Taralli is a southern Italian crunchy snack. TNS
Taralli are a crispy ring-shaped Italian snack, made of flour, olive oil, salt, water and not much else. But fennel or anise seed and black pepper are often used, to very good effect.
You’ve maybe seen them bundled up in cellophane bags and tucked in among other snacks at an Italian grocery. They’re akin to a crisp breadstick in texture, but not quite that. They’re hard to describe to the uninitiated.
They’re not a cracker. Not a biscuit, using the British meaning, though they’re sometimes called that, because they’re usually twice cooked (the root meaning of that word).
They are easy to make. About as hard as making cookies, once you get going. And they turned out beautifully the first try. After tinkering with them and remaking them several times to get the instructions right, I have the recipe here.
Though many recipes boil the taralli before baking them, mine does not. And it uses yeast. The dough is pretty oily, which makes for crisp taralli. It also means you won’t need to flour the board for rolling the taralli. The taralli take on other flavours with aplomb. Mix in a tablespoon or two of anise or fennel seed, if you like.
1 package (1/4 ounce) yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
1 pound flour
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1. Stir the yeast into 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl until dissolved; allow to proof until foamy on top, 10 minutes.
2. Mix the flour, salt and pepper to taste in a stand mixer with the hook attachment on low speed just to combine. Add water and yeast mixture and the oil. Mix to combine, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Turn mixer to medium; mix until dough comes together into a ball. If the dough is not coming together, you may need to add up to 2 more tablespoons warm water. (Alternatively, mix in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.)
3. Turn out the dough onto a dry wooden board; you won’t need to flour it. Knead until dough has a springy consistency, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to rest in a warm place until nicely risen, about 1 hour. (It will gain about 50 per cent in volume.)
4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Turn dough out onto a dry board. Flatten slightly with your hands. Using a bench scraper, section dough into 4 long portions. Cut those into 8 pieces each, about the size of a whole walnut. Roll a piece into a log about 3/8-inch wide and 12 inches long. Cut the log in half. Shape each log into a ring, twisting ends into a loose knot (really just turn the ends over each other). Transfer to a baking sheet, leaving a little room between them. They don’t expand much. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Continue with remaining dough.
5. Bake until nicely golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. The taralli keep in a covered container for a couple of weeks and freeze beautifully.
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