What attracted me to Carol Field’s Italy in Small Bites was the idea of small snacks throughout the day to sustain me.
Wouldn’t that be amazing … if at any time of the day you could bite into something tasty, yet not filling?
I’ve spent most of October dreaming about what I’d try from this book and yet never getting around to it. That’s most of the month spent dreaming about snacks with almost no snacking.
Until I made these little babies.
Do you know what taralli are? Have you ever seen them in your local Italian bakery or grocery store? Ever bitten into one?
You’re missing out.
I’m not sure where or when I was introduced to taralli but they have always been around. They’re not a traditional food from either of my parents’ areas of Italy, but my neighbour makes them, and the grandmothers of a lot of my friends made them and I can’t visit a bakery or grocery store in this city without seeing bins of them.
They are taralli.
So what are they?
Taralli are like a sort of breadstick shaped in a ring. They’re not quite crispy like a breadstick but they’re not soft or chewy either. Taralli can be savoury or sweet depending on what you add to that basic recipe. My favourite taralli are savoury ones dotted with fennel seeds, but I also love taralli spiced with red pepper flakes. Growing up, we would often eat sweet taralli that had been dipped in a glaze or icing.
The recipe for taralli in Field’s book caught my eye because I’ve never made them before and have always wanted to try them. And because I love them. If I can learn to make something I love, then why not!
The dough for taralli is very similar to making a pizza dough. You start with flour, yeast and water (and a bit of salt) to which you add the flavouring of choice. The taralli that I buy are almost always flavoured with fennel seeds so that’s what I used.
After allowing the dough to rise, the dough is rolled into log ropes that are then divided into three. From each segment, you make a ring.
Then, much as you do with bagels, you drop the rings into boiling water very briefly. As soon as the rings float to the top, you remove them to drain and cool down a bit.
The taralli are then baked until golden and somewhat crunchy.
I say somewhat because the taralli that I’ve eaten have always had this interesting texture. It’s a cross between something crispy and something flexible. I know that sounds odd, but trust me, if you try one you’ll understand what I mean.
I was very proud of my taralli. While they don’t compare to the homemade taralli that I’ve had from those who are true experts, they were good for a first try and rather easy to make.
As with most worthy snacks, they prove that homemade is usually best.
I’m having so much fun with Field’s book (and my daytime snack imaginings) that I’m not ready to say goodbye to it yet. I’m keeping it around for the November Flavour of the Month.
And now back to my snacks …
Here are some interesting posts about taralli as well as recipes for taralli that you might want to read or try: