Please save my favorite Christmas cookies, reader begs
Q. I grew up with pizzelles and have made them for most of my 58 years. But now I am in a quandary, as I disposed of my old pizzelle maker and need to replace it. It appears my green options are limited. The choices appear to be electric grills that are either Teflon-coated or aluminum. The other option is the old-fashioned, hand-held one, but this requires a gas stove. Looks like I won’t be having pizzelles this season. Help!
Haddon Township, N.J.
A. Dearest Jennifer,
Little-known fact: When the Grinch set out to steal Christmas, he also planned to take away all our sustainably baked pizzelles. Without this staple of holiday merrymaking, after all, how could we possibly celebrate? (Note to readers without Italian nonnas: Pizzelles are wafer-thin cookies shaped like snowflakes that require a special appliance to make – like waffles. And in fact, most of this advice applies to waffle irons, too.) So at heart, this question is really not just about cookies, but rather, can we save Christmas?
As you well know, Jennifer, pizzelle (and waffle) makers come in two varieties: electric countertop “griddles” and old-school molds with long handles designed to be used over an open flame. Teflon and Teflon-like coatings are common in the former, and I understand why that won’t stick for you, Jennifer. Teflon has two strikes against it: the polluting chemicals released during production and its limited lifespan.
As for aluminum models, well, I imagine your objection has to do with the fact that the aluminum-manufacturing process is an energy and resource hog. (Previous concerns about a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s have never been proven.) Some types advertise themselves as made of stainless steel, but read the fine print on those — most I saw have aluminum or nonstick plates housed in steel exteriors.
You can get around these issues by buying a vintage stovetop pizzelle maker, often wrought from cast iron. I confess I’ve never used this method, but I understand it requires some practice to produce a perfectly crisped cookie. And as you say, hand-held irons are usually best on gas stoves (and I assume you have an electric one).
What to do, then? I have a few ideas, Jennifer. Perhaps the easiest: What about looking for an aluminum electric griddle secondhand? That way, you wouldn’t be responsible for any additional production costs (and might be diverting an old appliance from the landfill). I suspect a specialized pizzelle maker is the sort of appliance — like like ice cream and bread makers — that well-meaning people buy, then let gather dust down in the basement before finally unloading on Craigslist.
Failing that, you can always try a set of vintage eBay irons over the electric stove. This kitchen shop says it works “with a little patience and experimentation,” so if you’re up for it, fresh and festive pizzelles could be just a bit of trial and error away. Or, might you have a gas camping stove you could employ for this purpose? (I wouldn’t buy one just for this, but maybe you haven’t though about using yours.) It’s also possible to cook a pizzelle the really old-fashioned way — over a campfire — but fires have plenty of their own pollution issues to consider.
Or maybe you can borrow a friend’s gas stove once a year to whip up a big holiday batch? I’ll bet most people would gladly surrender their kitchen for an hour or two in exchange for a plate of piping-hot pizzelles.
I do hope one of the above solutions works for you, Jennifer. Traditional desserts do add that little extra sparkle to the holiday table.
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