine and eat appetizers, and we bake.
Ostensibly, the goals are to learn and to have an abundance of cookies and other baked goods on hand. But the motive for me is more in the experience. I have the privilege of baking with my 94-year-old grandmother, learning the recipes and techniques that she gleaned from a lifetime as a Norwegian-American who worked in restaurants both in North Dakota and in Seattle.
Last week we made a batch of pizzelles. Though far from the Norwegian and American recipes that comprise most of Grandma’s cooking repertoire, these anise-flavored Italian cookies have been part of our family’s cookie trays for decades. Grandma tells me that this particular recipe comes from the 1940s when she worked at a restaurant in North Dakota. Grandma’s old spiral notebook with browning pages includes her handwritten list of ingredients and instructions for this recipe. I’ve adapted it here only so much as to elaborate on the somewhat sparse instructions–written for someone who instinctively knew what to do–and add specific notes on quantities for the flavorings, which Grandma left somewhat vague in her original notes.
Tins full of these cookies are sitting in my house right now, and they are a welcomed accompaniment to coffee. With a delicate anise flavor and a light, crisp crunch, I can’t imagine anyone saying no to these, even after the heartiest and most substantial of dinners. In my family, they were a staple at Christmastime, but I don’t see why they can’t be enjoyed year-round.
Grandma Adeline’s Pizzelles
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup margarine, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour*
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons pure anise extract**
2 1/4 teaspoons anise seed**
Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar gradually, beating until smooth. Add margarine and stir. Combine flour and baking powder, then add to the egg mixture and beat until fully incorporated. Add anise extract and anise seed and stir to mix. Dough will be sticky enough to drop by spoonful on the iron.
Heat pizzelle iron. When ready to bake, drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto the iron, close and cook until golden. Transfer immediately to your work surface and repeat with the remaining dough. Store in airtight containers.
*Grandma measures the flour, sifts it, then measures it again with the scoop method, filling the cup lightly and shaking it to ensure the proper amount. She reserves the remaining flour in case the dough needs a little more.
**These are the quantities we used, and they give a delicate, pleasant anise flavor. Next time we’re going to try adding a little more–perhaps 2 1/2 tablespoons extract and 3 teaspoons anise seed. If you like the taste of anise you might want to add a little more too, or just try it as it’s written, which is certainly delicious.