In southern Italy, taralli come in many sizes and flavors. These are typical Neapolitan ones, sometimes referred to in Neapolitan dialect as scaldetelli: little boiled things. Like bagels, many, but not all, taralli are given a quick bath in boiling water before being baked. It creates a nice sheen on the outside and stiffens them slightly so that they are easier to handle for baking. Taralli are a snack food; they really don't figure as part of a meal. But sometimes they make an appearance after a meal is over and there is more wine to be drunk.
Store in an airtight container.
Servings: 30 taralli
- 3/4 cup warm water, about 110 degrees
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cups flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Have ready 2 large rectangular cooling racks, turned upside down and lightly oiled.
Pour the water into a bowl and whisk in the yeast. Whisk in the oil, mixing to combine.
Combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Add the liquid and pulse to combine; the dough will be coarse and will not quite form a ball. Let the processor run continuously for 10 to 20 seconds to knead the dough.
Invert the dough into an oiled bowl and carefully remove the food processor blade. Turn the dough over so that the top is oiled, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it increases in bulk, about 1 hour.
After the dough has risen, scrape it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface and use a bench scraper or knife to divide it in half. Roll each piece of dough under the palms of your hands to a 6-inch cylinder. Cut each cylinder of dough into 3 equal pieces, to make 6 pieces in all. Roll one of the cylinders to a 5-inch length and cut it into five 1-inch pieces. Repeat with the remaining cylinders of dough to make 30 equal pieces.
One at a time, roll each piece of dough under the palms of your hands to make an 8-inch strand. Join the ends together to make a circle, pressing firmly to seal. Line up the formed taralli on a lightly floured work surface or rimmed baking sheets, making sure the taralli do not touch each other.
Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
Fill a large pot (such as one in which you would cook pasta) three-quarters full with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Set one of the prepared cooling racks on the stovetop (put a pan under it to catch drips) next to the pan of boiling water. Drop the taralli, 6 to 8 at a time, into the boiling water and remove them with a skimmer as soon as they float to the surface. Arrange the taralli, about an inch apart in all directions, on the cooling rack. Repeat until all of the taralli have been boiled and arranged on the racks.
Transfer the cooling racks to the oven and bake the taralli about 15 minutes, then rotate the racks, top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 15 minutes, until the taralli are golden and crisp. Cool them on the racks they baked on.
From pastry chef Nick Malgieri.
Tested by Leslie A. Garcia.
Email questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.