Most of you are probably wondering what Taralli is and why I would be trying to make it. To be honest, I didn’t even know that this recipe was called Taralli until I decided I wanted to make it. In our family, my grandma will sometimes make these things that look kind of like a small twisted bagel – except that they’re crunchy and they have seeds in them. Since I no longer have the luxury of calling her up to make something for me, I decided it was time to attempt this family recipe.
To begin, I first had to find a recipe. In retrospect I probably should have just called my grandma, but I was feeling independent and wanted to do this one on my own. Here’s the thing about finding this recipe: my family calls these things viscotti. This is not a real thing. I’m assuming it’s some made up name they gave it since my family speaks a dialect. Their version of Italian is probably as close to Italian as Spanish is – sort of but not really the same at all.
After an extensive online search for “italian biscuit with seeds” or something like that I found a basic recipe that seemed pretty close to what my grandma probably does. As I always do, I found a few other recipes to compare and then tweaked it a bit. If you’re in the mood for something that you can snack on that’s a little different, take some time out of your day to test out this recipe. I could eat the entire batch if I really wanted to so I’m sure you’ll like them!
6 cups organic flour (I used bread flour which I think made these a little softer inside, but regular will work just fine as well)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 package dry yeast
1/2 – 1/4 cup whole fennel seeds (depends how much you like the taste of fennel seeds)
3/4 cups olive oil
1 1/4 cups hot water
1. Start by pouring the yeast into the hot water and allow it to dissolve. You can use super hot water from your faucet. If you want to speed up the dissolving process you can add a pinch of sugar, but if you’re not in a hurry this step is definitely not necessary. Once you see a little foamy-ness on the top of the water this means it’s ready.
2. While the yeast is dissolving, combine the flour, salt, and fennel seeds in a large bowl. Mix this up and create a well in the center of the mixture. If you’ve never done this before, simply take a spoon (or your hands), and pull the flour mixture from the center and move it to the sides. You basically want a crater in the middle that you will pour the liquid into.
3. Pour the water mixture and olive oil into the well you just created. Using your hands, combine the flour, water, and olive oil slowly to form your dough. The dough should feel a little sticky but not wet when you’re done. If you need more moisture, add a little more water. Too much moisture? Add a little more flour. Once you get the desired consistency, grab some plastic wrap and cover the dish. Then put a clean dish towel over the plastic wrap.
4. Wait. Seriously, take some time to clean up the mess you just made. Get your hands clean, watch some TV, take a bath, etc. etc. etc. Resist the urge to peek at your dough every 5 seconds.
5. After 45 minutes has passed, whip that towel off of the bowl to reveal a much larger blob of dough than you started with. #science. It will probably have grown about 75% larger – you don’t want it to completely have doubled but it’s okay if it did.
6. At this point, you should pre-heat your oven to 400*F and start to boil a large pot of water. Make sure the two racks in your oven are in the top third and bottom third positions.
7. Find a freshly cleaned section of your counter (readily available because you just ran around like Cinderella while that dough was rising) and sprinkle a little flour on it. Dump out your dough and knead it a bit. Don’t know how to knead dough? Form a fist with each hand and do a slo-mo punch into the dough with alternating hands. Twist your fists a little as you press into the dough.
8. After about 5 minutes of kneading you should be ready to roll the dough out. I found, after a little experimenting, that this kind of dough is not super pliable. The easiest way to make the twisted “donut” circles is to roll the dough so it’s about 1/4″ thick and about 6″ wide. Then take a sharp knife and cut 1/4″ deep strips. You will feel like you can just grab a piece and roll it in your hands to create the same shape. You can’t. Trust me.
9. Taking the strip of dough between your palms, gently roll the dough to soften the edges. Taking the strip from each side, twist the dough and attach the two ends to form the circle. The best way I got the ends to stick together was to sort of wrap them around each other and then push them together. I ended up with a few pieces that unattached themselves in the first batch I made when I wasn’t using this technique. But it all tastes the same so if this happens, just go with it!
10. Once you have rolled all of your dough out into circles, your water should be at a rolling boil. Drop a few of the circles into the boiling water at a time (not more than can comfortably fit on the surface) and allow them to sit in the boiling water for about 60 seconds. They will float to the top. Using a spider skimmer, grab each of the circles out of the water and place it onto a wire rack.
12. Cook for about 20 – 30 minutes. The cook time will vary depending on your oven. The outside should turn a nice golden brown color when they are done. If you are doing these for the first time like I was, I would suggest setting your timer for the lower end of the cook time and then keep an eye on them until they are finished.
Have you ever heard of this recipe? Do you also call them Taralli?