Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The making of taralli...a dying art


I was invited to spend Sunday morning at my Italian relative’s home. I'm not related to this family by blood, but by a long history of friendship between our families that has spanned over half a century. They were going to make taralli, and asked me to join them. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to witness this old Italian tradition.

Taralli is a cross between a pretzel, a cookie, and a biscuit. It was first introduced many centuries ago in the Puglia Region of Italy. It gets it’s unique flavor from a combination of flour, white wine, olive oil, and anise or fennel seeds.

Making taralli is not an easy undertaking. It takes time, patience, experience, and the cooperation of many hands working together. Great-grandpa Nick was the head chef and did the vast majority of the work, but the rest of the family was quick to jump in to help when needed, or to banter back and forth to keep things moving along.












There seemed to be an unspoken understanding in the kitchen while Nick worked… he was teaching his family how to carry on this beautiful cultural tradition. While watching this labor of love, I realized I was witnessing the passing of the torch. I think everyone sensed it because even amid all the ribbing, there was a reverence and respect for Nick, the tradition, the knowledge, and the job at hand. It was beautiful, and I feel blessed to have witnessed it.




TARALLI

2 tsp. dried yeast
1/2 cup white wine, warmed
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cups LaPina flour
1 Tbsp. crushed anise (or fennel)
2 tsp. salt





Stir yeast and ½ tsp. sugar into ¾ cup warm water (110 degrees) and let stand until dissolved. Stir to mix.

In a large bowl stir together flour, crushed anise, and salt. Add remaining water, wine, oil and yeast mixture and stir until soft dough is formed. Place on a floured surface and knead until elastic. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.

Divide dough into small pieces. Roll a piece into a long strip, about the thickness of your middle finger. Cut into lengths of 7-inches and cross the 2 ends over and press loop together gently with a quick tap. The taralli should be in the shape of the pink breast cancer bow.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cover oven racks with chicken-wire to prevent taralli from falling through racks. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, over medium high heat. Add the taralli, a few at a time. When they rise to the top, remove with a slotted spoon and place them on a clean counter or cookie sheet to dry slightly. Repeat with rest of taralli. After 10-15 minutes, turn the taralli over on dry surface to allow them to dry on the other side.

Place boiled and dry taralli on chicken-wire covered oven rack and place in preheated 375 degree oven. Bake until golden and crisp, about 40 minutes.

Let them cool gradually. Serve at room temp.

MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN

Taralli is great when served with a salad or soup. But the flavor of taralli is at it's absolute peak when paired with a glass of pinot grigio and shared with friends that feel like family.

27 comments:

  1. I have never heard of taralli, but this looks might tasty. If it's a cross between a pretzel, a cookie and biscuit, it hits all the basic food groups. Thanks for recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well we sure did enjoy having you over at the house. I know my dad really enjoyed sharing. You'll have to come over and we'll give it a whirl. Love you calcook
    you best friend......

    ReplyDelete
  3. OK, CaliCook, you are fattening us up for the coming winter with taralli and pepperoni rolls. So what do you have to make a nice and trim, but still tastes good, and has lost of sweets?

    ReplyDelete
  4. You make these tasty little treasures sound like something we should be marketing! BJ & I brought them out at a little winery in West Texas today and they were a hit with all who sampled them. Thank you for spotlighting this dying art and for being part of our family.
    We love you,
    Your other best friends :o

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear plumppeter, I'll work on that. Fresh fruit is always an option. I just got some September harvest peaches that fits the bill.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear OBF, Thanks for the comment. You should market these things. What kind of wine did you have them with?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear anonymous, I would love to come over to see if we can make these without supervision. Just say when.

    ReplyDelete
  8. those are great!!! I have to go and learn to make then next time. and learn the spaghetti sauce.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes Mikie, There is a lot to be learned from the wisdom of our elders. Learn all you can TODAY...while you can. I suggest you write these family recipes down for your future generations to follow. The recipes can become your family's legacy.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't do a lot of cooking ... only when something grabs my attention -- well these do! I will be trying the recipe this weekend ... wish me luck! SC Lady

    P.S. Hello to Nub and Mr. Nub ;p

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sounds delish! I'm going to make them this weekend. Wish me luck:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. One request...any chance you would want to share your Beerock recipe?:)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well said. I'm definitely going to be practicing making these and the spaghetti sauce. I got a little teary-eyed reading this one. Wish I lived closer to my grrandparents.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is a wonderful family experience, and a great recipe. Thanks for sharing, CaliCook. You bring us all together with your wonderful recipes and delightful stires about family and friends.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dear SC Lady. This would be a great weekend project. They do take a lot of time and have a lot of steps, but if you like the anise flavor (licorice), you will love these little pretzels. Thanks for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Good luck anonymous! Let md know how it goes. I have yet to make them all by myself.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Courtney,
    I know your grandparents wished you were closer to here too. Practice and perfect making these jewels and you can be one of the protectors of the family legacy. Thank you for commenting Sweetie.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dear Anonymous. I am so lucky to have such great friends and family to share stories about. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is definitely not on my no-carb diet, but I was fortunate to sample part of one and they are delicious. That CaliCook knows how to introduce her readers to excellent (an different) food. I didn't know how to spell taralli before this and now I ate one.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dear Amie, I'll get right on that beerock recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm checking out calicook's blog for the first time and am delighted to see Taralli. Taralli is a favorite treat in my family, but we've never made them ourselves. And as far as I know, no one in my family has a recipe. Now I know what I'm giving everyone for Christmas. Thanks calicook. Nancy B.

    ReplyDelete
  22. who are all those OLD people ?

    Matthew

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hey Nancy B. Thanks for the comment. Taralli would make a great Christmas gift. The recipe I posted here originally made five times more than this recipe. It called for a whole five-pound bag of flour. I didn't think any of my readers would make that much so I cut it down. but if you are giving it as gifts, the bigger recipe would be perfect...you just need to have a taralli-making party.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Matthew, These aren't old people...these are wise people!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I just saw this so forgive me for the lateness of my comment. This is a wonderful Italian treat and I'm always looking for new variations of this old recipe. Thanks for the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  26. You are welcome ginopoli. Thank you for the comment.

    ReplyDelete