The traditional canon of European sweets includes a number of cookies baked waffle-fashion between hot metal plates. Pizzelle, the Italian take on these sweet treats, might be the best-known version in the United States. Traditional stovetop irons are still readily available, as are modern electric pizzelle makers in conventional and non-stick versions. Each of these irons is similar in its use and care, though they're cleaned somewhat differently.
Traditional Stovetop Irons
Old-world pizzelle irons typically had extra-long handles, because they were used at an open hearth. Their modern stovetop equivalents are more compact, but their heavy cast-iron or aluminum plates are very similar to traditional versions. Like a skillet, the irons require periodic seasoning with oil but are reasonably non-stick. After using your iron, wipe off any stuck-on bits of cookie dough with a damp washcloth. It's best to do this when the iron is still warm, because stuck-on food will release more easily. Use a stiff brush to remove any remaining particles; then wipe the iron lightly with a lightly oiled paper towel before storing it.
Bare-Metal Electric Irons
Electric pizzelle irons without a non-stick coating are simply a modernized version of the older stovetop irons, with self-contained heating elements that provide even heating and browning across the entire cooking surface. You should wipe this kind down while it's still warm and use a stiff brush to remove any baked-on dough from the iron's patterned crevices. Like the stovetop variety, you will have to periodically re-season the iron by brushing it with oil, lard or shortening, then heating the iron to its cooking temperature. Wipe away any excess fat before returning your iron to storage.
Non-Stick Pizzelle Makers
For post-cookie cleaning, electric pizzelle makers with non-stick coatings are the easiest of all. Comparable to a small waffle iron in size, most models make either two 5-inch pizzelle or four 3-inch mini pizzelle. When you're finished cooking, you can simply wipe it clean with a soft cloth, and then dry it. Remove any stuck-on dough with a thumbnail, brush or other non-metal implement, since metal might mar the cooking surface. Some models have removable cooking plates, which you can clean in a sink filled with hot, soapy water.
Using Your Pizzelle Maker
To minimize sticking, brush your metal-surface iron with a light coating of oil before baking your first cookie. That first cookie is the likeliest to stick, especially if the iron isn't fully heated, so many cooks discard it. With stovetop irons, the first few cookies might also be too dark or too pale until you get the burner's temperature just right. Once your iron is at the correct heat, use a scoop or large spoon to add dough to each of the iron's patterned depressions. The faster you work, the more evenly heated your cookies will be. Don't worry if your pizzelle overflow their cups, you can simply trim the edges with a clean pair of scissors.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.