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When I first visited Apuglia, I was taken by the beauty of the shoreline. I was on a search to discover the place of my heritage, to understand a little more about my grandparents as I thought I would also discover a little about myself.
Since my family has been in the food business from the time my grandfather immigrated from Vieste (FG) Italy, food was where I jumped in first. The traditions and approach to food can be a starting point for anyone searching for answers about their heritage as so many traditions are wrapped around how people eat and go about it. I wondered if any of the recipes my family made would be exactly like those in Vieste or if they had been changed to satisfy the taste of the now American family. I write often about these recipes, but one that I found when writing up my family’s recipes was taralli and the important roll they play in Italian cuisine.
When I went through the soiled and hand written recipes of my aunts and grandmothers, I found many taralli recipes. Taralli with fennel and anise seed, black or red pepper flakes, made with egg or baking powder, wine or beer. They were boiled then baked, or just baked. This amazed me because although my family are experts at making Italian biscotti, they never made taralli, with the exception of wine taralli and egg taralli at Easter.
Taraill should be named the national biscotti. They are served with an aperitif, in a breadbasket, as a dessert, by hungry children as a snack and dunked in wine over a conversation or for breakfast. Taralli are eaten any time of the day by everyone young and old. They can be found in every market and bakery and in most homes. It became my quest to learn how to make taralli at home.
The Pugliese have a saying “Tutto finisce con taralli e vino”, no matter what the argument it can always be solved with a glass of wine and a handful of taralli.
Black Pepper & Fennel Taralli
Prep Time: 1 hr. 15 min.
Cook Time: 20 minutes at 375º F
Yield: 7 Dozen
8 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 ounce dry yeast (1 package is 1/4 ounce or 7g)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, crushed by hand
3 tablespoons fennel seed, whole
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup oil
12 oz. can beer
2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl add the warm water and dry yeast. Let it rest in a warm place for 15 minutes until it foams. In a separate large bowl, add all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle and add the egg. Gradually add oil, the yeast mixture and beer alternating with the flour mixture until the dough is formed. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and workable. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest on the counter for at least one hour.
Form the dough into a cylinder about 1/2″ thick, and cut them into pieces about 6″ long. Take each 6” long piece of dough and bring the ends together to form an oval shape. Press the ends together with your thumb. Brush the taralli with the egg wash and place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375º F. They should be lightly brown on the top.
NOTE: They will last about 1 month stored in a paper bag or a metal container. Do not put them in a humid place.
Can the flour used for this taralli recipe be a mixture of semolina and wheat flour? Thanks for sharing this with us.
I have never used semolina, but I know that there are some taralli made with it. I suggest that you try it and if you do let me know how they came out.
I found a Tarallis recipe from my aunt that is not too sweet and very good. 6 eggs, 5 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 c sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 1/2 sticks butter or 3/4 c oil, 1 tsp salt, 4 tsp baking powder.
In a bowl put butter and sugar, cream add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients a little at a time. Mix well. Cut dough in half. Roll into 2″ log. Cut into 16 pieces (cover other half of dough). Roll pieces into snake. Make into circle and press ends together. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet until golden brown 15 -18 minutes, 350 degrees. Glaze cookies while warm, 2 cup confectioners sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla 4 tsp milk. YUM>
The biggest difference I see from the 3 recipes I have from my grandmother and yours is that ours doesn’t have butter only oil and we use baking powder. This probably makes our taralli harder then yours. I’ve made all three, but make the recipe I have here most often. The name of the egg taralli with a glaze my grandmother called “Charmel”. I’m sure yours is very good and I’m going to give it a try to see what the difference is. I will keep it also in my selection of recipes. Thanks for the recipes.
Those look wonderful! A great speciality.
Your recipe for taralli sound great, I have only used wine not beer in mine. I am looking for a recipe my grandfather used to make and I haven’t made them for over 20 yrs. and I lost the recipe and don’t know what their called. I will try to describe them they are not to sweet somewhat of an egg biscotti but you shape them like a doughnut then boil them then cut all around the sides egg wash them and bake no frosting great to dunk in coffee. I have never had them any where except for my family my grandfather came from Rocca D’ Evandro, Italy I wonder if this is from that region only. If anyone knows of this recipe I would be so grateful. Thanks Sue
a one hundred year old recipe from campagnia is 5 lbs flour, 1/2 lb lard, 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 sticks butter, 2 pks yeast, qt warm water, huge serving spoon of cracked black pepper, huge serving spoon of salt, must rise overnight. covered and kept warm boiled then baked as it adds flavor and texture and visually more appealing. shapes do not matter. i make cigars that are great for dunking into black coffee. omg such an addictive flavor.
paul m falanga
culinary institute of america class of ’78
In a burst of energy this past Easter weekend, I decided to make my mother’s grain pie recipe (which we estimated since she never wrote quantities, it was the same with her meatballs “if it smells right, you have enough cheese, garlic, etc.”). Copious notes later, I got the meatballs right, and will do the same with the grain pies. But she didn’t make pepper biscuits which I adore. Commercial ones NEVER have enough black pepper. So, yesterday I tried 2 recipes. They both flopped. I am experienced with baking bread, but wine, olive oil did not make a smooth dough. I’m willing to try the beer, maybe it adds more leavening power.
I am also looking for websites where I can practice my Italian. Any suggestions?
My grandmother used to make hers with eggs, lard , grated parmigiana cheese, lots of black pepper and of course salt as needed. Boiled , sliced midway through the ring so they would flare open as you baked them in the oven after. Does this sound familiar at all?
Thank you for your comment, I’m glad my recipe inspired you and good luck baking it. Make sure that you have a glass of red wine ready to enjoy it with.
The only ones I know of are the ones I’ve written about in my blog. They sound like they are made exactly the same except that maybe they have some sugar in them. Usually taralli are not sweet. The egg taralli are very light and the glaze gives them some sweetness. It is possible that it is a speciality of the town where your grandparents come from. I would suggest that you contact the town hall and ask them if they can give you a lead as to where you can find them. Don’t know if you have Googled them. If you speak Italian, there are many sites that list recipes and you should be able to find one for the region you are looking for.
Good luck, sorry I can’t be of more help,