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Treats of the Season: Pizzelle, Pineapple Squares, and Panettone

December 16, 2020

Treats of the Season:  Pizzelle, Pineapple Squares, and Panettone (with video)

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

(with reading by Mary Fanyo, via video link)

                On this first evening of the celebration of Posadas (December 16 through Christmas Eve), I am thinking not only of the reenactment of the Nativity, but also of the treats of the season.  What goodies usually adorn your holiday trays during this merry season?  On this taste-tempting post on WORDWALK, I will mention only three of quite a number of treats that my family has enjoyed through the decades; then, you will find a link to a video of my sister’s reading of a delightful children’s book entitled Tony’s Bread:  An Italian Folktale.

                First, pizzelle are traditional Italian waffle cookies which have been very popular in my extended family.  Thanks to an electric appliance called a “Pizzelle Maker,” the very thin waffle cookies can be easily made–typically two or three cookies at a time.  While anise is the traditional flavor, you may also make pizzelle with vanilla flavoring, lemon zest, or chocolate.  Of course, my favorite is anise. 

                In the 1950s, a little Italian lady from our hometown of Blanford had the best ever recipe for Pizzelle.  Mrs. Bonariva (Mrs. Busy) was kind enough each Christmas to give a box of her homemade Pizzelle as a gift to her postmaster–my mother.  Thus, from a young age, I began to enjoy these tasty Italian treats of the season.  Although Mrs. Bonariva was quite a dancer, I would give her the blue ribbon for her baking skills in making perfect Pizzelle.  The making of these delicate cookies, frequently dusted with powdered sugar, has been passed down through the generations of my Italian-American family.

                You can easily find Pizzelle makers and many recipes for Pizzelle online.  By the way, the singular of “Pizzelle” is “Pizzella.”  But, who can eat just one Pizzella?

                In my family, another delectable treat that we most associate with the holiday season is “Mrs. Pickard’s Pineapple Squares,” the recipe for which I shared in my September 16, 2020 blog post.  On that same WORDWALK post, you can read the festive story behind this pastry recipe.  I highly recommend this recipe which my mother perfected and which was always in high demand.

                Finally, the feature of this post is “Panettone,” which is a bell-shaped sweet bread from Milan, Italy, and is speckled with raisins, citrus, and almonds.  However, the texture of Panettone is nothing like that of a fruitcake:  Panettone is much softer and lighter.  Served as a dessert, Panettone may be dipped into wine or eaten with your favorite hot holiday beverage; additionally, Panettone may add flair to your breakfast or brunch. 

                While the Milanese origins of this special bread date back to the Renaissance, the word “Panettone” first appeared in an Italian/Milanese dictionary in 1839.  Centuries ago, when wheat was scarce in Italy, Panettone was made only for Christmas.  Popular throughout Italy and the United States, Panettone is still most associated with the Christmas season. 

                Besides being available in Italian specialty stores, Panettone may also be purchased in a variety of sizes at some supermarkets and other shops.  The bell-shaped box topped with a red ribbon may appear as a Christmas ornament, but inside you or the recipient of your gift will find a delicious sweet bread.  Naturally, you may also find online this treat of the season and a number of recipes for Panettone.  I must confess that my family of bakers never made Panettone, but I certainly have enjoyed receiving and giving Panettone as a Christmas gift.

                Now, to hear even more about the reason for the shape of Panettone and to enjoy a delightful story, read by Mary Elizabeth Fanyo (recently retired preschool teacher), please enjoy the following video link which is approximately fourteen minutes of reading the children’s book Tony’s Bread: An Italian Folktale, written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola (copyright 1989, G. P. Putnam’s Sons).  My sister is reading from a copy of the book which was autographed to her younger son by Tomie dePaola in 1991; you may still find the book online or at your local library.  Meanwhile, please enjoy the holiday video, filmed by Mary’s husband, Ric.  Yuletide thanks to Mary and Ric!

Enjoy all the tasty and reading treats of this holiday season!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

December 16, 2020, Wednesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. Ken Massa permalink

    1030 at night as we listen to Mary read the book so elegantly and lures me to quiet thoughts, thanks Ric and Mary

    Alice you truly made me crave sweets with that cookie blog. Forget calories, it’s Christmas as you allude it’s time for treats. Panettone sounds wonderful, I’ll search all the markets. Much appreciated and Merry Christmas Alice and Willow.

    Ken and Jo Massa

    • Holiday Greetings! Ken and Jo–What a sweet treat to hear from you on this blog post!  How nice of you to read this post and listen to the story, prepared by Mary and Ric!  I do hope that you can find a Panettone to enjoy on Christmas.  Many thanks for the Christmas wishes!

      Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and healthy 2021!

      Love, Alice and Willow

  2. Katherine Binole permalink

    Alice, I had breakfast this morning reading your blog and listening to “Miss Mary” read her book. It was a great way to start my morning. How ironic you should write about Christmas treats, as I told the girls this morning I was going to attempt to make pizzelle without my sous chef. They will be made with lots of memories and tears. Brando and Olivia took over grandpa Bill’s making of pizzelle and do a great job. I usually supervise and taste. Brando and Olivia made my Christmas sugar cookies last night. Lisa is making cookies with my great grandkids tomorrow. I will so miss Bill’s pies this Christmas. I think Olivia will take the pie baking over.

    Thank you for your blog. It did make me hungry for Panettone which I haven’t had in years. Thanks to Mary for the story and Ric’s camera work. Merry Christmas Love, Aunt Kathy

    • Christmas Greetings, Aunt Kathy–Special thanks for your wonderful comments on this post:  your sharing of family baking adds so much sweetness to this post on WORDWALK.  I am sure that you and your neighbors will enjoy your delicious Pizzelle, and I am grateful that the younger generation is carrying on with the traditional baking of the season.

      With love and Christmas wishes,

      Alice and Willow

  3. Dear Alice,
    Thank you for inviting me to record Tomie dePaola’s book, “Tony’s Bread.” Of all the books that I have read aloud to children, this one is especially fun because of the Italian words and accents that remind me of the beautiful language we heard in our family during our early years. My memories of Mrs. Busy make me think that she would be a delightful character in a children’s book. I hope you will put your creative writing to work on a Christmas story featuring her in the coming year.
    With love and best wishes to you and Willow for a Merry Christmas filled with sweet treats,

    • Christmas Greetings!  Mary–I am so glad that you were able to share this delightful book by Tomie dePaola with my WORDWALK readers.  I will have to give some thought to creating a book around the real-life character of Mrs. Busy.  I do appreciate the idea.  I hope that you will be recording more books for children in 2021 for your own future blog or for mine.

      Merry Christmas to all!

      Love, Alice and Willow

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