Two weeks ago, I had never heard of taralli. Today, taralli is my new favourite thing to eat.
This all started when I was watching one of Erin Ireland’s Instagram reels and she was eating tiny crackers that looked like shiny, crunchy doughnuts. I was so curious that I looked up the vegan company that makes them and when I realized that they do not ship to Denman Island, I decided to attempt my own. I was also kind of appalled at the price of a 9.5-ounce jar ($24!!!).
So what exactly ARE taralli? They are a cross between a pretzel and a tiny bagel–crunchy and crumbly with a scent of licorice and wine and olive oil. They are meant to be dunked in wine as a preprandial snack. They are traditionally plain or flavoured with fennel seeds, but can also be flavoured with other spices. Some taralli are sweet–like a little cookie!
When I discovered taralli, I had just received my amazing Christmas present from James—a Philips Pastamaker—and realized that if I took the centre out of the penne disk, I could extrude the taralli dough from the machine, rather than hand-rolling little strips of dough. I also mixed the dough in the machine. My first attempt was not pretty because the penne mold has ridges. I also baked the taralli for too long. So while they smelled and tasted delicious, they were hard as the devil’s toenail, so I had to bin them.
For my next attempt, I made the dough in the stand mixer, let it sit for thirty minutes, then attempted to use the pasta machine to extrude the dough. I realized that the machine cannot push out a dough that is all of a piece, however, so I had to break up the dough into smaller chunks.
As the dough extruded through the penne disk, I cut off the ropes of dough when they were about five inches long, then hand-rolled them until they were smooth and pinched them into little circles. This worked very well! I tried to make some fatter and some thinner to see which resulted in a better texture. Turns out…it doesn’t really matter. It’s a forgiving dough as long as you don’t bake them too long!
Taralli are cooked twice (like a bagel or pretzel): first they are simmered in water; then they are baked. Some recipes suggest that they must be dried for hours in between the simmering and the baking, but I’ve found that’s not the case.
I think I’ve now read every recipe available online and viewed every Youtube video on the fine art of taralli making. Some recipes include yeast and water (and one even includes eggs), but most are just flour, wine, olive oil, salt, and fennel (or spice of your choice). After my first failed attempt, I doubled the fennel and the salt, and was very happy with the result!
So here we go! this recipe makes about forty taralli (approximately 400 grams–just under a pound).
Combine in a stand mixer and knead for three minutes:
300 grams AP flour
60 grams olive oil
120 grams dry white wine
15 grams fennel seed
12 grams sea salt
Let the dough sit for thirty minutes.
Pull off a small piece of dough (about 10 grams) and roll on a work surface into a 5-inch rope tapered at both ends. Shape into a ring with the ends crossed over and pinch to seal.
In a large saucepan of simmering water, drop seven or eight taralli. As they float to the surface, remove the taralli and place on a clean tea towel.
Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 25 – 28 minutes at 400F. Keep an eye on the taralli because you want them to be shiny and just turning brown.
A couple of the recipes I looked at suggested baking them for forty minutes, but I over-baked my first batch by letting them bake that long!
And here is the result! These are SO addictive and don’t need anything else (though they are also delicious dipped in hummus or tapenade). The smell alone is amazing!
You are supposed to eat them by dipping them in wine!!
I’ve been jokingly calling this my “spite project” because I was so shocked at the price of a 9.5-ounce jar of taralli, that I wanted to see how much they would cost to make from scratch and also to see if they are worth the effort. As it turns out, the most expensive item is the half-cup of white wine (I just used Copper Moon Pinot Grigio). The flour was 30 cents; the olive oil was 60 cents; the wine was $1.30. Let us say the fennel seed and salt were 20 cents (likely a gross overestimate). So the total cost was $2.40…about a tenth of the cost of the jar of taralli that inspired this project! Oh, and you get half as much again from the recipe (400 grams vs. 270 grams).
And it’s Johnny’s 76th birthday today, so the song of the day is a cover of one of his favourite songs: “Something.”
I’m sure he’d prefer the version by The Beatles over the Billie Eilish one, but you can’t always get what you want now, can you?